We all want to raise hopeful kids. But have you ever sat down and considered how to teach hopefulness? What even is hopefulness? I couldn’t have explained it to save myself.
The idea of teaching hopefulness had me sitting in a place I heard Karen Stubbs of Birds on a Wire Ministry describes as knowing what kind of parent I want to be but not knowing how to get there. (If you don’t know Karen Stubbs yet, you should check her out. She is FOR moms.)
Anyone with me?
My go-to has been to try my darnedest to exhibit it myself. Though, to be honest, a few too many kicks in the teeth in recent years have started to erode my own hopefulness. (Hey. I’m just being honest.)
Perfect timing then, for a gift I received. A series of talks on CD by Brené Brown, right full of great teaching, with a section on hope that opened my eyes. (Don’t know Brené Brown either? Do click. It will be worth it.)
I’m not going to regurgitate her well-researched talk for you. I’m really a poor imitation Dr. Brown. What I will do here, is tell you my experience with hope.
(I am going to link you to a few articles I’ve found online where she outlines her thoughts on hope, though. Because a mom needs some brilliant researchers in her back pocket, you know.)
My Hopeful Kids History
At first glance, I would have said that I had all the earmarks of a hopeful thinker.
“Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities,” Dr Brown says.
Tenacity and perseverance. Check. Check.
Believing in my abilities. Um…
I believed in my abilities to do things that I was 100% certain that I couldn’t fail at. Does that count?
If you’ve read my post The Whisperers, then you know about my thinking on failure.
Turns out, that not only is hope not a feeling, but a hopeful mindset requires a track record of failing and trying again. Not being afraid you might fail and quitting before you finish.
So, of the three components of a hopeful mindset, two of them – 1. goal setting and 2. perseverance and tenacity – are pretty easy to model, for me.
The third component, belief in our own abilities, is a little harder. And for good reason.
As someone who grew up believing that failure is deadly, my internal wiring goes against learning to have a hopeful mindset, apparently. Super.
Brené talks about trying and failing repeatedly before finally accomplishing something being the way to learn how to believe in ourselves and be hopeful. And, it goes without saying that we can’t teach something to our kids that we don’t know ourselves.
So, the first how-to for raising hopeful kids is to go back and learn to be hopeful ourselves, if we missed that class.
That said, there are a lot of ways we can nurture hopefulness in our kids.
Ever signed your kids up for a sports league where everyone gets a trophy at the end? Many parents think that will encourage their kids when what it really does is rob them of an opportunity to grow their hope muscle through failure.
If you’re like me, this idea of letting our kids go through the pain of failure is torturous.
Take last summer, for example. I sat through my son’s rep baseball games in agony. The team had just enough players to fill the field, meaning anyone having an off day still played. They were outranked by every team they played and only won one regular season game.
I almost didn’t make it through the summer with all my hair. I could barely hack watching him fail and I prayed fervently that he was having a much different experience than I was.
One thing my wonderful church lady says (frequently) to me is that my kids are not me. They, hopefully, have not absorbed the lie that their worth is tied tightly to their performance like I did.
The second how-to for raising hopeful kids is to remember that they’re not you. They may react to their own struggle totally differently than you would.
This season, our son’s team is shaping up to be similar to last year and I’m fighting my desire to find another team for him to play on. Brené gave another example of parents trying to get their kids’ coaches to stop telling the kids that they got something wrong and start saying that the did ‘so-so’, instead.
This eliminating the failure experience sounds the same as me wanting to take my son to a winning team. If hopefulness comes from get it wrong, over and over, and then getting to rejoice at their long worked for and much deserved success, then we as parents have one great parenting tool within our grasp.
Failure as a Parenting Tool
Our kids’ failure is key to their hopefulness.
Obviously, this is simplistic and raising hopeful kids involves more than this alone. But I think bubble wrapping kids is becoming an epidemic and we need to embrace the power of letting our kids miss the mark, then encouraging and supporting them as they keep trying until they get it.
When they finally do get it, be prepared. Be prepared to rejoice with them and be prepared for the hard-won accomplishments to do much more than improve their abilities in a particular activity.
All that struggle followed by a victory produces hopeful kids. And in a world that is characterised by struggle, hope is a pretty essential life skill.
I promised you a link to a more detailed article about Brené Brown’s work on hopefulness, so here it is! Learning to Hope from Behavioral Health Evolution