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INGALL: The growing is worth the pains

• Sep 14, 2018 at 2:00 PM

As a parent, there has been no greater joy than watching and supporting my own children's growth. As babies and toddlers, we watched the pain as teeth came in, as they learned to walk — and later, as they struggled into steady growth academically, socially and emotionally.

At times, the frustration was pretty obvious. But as we helped them navigate and work through that frustration, we learned that a little bit of struggle equaled a lot of growth.

That doesn't make watching the struggle easy — for parents or for teachers. There is a delicate balance between providing enough challenge to encourage growth while ensuring the level of difficulty does not cause complete frustration. Monitoring growth while embracing — and supporting — the struggle is critical to helping each of our students improve.

Our teachers and school staff are dedicated to instilling a “growth mindset” in our young people. Author Carol Dweck defines this, in part, as the belief that abilities are developed through dedication, hard work, a love for learning and resilience. We know parents share this same dedication. In a world that is moving faster than ever, we all feel like we need to fix what’s wrong and move on as quickly as possible. However, that shortcut may leave a growth opportunity unfulfilled. It is hard work, knowing when to just observe the struggle, when to give an encouraging word and when to intervene.

So, how do we know what to say and when to say it? Reflect on your own learning and challenges — there are always peaks and valleys. Ask yourself, looking at the long term, is there a consistent upward trend? As a runner, I have some of my best days on the trail following a day when I barely finished. Seek insight from those who have gone before or have expertise. This amazing job called parenting did not come with an owner’s manual, and every family and child is unique.

Finally, as Brendon Burchard says, bring the joy! Find the fun in each day and challenge. Have a positive, can-do mindset for yourself and those around you. Celebrate each success and use those successes to navigate and work though the next challenge.

Though my own children are now 26, 21 and 19, I’m still amazed by their growth and encouraged by their successes. So, as we all look for that consistent growth in our own lives and families, I encourage you to embrace the “growing pains,” as those struggles often equate to great successes for all our students.

Andy Ingall is the superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.

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