New Mom: What I’d like my legacy to be

I recently found out that I’m going to be a mom this fall. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s the big life changes headed my way, but I’ve definitely been more reflective lately. One of the bigger concerns that I’ve been going over – and one I’m sure I share with many moms-to-be and new moms – is what I want to teach my children. More than just academics, I really want to pin down a set of tenets for living our lives that I can pass on to them. Hopefully I’ve gathered some good tools from my psychology background and working in early childhood. The list is not definitive by any means, but I’ll try to keep honing down to what I really value that my kids live and learn. Here is my current set of ‘rules’ – with many changes, additions, and improvements to be made in the coming months (and after that, I’m sure).

  • Intelligence and talent is not fixed, but malleable. Carol Dweck (Stanford professor well-known for creating and championing the importance of a growth versus fixed mindset) emphasizes that both kids and adults who believe intelligence or any talent is like a muscle – if you work at it, it becomes stronger – are more likely to try harder, and therefore, to succeed. I can’t do this theory justice – and I highly recommend watching Carol Dweck’s TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
  • Intelligence is not the most important thing in order to be successful. I’ve become intrigued by all of the research pointing at the importance of non-cognitive factors for success. Math and reading are important. The so-called “soft-skills” are more important. Being able to work with others, to create lasting friendships, and form strong relationships does more for a person than academic skills. While kindergartens have become more and more academic, we’ve been reducing the opportunities for kids to learn the lessons that really matter. Turns out all you need to know you really do learn in kindergarten. To really get inspired, I recommend reading Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed.
  • What is success anyway? Our generation grew up hearing that being happy is what is most important. But according to a 2012 study by the American College Counseling Association, rates of depression in college-aged students is soaring. Millenials might believe that pursuing happiness is the answer, but it seems it’s not giving positive results. I’m sure how I end up educating my children will be in direct response to finding that the pursuit of happiness is not all there is. However, this is where I’m still trying to formulate the best way of ensuring my kids are prepared for future obstacles while also finding the time to enjoy the many positive things in life. For more thinking on this topic, I recommend reading The Moral Bucket List article by David Brooks here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html.

These are the first three items on my list, and the ones I’ve given the most thought to. As fall approaches, I’ll be doing more reading and reflecting to come up with a more complete list. Please comment below if you have any ‘life rules’ or tips for new (or not so new!) parents! We might be able to come up with a more definitive list together.

Thank you!
-E

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