On raising kids who are more than “hoop jumpers”: A teenage TED speaker’s mom on how she encourages her sons to innovate
You gave a talk at TEDxQUT about hijacking your kids’ education. What does that mean, exactly?
I saw all these kids who had made themselves into little hoop-jumpers. All of a sudden, for seniors in high school in October, it’s, “Oh, jeez, I need to join some clubs and get my grades up, and then I’ll go to Harvard.” And then whining, “Well, I got all ‘A’s, and I joined Model U.N.” But that’s just not what it’s about. You have to make your own self remarkable. Make them say, “Wow, this couldn’t be any other child.” Don’t be like everybody else.
How did you encourage creative thinking in your household?
I beat my head against the wall for years because I wanted to develop creative and resilient kids who were going to fulfill their own potential and not just be able to fill in [standardized test] bubble marks. But you can’t make a cat bark. I can’t make schools change, no matter how much I advocate and complain. So I gave up on that and said, “You know what? I’m not going to change that. I send them to school, they do whatever they’re going to do, and it’s not very challenging and it doesn’t promote creativity. And then when they get out of school, it’s time for parents to shine.”
By trying to guide them to a place where they can excel and find some measure of success. It really drives me crazy when parents say, “I just want them to be happy.” I want more than that. Sometimes being happy can be just laying around, but real happiness comes from fulfilling what you were meant to do. Struggling and succeeding. That’s a much cooler idea.