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When drowning on dry land, jump into deep water

In our work, we regularly speak with parents and kids about their learning (like this interview with two amazing kids).

Over the last weeks, we interviewed with an UNBELIEVABLY cool 13-year-old girl and her dad living in Pakistan, a newly-minted 22-year-old graduate from a prestigious biomechanical engineering program, a 15-year-old school “drop out,” and a straight-A honor roll student at a traditional high school. There is one unifying theme shared by all:

“I can’t wait to be done with school… forever.” 

A “successful” high schooler.

Each student is, has been, and expects to be forever bored with their schooling. They felt like they were drowning on dry land. Drowning with boredom, with disengagement, and with a growing negative association with learning. 

What’s a Parent to Do

During this holiday break, ask your child if they wake up excited to learn each day. If their answer is “no” (or “I don’t know”), consider encouraging them to jump into the deep end of the pool. Here’s how:

  1. Ask them: “What would you do if you knew that failure was impossible?” Write these goals down on a sheet of paper. (No judgement on their answers.) Ask them to choose the goal from the above list that would make them MOST excited to pursue.
  2. Brainstorm with them several action items that they can do in the next 7-days to move them closer to that goal, then have them choose:
    1. One action item that they can complete in 10-minutes (have them complete this action item immediately after completing this process), 
    2. One that they can complete in 20-minutes (they must complete this within 24-hours), and 
    3. One that takes 30-minutes to complete (they must complete this within 7-days.) 
  3. Use a smartphone, kitchen timer, or alarm clock to schedule check-ins in 10-minutes, in 24-hours, in three days, and in seven days. Use these check-ins to encourage and coach them in their progress. Don’t be surprised if they struggle. This is likely their first time doing something like this without an adult order, timeline, and reward/punishment.

Pro Tip

The purpose of this exercise is to begin reframing “learning.” Schools message that kids have no say in learning which leads to boredom and a sense of “drowning on dry land.” The above process gives your child a chance to risk the pursuit of something of importance for them… and that is inherently exciting. 

If you try this, feel free to contact me or Dr. Scott for support here or at 832-210-1200 ext: 1200. 

This will likely be a scary process for both you and your child. But, if you don’t begin helping them to learn-how-to-learn, they will reach adulthood without the tools and confidence needed to adapt, change, and learn on their own. And, my bet is that, once they jump, they’ll realize that they were not meant to be on dry land. They were meant to swim!

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Quick Start Guide

If you made it this far then don’t stop now. The Quick Start Guide delivers a week’s worth of curated and highly practical resources to grow your learning leadership for the next 5 days. This is only the beginning! 

What’s included:

  • Key podcasts
  • Questions to ask your child
  • Blog posts
  • Interviews & videos