The Best Version of Themselves
I began the last blog with “The Glasser biography is printed and is now available!” It turns out it would have been more accurate if I had left it at “The Glasser biography is printed.” I have the book. It looks great! But I still can’t tell you how you can get a copy. Nothing yet on the publisher’s website or on the wglasserbooks.com website. The Better Plan followers will be among the first to know about how to get the book. Stay tuned.
I have continued to think about some of the things Glasser suggested in one of his unpublished articles that I posted as part of the March 19 blog. For instance, in reference to how parents should guide their children he wrote that –
“What we should be sensitive to from early on is what they want. Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves.”
The idea of taking the time to teach kids how to satisfy their own needs has made a real impression on me. This process is about honoring your child as a fellow human being with unique dreams and goals of his/her own. It is about respecting their ideas and helping them achieve them. It is a process full of love and compassion.
It was helpful to me that Glasser went on to explain that as parents we can –
“Assure them from the time that they can comprehend it that we believe in the way we live our lives, but that our way is not necessarily the best way, the only way or the way for them. And as our way changes, as it will, show them that we can be tolerant of ourselves as we change. From this they will learn that they too have a way but that it is not the only way and that they should be tolerant of themselves as they change.”
Is such an honest and candid relationship possible between parent and child?
I especially thought about the effect such a relationship would have on a child’s spiritual journey. What would it be like for parents to express how much they believe in the way they live their lives, but somehow to admit that their way may not be the only way for the child? What if parents modeled an authentic and real connection with Jesus, and invited their children to be a part of that connection, yet somehow did so non-coercively? Too many children are growing up to be screwed-up adults, unclear regarding their purpose in life and spiritually unhappy. To a great extent I think this has a lot to do with children experiencing the opposite of what Glasser described. Instead of focusing on creating and maintaining their own spiritual lives and then inviting, inspiring, and persuading their children to join them, parents are leading halfway religious lives and then trying to force their children to do the same. Criticizing, nagging, threatening and punishing are frequently present in this approach.
Glasser believed that if we can foster a relationship with our children that honors and respects them as fellow human beings –
“ . . . especially to refrain from criticizing them, we have a chance, even a good chance (there are no sure things in this delicate process) to enjoy the reward which is a child who loves us, respects us, and enjoys spending time with us.”
And I would add that more adults would turn out well-adjusted and mentally healthy.
As I considered Glasser’s thoughts on parenting I was reminded about something I read in Ted and Nancy Sizer’s book, The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract (1999). Describing the role schools can play in students’ lives, they wrote that “We must insist on a high school design which will help all the high school’s people to reach for the best version of themselves.” p. xiii
I like the idea that we can help children and students to reach for the best version of themselves. I like the phrase “best version of themselves” a lot.
In the absence of intervention, students will come to see their teacher as the judge and chief evaluator. Students turn in assignments and hope that their teacher will accept it, or maybe even like it. Somehow the school system has created a divide between what students do and their own connection to that skill or product.
Teachers can begin to restore this connection between pupil and product by changing their own role in the classroom. Whenever appropriate, a teacher can help students evaluate aspects of their assignments by saying or asking things like –
Tell me what you like about what you have created.
What part of this assignment was the most satisfying for you?
What grade would you give yourself on this assignment and why?
What strategies did you use that helped you complete this assignment?
Teachers can still make evaluative statements; we just need to do less of it. We need to share the evaluation process with students. This sharing can be done informally, like the sample questions above, or it can be done formally where student self-evaluation becomes part of the project rubric.
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.” Stanley Kubrick
In reading about the importance of nurturing kids and helping them learn how to achieve their own goals, I can’t help but wonder if technological/societal shifts have made this methodology prone to create a more self-centered society. At the risk of sounding like an old man on a porch waving a broom, it seems like “kids today” want little more than superficial technological connections, and either attention or affirmation through these realms.
Perhaps the specific question I’m mulling, is does the Glasser model continue to work even if younger generations are driven by perpetually more self-serving desires? Are there times when supporting the achievement of such goals has a detrimental societal effect?
I think the wording is significant when it says –
“Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves.”
Teaching kids to satisfy their own needs in healthy ways doesn’t lead to self-centeredness, but rather appropriate independence.
Glasser emphasizes the importance children learning to meet their own needs in a way that doesn’t prevent someone else from meeting his needs.
Just some thoughts.