Monday, February 10, 2014

Higher Achieving Kids in College, Ethnic, or Cultural?

Yale Law Professors who wrote "The Triple Package, The Three Unlikely Traits That Explain The Rise And Fall Of Cultural Groups In America", Amy Chua ("TigerMom") and husband, Jed Rubenfeld say in their book there are three environmentally oriented traits that are important:

1 a sense of specialness,
2 insecurity/self esteem (not to an unhealthy degree though), and,
3 impulse control.

Those studied with these traits do seem to do better than other groups or individuals without these things. At first it looked like this was an ethnic divide. Until they dug a little deeper.

A thirty year old experiment took children, gave them a marshmallow, asked them to wait fifteen minutes to eat it, and if they did wait, they would get another. Tracking these children over time, the ones with the impulse control were found to achieve higher degrees of success then the others.

So, I would suggest taking your child, offering them something they want, but waiting to have it with a reward of more, and if they can do it, great. But if they cannot do it, start giving them practice on building their impulse control until they can.

The other two elements are easy, let them know they are special, but be reasonable and rational about it. If the child doesn't believe that for good reason, help them to overcome that which makes that belief unreasonable for them. As for insecurity / self esteem, they need to have a desire to achieve, not to feel they are useless or horrible or their parents don't appreciate them; I find this one the hardest to consider.

Let's just say that someone very close to me in my past has these things, but to a degree that I believe is unhealthy. She achieved things, big things, but at the cost of personal relationships with others and her husband and children and in the end, things haven't seemed to work out so well. Why? I'd argue that we need to achieve, to persevere, we need to accomplish and to think well of ourselves; that is, to know that we are special. We also have to enjoy ourselves, and appreciate the journey, not just the destination.

The concept of "putting one's head down and blazing forward", working with little distraction, is destructive and an easy choice for many. Life isn't that simple. One has to stop and look around, consider, then adjust goals and direction.

Consider a ship Captain, leaving port, aiming for another port, then full speed ahead, no course adjustments. He'd never get to his destination and it would be destructive for the ship, the crew, the cargo and, himself.

Knowing this information is valuable however. Though it appears to be racial at first, it's not, it's environmental. After three generations, these immigrant families have assimilated to where they are not extraordinary any longer. So the argument for environmental orientation carries a lot of weight. Speaking of weight, these groups seem to pick up the laziness and weight gain of other Americans, albeit it, if not quite to the same degree, at first, that we know of.

We have a long way to go, but I will say that knowing something as important as the three traits necessary to achieve higher success, is an important piece of knowledge. As for the sloughing off after a few generations, that too is environmental and America will just need to start paying attention, and trying harder.

Not really a big surprise to anyone.

We have for some time now needed to adjust our thinking. To lose weight. Re-order our priorities and stop feeling quite so entitled. Entitlement should come from hard work and doing what is right. That being said, last year for the first time, childhood obesity rates are on the decline. Maybe finally, we are on the road to reclaiming our perceived, "greatness".

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