Roots and Wings

Good parenting is critical for the development of children.  In my post of October 31, 2011, I spoke of how nature and nurture play a significant role in the growth and development of children.  How it is best to guide a child to achieve his or her greatest and highest potential rather than to “steer” a child into a parent’s choices of interests, profession and schools. 

In my post of April 23, 2012, I mentioned my attendance at a wonderful presentation by psychotherapist Alice Virgil who spoke on how to build strong kids (and on the things parents and grandparents can do to participate in this development).  Tops on her list were encouraging relationships, creativity, awareness, courage, initiative, morality and spirituality.  

Last Sunday in a sermon, our priest added further inspiration for parents using a famous quote of Henry Ward Beecher.  “The greatest bequest we can give our children is roots and wings.”  The book Hot Chocolate for the Soul expands on this point — and provides context:  “Good parents give their children roots and wings.  Roots to know where their home is, and wings to fly and put into practice what they have learned.”    

It’s a tough job being a parent (easier being a grandparent :)) but little words of wisdom like those above can’t help – but help.   

Frames of Mind

Following up my post “Nature vs. Nurture” (Oct.31st), it is heartening to know that individuals are blessed with “multiple intelligences.”    I have reasonable eye/hand coordination which allows me to play a passable game of golf.  I have some verbal/communicative skills and I can play the guitar.  But don’t ask me for directions.  Please.   And don’t ask me about algebra.  I have the mathematical I.Q. of a Tic Tac.

Howard Gardner in his classic book Frames of Mind speaks of seven basic intelligences that all people share:  linguistic; musical; logical/mathematical; spatial; bodily/kinesthetic; interpersonal; and intrapersonal.   We all have a modicum of each of these intelligences but some of us are more heavily dosed with one or more of these intelligences.  It thus becomes all the more imperative for parents to recognize – and nurture – the natural intelligences of their children rather than skew development with subjective expectation — “my boy will play football” “my girl will be a lawyer.”   It is one thing to encourage a natural athlete to study physics or a math whiz to play a musical instrument.  But it is quite another to discourage and thereby defeat a child’s natural gifts. 

Nature vs. Nurture

Our children.  Magical.  Incipient.  Can do. . . . whatever

Each child is born – and blessed – with certain inherent natural proclivities.  Nature.  A quirky combination of genetics and heredity that suggest that this child could become a stellar musician or physicist or linguist or actor.  But how often do you hear about parents who say “I played football so my Johnny is gonna play football – whether he likes it or not.”   Or “my daughter will go to Yale” or “my boy will be a doctor [or banker or business person]” or “my son will not play with toy soldiers.”  Or “My daughter will go into the family business making widgets.” 

Guiding a child to learn broadly and to have varied experiences is positive.  It is a big plus to learn.   But efforts to “steer” or worse yet “order” a child into this school, that profession, this sport or my business is not only hurtful, it may be badly counterproductive.  It can mean that little Johnny – while a violin virtuoso in the making – is actually discouraged from such pursuits (a la “Billy Elliot”) in order to pursue what mom or dad want.  Or it can mean encouraging – nurturing –  a child to reach their full – grand – amazing potential.  Sunlight.  Water.  And optimal growing conditions for life . . . .