7. “How to Foster Wisdom in your Child”
When I think of wisdom, I picture an old bearded man meditating on the top of a hill. What exactly is wisdom? It’s not simple to define:
- The capacity of sound judgment and good decision making;
- The “right” use of knowledge (the ability to think and act using knowledge experience, common sense and insight);
- Understanding that “doing” is not the end of the learning process, but reflecting on what we have done is;
- Learning from your mistakes, applying those lessons to avoid the same mistakes again, and finally foreseeing mistakes before they happen;
- Acting with knowledge while doubting what one knows – wisdom offers humility and open mindedness and consensus is that wisdom correlates with compassion, experiential self-knowledge, ethics and benevolence.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
Until recently, passing wisdom on to our children was a defining element of parenting and this responsibility extended to parents, grandparents, families and community. Somehow, in our modern fast-paced lives we have moved away from this practice.
Families are busier than ever. Most families of school aged children have both parents working outside the home, making evenings and weekends full of scheduled activities including organized sports, dance and music lessons, appointments, and homework. Not to mention completing necessary chores, cooking, cleaning and laundry.
Too many parents have abdicated the authority required to teach wisdom to schools, TV and the internet.
The economic reality of global competition for jobs and opportunities has resulted in our schools focusing on teaching targeted knowledge and skills in academia and technology in furtherance of preparing our children for lucrative, stable careers. There is little opportunity or time to foster experience.
Thus, kids are frequently ‘educated’ in wisdom (if at all) by cartoons, movies and television shows; by social media, performers, athletes, websites, talk-shows and pop culture icons instead of their parents, or the wisdom of the ages.
“The word wisdom keeps haunting me. I don’t teach it as much anymore, and I wonder who is.”
– Michael Godsey, Teacher and Writer
Today’s questionable sources of wisdom often leave little time for self-reflection and development.
We need to pay more attention transferring wisdom to our children.
In a world where our young people are experiencing so much stress, social isolation and unrealistic demands on their time, which can lead to mental health crisis and addiction, parents should be more concerned about carving out space for a child to get to know himself, reflect on his life experiences and collect wisdom.
“Intelligence without wisdom makes one a smart fool.”
“It’s much easier to become a smart person than to stop being a fool”
– Vasily Klyuchevsky
In an article in Scientific America, psychologist and Cornell University professor Robert Sternberg explains that our education system is too focused on IQ, thereby creating individuals who possess a certain kind of intelligence, but not the kind that helps society to progress in meaningful ways.
Sternberg notes that students who score well on standardized tests (like the SAT, and GRE) have good general intelligence and fairly high academic knowledge, but these tests reveal nothing of their creativity, common sense, ethical awareness, or wisdom- despite the fact that these qualities are enormously important in making our world a better place.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
― Isaac Asimov
He adds that these tests also filter out many people who do possess those qualities.
What it leads to is people who are very good at advancing themselves, often at other people’s expense. We may not just be selecting the wrong people, we may be developing an incomplete set of skills.
Sternberg points out that although IQ points have risen 30 points on average in the 20th century, there is a lack of evidence that this is helping us solve modern-day problems such as climate change, income disparity, violence, and extreme political movements.
The problem appears to be that our kids aren’t being taught wisdom – at home or at school. They aren’t learning how to be good citizens, uphold good values, engage in ethical reasoning, and use common sense.
And this isn’t just bad for our kids, it’s dangerous for our nations and the planet. Without wisdom, we are raising a generation of people who view the world as being about people like themselves which leads to intolerance, discrimination and even hate. We are raising skilled professionals who are good at tasks, but lack the ability to be game-changers, and innovative or think critically to solve new problems. At the extreme, we are moving towards a society that no longer values ethics and wisdom as it should because they have become unfamiliar concepts.
True wisdom listens more, talks less and can get along with all types of people.
– Kiana Ton
How can parents fill in the missing pieces?
What do we do with this? How can parents fill in the missing pieces and ensure that they provide their children the wisdom they need to be successful and responsible members of our community?
Many ancient and famous philosophers spoke about how to foster wisdom. A common thread of these leaders is the idea that wisdom is the product of learning, experience and self-reflection.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Confucius the Chinese philosopher and teacher, taught that there are three key methods of learning wisdom: by reflection, by imitation and by experience. He states that learning by reflection a person strengthens her capacity to absorb and learn both cognitively and emotionally.
“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”
– John Dew
This means that kids need to experience real life. Learning hard skills is great however, it’s only through experience that we learn about ourselves and others, and where we fit in the world and what we want out of life. Every human experience contributes to strength and character and transforms each of us into unique and resilient humans.
It’s our role as parents to encourage and support our child to try new things, explore the world, attempt great things, struggle, reflect, learn and try again. This cycle of experimenting and reflecting on outcomes is how wisdom is gained.
And let your child make choices about what he wants to experience. We all learn best when we are interested in what we are doing. When kids are engaged in pursuits that they choose and that matters to them, an authentic experience arises, with real meaning, and the condition is created for a child to experience, to reflect and gain wisdom, ourselves.
Then close the loop on learning by taking the time to help your child reflect on their mistakes.
“Learning only happens when there is tension between what kids think they know and what they see in the world around them.”
– Alvin Toffler
Small kids make small mistakes. Big kids make big mistakes.
Kids needs permission to make mistakes and they need to start young. Kids need to make a mess and break things, skin their knees, choose a bad purchase or haircut, wear a funky outfit to school, trust the wrong person, break rules, yell and cry, and act immature and silly (because they are). Let’s face it. We all need to learn to make mistakes and accept mistakes as part of the human experience. We also need to learn from our mistakes by practicing. By learning some tough lessons from our mistakes as kids, we learn to prevent more serious mistakes when we are older, when the stakes are higher and consequences more serious.
Reflecting on mistakes and natural consequences of choices is essential for wisdom. Chris Lehmann, teacher and CEO of the Science Leadership Academy of Philadelphia states that:
“It is in that moment of conflict between what we think we know and what we experience that meaning happens. We need to help our kids understand and trust that all of us, kids and adults, are forever engaged in the process of learning, unlearning and re-learning.”
It’s hard to reflect on mistakes without talking about values, goals and priorities. Kids really benefit from having help in developing their own priorities and goals. Take the time to talk to your children about their priorities. Ask lots of questions, discuss scenarios, ask them to tell you what they notice, what they like and what they dislike in the world.
Help them develop meaningful goals about who they want to be, what experiences they want to have and what they want to participate in and avoid talking about what program they want to study, which job they want to have, what level or contest they want to win, or what they hope to earn or buy in the future. Set goals for all areas of life including family, friendships, community, health, creativity and financial security.
This is a great opportunity for parents to build deeper and meaningful connections with their child by sharing your own goals and dreams.
Don’t be afraid to tell them about your failures and struggles, too. By doing this, you can teach them the importance of not giving up, and that short-term failures don’t have to keep them from long-term successes.
Your successes and failures will be a powerful help to your child to build wisdom by reflecting on examples from your life.
And don’t expect your child to have all the answers. They shouldn’t and they need to know that most of us continue to grow and change, and change our priorities and goals throughout our entire lives.
Once your child has developed some priorities and goals, you are then able to teach your child to use her unique priorities and goals to evaluate her choices and opportunities. Responding to situations and decision making is a lot easier and less complicated when you have a clear set of priorities to filter through. A quick mental review of personal priorities can eliminate noise and gives kids confidence and the focus to make decisions.
As a typical Type A working mom, I know the importance of teaching kids early in their lives that when you say yes to one opportunity, you often have to say no to another – even when all the opportunities are positive and attractive.
Learning to be realistic about personal capacity sets your child up for healthier balance as an adult.
Help your child to keep track of activities for a week. Help them to explore where they are spending the majority of time and consider the choices that will help them to achieve the things that are important and become the person they want to be.
Coaching children through decisions and mistakes is also a valuable opportunity to teach emotional regulation and impulse control. Teach your child that when faced with a choice or scenario, they should pause, look inside themselves and think. They should take the time to consider their choices and possible outcomes before taking action. Your child will then be able to make a thoughtful and purposeful response instead of “reacting” in a way that they may later regret.
Kids do what you do, not what you say.
Lead by example – kids are far more willing to listen to that message if we model it ourselves.
Strive to model mature and thoughtful choices and behavior for yourself and the family. Investing in yourself and your own personal development will benefit your kids and entire family.
A by-product of this coaching process with your child is that you will end up teaching your child both confidence and humility. By making mistakes and learning from them, your child will accept that mistakes are part of the human experience and that they aren’t something to be ashamed of. This helps children realize that all humans are imperfect and that none of us have all the answers. It can also be a bridge for children to realize that all of us can benefit from seeking wise counsel when faced with a tough choice. Learning to seek wisdom from trusted sources is essential to navigating the adult world.
How does Kabooter Knomes help kids collect wisdom?
- creating opportunities for down time
- encourage them to spend time in nature
- engaging kids in right brain activities
- inventing their own fun through make belief play
- encouraging them to try things, problem solve, modify
- learn interpersonal skills
- developing new ideas through creativity and imagination