Using challenges for character development

School Psychologist Stephen Gray Wallace, MS, Ed, shares advice for parents on how to use challenges to develop your child's character
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Using challenges for character development

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Stephen Wallace: Challenges are really important in human development, especially in child development. You know, as adults who loves kids, we so often want to rush to their rescue and solve problems for them and figure things out for them. Even do things for them that they can do themselves, but that’s a mistake. There’s a growing body of research that suggests that challenges are instrumental in helping young people ultimately succeed. And that things like perseverance and curiosity and optimism and self-control are more important ingredients of success than our test scores and SAT results. So we ought not try to help our children steer around challenges, but rather work their way through the challenges because that’s what will really help them in the long run. Some of those elements that I talked about, perseverance, optimism, self-control, and so forth, we call those personality traits. And I’m finding in my work some links between personality traits and interesting leadership through service and social entrepreneurship. And we’re finding very interesting pathways that lead young people to have the motivation and the confidence to engage in social entrepreneurial activity for the benefit of other people. It’s really critical that we talk to young people about decision making, but it’s also important during those conversations that we impart life lessons. Lessons like, always thank the bus driver, one of my favorite. Which says a lot more than just thanking the bus driver. It speaks to how they begin to treat others around them in all levels of our society. And so powerful messages related to life lessons often lead to character traits like perseverance, and independence and optimism and self-control. Those very character traits can develop leadership skills in young people that often then result in service activities and even social entrepreneurial activity for the benefit of other people.

School Psychologist Stephen Gray Wallace, MS, Ed, shares advice for parents on how to use challenges to develop your child's character

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Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed

School Psychologist & Author

Stephen Gray Wallace, M.S. Ed., is president and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE), a national collaborative of institutions and organizations committed to increasing favorable youth outcomes and reducing risk. He is a consultant to summer camps on staff training and teen leadership programming and has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent/family counselor. Stephen is a member of the professional development faculty at the American Academy of Family Physicians and American Camp Association and a parenting expert at kidsinthehouse.com, NBC News Learn and WebMD. He is also an expert partner at RANE (Risk Assistance Network & Exchange) and was national chairman and chief executive officer at SADD for more than 15 years. Additional information about Stephen’s work can be found at StephenGrayWallace.com.

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