Apr 232014
Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony 2011

Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony 2011 (Photo credit: SFA Union City)

Have you seen this article about some who was suing their $19,000-a-year pre-school for damaging her child’s chance to get into an Ivy League college?

Whether I agree with spending $19,000 a year on pre-school (I don’t) or that graduating from one of the Ivies is a passport to Nirvana (ditto) is irrelevant.   We all want our children to excel. And since it takes most kids years to find their strengths, I don’t understand how  a few steps off the pre-determined path can be perceived as so harmful.

I’m a big fan of little guys trying everything that comes their way –from soccer to poetry.  Art, music, sports, languages…. if we don’t introduce them to ideas and experiences outside of our every day norms how will they figure out what they are passionate about?

And how do we find that fine between being supportive of our kids’ experiences without taking over?  Without making it “about” Mom or Dad?  I think it’s already hard enough for a kid to try something and fail without the added pressure of feeling they’ve disappointed a parent or two.

After all, while competition is a great teacher, there are many times that it is  important to reward participation and the courage it takes to try something new.  It’s easy to forget that losing is nature’s best teacher.  Time and again, high-achieving adults confirm adversity and struggle as the “teachers” that pushed them to win the next time!

Kids shouldn’t be afraid of losing.  Go easy on the sympathy if they lose.  Soft-pedal the congratulations if they win. In either case, ask them what they learned or what they’ll try next time.



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Oct 232012


A year or so after a car accident put both of her parents out of work Samantha Garvey and her family were evicted from their home.  Two weeks later her face was on the front page of Newsday and she was appearing on national TV.

Like so many high-achievers, young Samantha channeled the uncertainty of her day-to-day living situation into her work: in her case, scientific research about mussels and predators.

The result?  The 18-year-old high school student became a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search,

Although she did not go through to the final round of the competition, Ms. Garvey received both work and scholarship opportunities.  Her family found a new home.

And, what did Samantha call the best part of her weeks of fame?  To “hopefully inspire the people who heard what I had to say.”




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Sep 132011

Swim Class

How are passions discovered?

Although we seem to  “specialize” earlier and earlier I wonder about that approach.  Does it allow children the time  and freedom needed to discover all of their strengths and interests?

In a recent conversation with a college “almost first-year,” a young friend talked about the need to pursue a career in social work or criminal justice.  People in those professions had been a vital part of her growing-up years and, she said, up until that conversation, becoming one of them was the only way she knew to “make a difference.”

At the time, we were spending time with people who had “made a difference” in other ways; she was open to the idea that people can make more of a difference with “who they are” than with “what they do.”  I was delighted to hear that she was receptive to the idea that “trying lots of things” was a reasonable goal for the college-bound.

So many people shy away from “new” because it’s not comfortable; but what about the lucky ones who learn early on that a certain level of discomfort is the price of admission to a new adventure?  If we don’t encourage our kids to sample a variety  of what comes their way  –from science fairs to swim lessons– how will they discover hidden talents and passions? Parents who value ‘effort’ and ‘risk’ and celebrate ‘trying,’ ‘giving their best effort’ and ‘being open to opportunity’ seem to have kids who try, give their best effort and are open to opportunity!

Whether our kids shine with natural talent for or struggle to master basic skills, we have a chance teach them something special.  Our approach can gift them with the opportunity to show the same respect for everyone who is willing to set aside discomfort, to push themselves toward improvement and give to their best. As with so many aspects of being a parent, it’s attitude.

Excellence matters, but it takes most of us years to find our strengths.  As parents, do we offer enough space in our children’s lives to balance enjoyment of the familiar with exploration of the new?