Education Experts: Keeping Kids Inspired in Tough Economic Times

hyde-inspire-kids-economyBarack Obama recently encouraged American students to focus on education and to stay in school — but what happens to kids when school activities are being cut back during tough economic times?

“Kids may find themselves with fewer extracurricular activities at school due to cutbacks,” says Malcolm Gauld, parenting expert and president of Hyde Schools. “And parents may find themselves with little expendable money this year for camp, lessons and other enriching activities for their children.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean kids have to go without meaningful experiences Malcolm and his wife Laura contend.

“As both families and schools are tightening their belts through this economic crisis,” adds Laura, head of Hyde School in Woodstock, Connecticut, “an opportunity arises to get back to basics.”

That the Gaulds use the word “opportunity” in these trying times is not a surprise. Leaders in the field of character education for more than four decades, their philosophy of education — and life — places the transformation of obstacles into opportunities firmly at the center of their experience and curriculum.

“Parents and their kids are normally rushing to work and school, and from one activity to the next, week after week, year after year,” says Laura.
“It isn’t a drawback to slow down a little and focus more on home and family at this time.”

The Gaulds are the authors of the parenting book, “The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have,” as well as “[intlink id=”466″ type=”page”]The Biggest Job[/intlink]” parenting seminars, both rooted in what the Gaulds identify as the 10 Priorities.

The [intlink id=”468″ type=”page”]10 Priorities[/intlink], that emphasize “Attitude over Aptitude” “Truth over Harmony,” and “Principles over Rules,” are the foundation of the parenting and family program the Gaulds deliver at the network of public and private schools they lead and throughout the country.

The Priorities also encompass “valuing failure and success” and “allowing obstacles to become opportunities.” Perhaps most important, The 10th Priority, reminds parents that Inspiration is Job #1.

“Regardless of what they might say or do, children and teens share a deep yearning to be inspired by their parents,” says Malcolm. “Believe it or not, we do not inspire our children with our achievements and our monetary or material success. We inspire them when we share our struggles, and theirs, reach for our best, and model daily character.”

In a culture that values what one has or what one does, priorities often get pushed aside or forgotten altogether. And when parents become concerned about their children’s preoccupation with how they look or what they want, the Gaulds are quick to ask them to take a look at what they prioritize in their own lives.

“What parents pay attention to is what they reinforce in their families,” says Laura. “Sure the kids will be influenced by what’s going on outside their homes, which is why it is so important for parents to stay the course with modeling and reinforcing the importance of strong values.”

The Gaulds offer tips to help parents and their kids get the most out of their time together during, what is for many families, a time of cutting costs and activities outside of the home:

  1. Use this time to build or renew family traditions. The big picture of raising children is done with the actions, routines, and practices that make up a lifetime of memories, habits, and character. It is never too late to start a family tradition, and often the value of these actions will be seen looking back on one’s upbringing.
  2. Start a book club at home. Choose a popular book, or give everyone in the family an opportunity to choose a favorite read. Choose an evening when all can meet to discuss chapters. Share thoughts, observations, and passages with one another.
  3. Return to family dinners. If the excuse was that schedules didn’t allow them, now is a good time to bring them back.The value of a shared daily meal with family has been proven in studies to combat depression, teen pregnancy, and drug use in high school students. So light the candles and engage in lively conversation.

“Often the value of actions such as these is realized looking back at one’s upbringing,” Malcolm adds. “As parents we have the opportunity to sow these actions, and what we’ll find is they will strengthen a culture in our homes that supports our best and also creates important memories — memories that will not be dependent on any economic circumstances.”