By Dianna Flett
Part 2 in a series of 3. Read the first post here.
The Girl Smarts program gives our children personal life skills at an early age; in this case values-based decision making. We work at a basic level, introducing ideas and tips and tricks the children can put into their “kit bag” for use as needed. Introducing leadership skills and making complex ideas simple helps strengthen our children’s foundations.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt
It’s important to show our children how making decisions based on values is a solid approach to life’s challenges. We try to connect their everyday decisions back to their inner voice which we call their values.
Of course, there are challenges at such young ages. In an effort to be liked, children will sometimes do what their friends say to do instead of thinking for themselves. It’s hard to stand alone. We want to help them see if friends drive their decisions, they might find themselves doing something they know is not right, and that feels bad. Worse, they might find themselves in a situation they aren’t prepared to handle.
One of our counselors revealed during one of our class discussions that as a young girl, she joined in with a group of friends who tautened a young boy in elementary school. She knew it was wrong but didn’t stand up for what she knew to be right. She didn’t want to go against her friends. While she did apologize to the young man when she was older, her deed could not be undone. As a 42-year-old woman, she still felt the burden of the actions of her 8-year-old self.
Sometimes people make decisions based on their desire to have the latest thing. They feel jealous of what others have. It’s hard to see people with things we want, things that are desirable (like the latest technologies and cell phones). We can mistakenly think having those things will make us happier. If we are driven by our desire to obtain the latest handbags, cellphones, shoes ,or technologies (even apps like Snapchat and Twitter fall into the “wants”), we can compromise longer-term goals because we drain our resources or become influenced by people who don’t really know and care about us.
Balance isn’t something you achieve “someday.” – Nick Vijicic
If we focus on any one thing too much, we can cause ourselves to get out of balance. Our goal is to support balance, so no one thing takes over our decision making. While ambition and grades are of course important, we don’t want to bog ourselves down by trying to be perfect. No one is perfect. It’s important to forgive ourselves when we’ve put forth our best effort and still fall short of what we hoped to achieve.
Girls are particularly hard on themselves in this regard. Studies show that girls start to shy away from math as they enter middle school. Math gets more challenging in middle school and girls may start to receive lower grades. They are often used to good grades and the positive feedback and praise those grades bring. Their disappointment can cause them to shy away from the newer challenges because good grades don’t come as easily. If we aren’t careful, our children will start to reject the demands of math and science because they are not receiving the same payoff in grades and praise they experienced learning baseline skills.
It’s important to connect values like ambition and education, creativity and purpose to the baseline skills of having grit, and a growth mindset. We have to appreciate the value of doing our best and provide respect to our children when we see them working hard regardless of the result.
One of the saddest things I’ve heard came from a fifth grade girl in one of our local schools. We were talking about things we are good at and things we wanted to improve. This young lady said quite readily:
“I’m stupid in school.”
At the tender age of 9, she’d already stopped believing in herself and her abilities.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy O. Disney
Here is the list of values we use when talking to the girls. This particular list came from the site values.com. The PassItOn site is run by an organization called “The Foundation for a Better Life” and reveals itself as a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization. They have some fantastic videos and conversation points to help guide discussions on values.
We pull from the large list to make it a bit easier and to move the discussion forward. You can see that list here. The eight values highlighted tend to give a large array of discussion points and options. Again, this list is totally customizable to your particular family.
Where you see “My Pick,” we allow the children to pull from the larger list and consider it a “my pick” value. Often the girls add things like kindness and love. “My pick” gives them freedom to choose while still focusing their effort.
Talk to your children about what three things on the list help them make decisions when they are feeling confused or lost about what action to take in difficult situations. Have them write the values down. Can you have more than three values? Of course, you can, and you will. But smaller bites are best at this point, so you don’t overwhelm.
You may find your children select values that speak to their innermost selves. Try to stay open minded. My son told me his number 1 value was “strategy.” I was sure he was going to say “family” or “education.” Accept and understand what they are telling you and consider how to connect the discussion back to what you see as your family’s values.
With my son’s choice of “strategy,” I worked to connect his value to our family value of education so we could see how they complimented one another. Many children say they value “being a good friend” as their top choice. If your top value is “family,” see how those two things can come together and form a balanced approach to your family’s growth and harmony.
In my final blog in this series, I will show how we pull this lesson together. As I said earlier, this is a large undertaking. Take your time and make things simple to understand for your children. It will make it easier for them to use their new tool.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.