I read a sobering New York Times article last week. It reported that the emotional health of college freshman hit a record low. Or, more accurately, the lowest point since the 25-year old survey had been administered.
How can these students who have surely accomplished quite a bit and have the means as well as the capability to attend college be so unhappy?
The article reminded me of Madeline Levine’s book, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. She wrote the book after seeing so many unhappy adolescent patients…young adults who are accomplished and have been given so much from their well-intentioned parents. She argues:
“Money does not contribute to emotional problems in our children. It does not foster depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. It is the culture of affluence–a culture that embraces materialism, values performance over learning and external motivation over internal motivation that overemphasizes competition, and offers a dearth of opportunities to see adults behave with compassion and integrity–that is sickening our children.”
Pain is a part of life. It is inevitable. We can’t shield our children from it.
What we can do is equip our children…teach them how to handle disappointments and when things don’t go their way. Here are two suggestions, again based a lot of recent, ground breaking research.
- Strengthen your child’s internal motivation: “In environments where extrinsic rewards are most salient, many people work only to the point that triggers the reward–and no further. So, if students get a price for reading three books, many won’t pick up a fourth let alone embark on a lifetime of reading.” (Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)
- Focus on process not product: “Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence…by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work…. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong…. The best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning…. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.” (Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success)
These are just two ideas that are fairly easy to implement each day as you go about your day. And, while I can’t guarantee your children will be happy, I can say doing the above will help you help them get on the right track.