A Fine Line

Working with elementary age students who are learning about navigating their social interactions while also learning math, science, language arts, and so on, I have frequently been asked by parents trying to help guide their children about the concept of tattling.

The context has typically revolved around my generation’s conviction that one should not be a “tattle tail”, thus we have aspired to imbed this dogma in our children so as to save them from the social stigma of being laden with this moniker. 

Ironically, our generation is also likely the first to so unwaveringly embrace and pursue our children advocating for themselves in all areas of their lives. 

I recently had a conversation where the question was asked “what’s the difference?”

While I have always had an internal sense of the difference, the fabulous question forced me to articulate it. 

When a child talks to an adult (teacher, parent, coach etc) in response to being hurt, feeling fear, or needing help to navigate or learn, that represents self-advocating.  However, when a child talks to an adult in an effort to share information that can place a peer in a position of being uncomfortable as a result of the action the adult might take, that is tattling. 

In essense, the fine line is motive.  If the motive is for one to help him or herself navigate, grow, and attain greater comfort then the behavior is one of advocacy.  Conversely, when the motive is to bring discomfort to another, then we must continue to help those who show the latter actions understand the negative effect of those social choices. 

It is a fine line, but one worth defining more clearly for our children and students so as to continue to support their social navigations. 

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What it Takes

Invariably each year, I am called on to chat with a young student-athlete about priorities, organization, and simply “what it takes” to be successful in both academic and athletic endeavors.

Having had the good fortune to have worked with a number of student- athletes who have gone on to high levels of success in both areas, I have gleaned from those models a set of intangibles that seem to be common amongst them. 

Whether the student-athlete played D3 basketball or plays for the Phoenix Suns, is a linebacker at Colgate or a lacrosse midfielder at Hofstra, played soccer at Harvard, walked on at Ohio State, or won super bowl rings in the NFL. All of these examples shared a couple things in common. 

When I speak with young, ambitious student-athletes, I share these examples with a caring candor that I hope and trust will resonate. 

It is always important to empathize that a major part of ascending to great heights as a student athlete lies in what I call the “God-givens”, the measurables.  However, our cultural canon is laden with characters who have defied the traditional model of success in their area by overcoming the lack of ideal measurables.  These folks have been blessed with other “God-givens”, intangibles, unmeasurables that have been the catalysts in their success.

I illuminate these examples as well so as to exemplify the importance of the intangibles.  

The most important intangible I share is simple:

What do those who succeed do when nobody is looking, when there is nobody to perform for, nobody to coach or teach them, nobody pushing them?

What do they do when they are out of the classroom, off the playing surface?

What is their mindset about preparation, growth, overcoming obstacles, facing challenges, enduring pain & failure, strengthening weakness?

The best, most successful student-athletes have in common an immeasurable intangible that is catalytic in driving them to work on their crafts away from the classrooms and playing surface, when nobody is watching, with no immediate consequence or reward, no scores and no grades. 

It is what they do when nobody is watching that makes all the difference  when everybody is doing so.