#NACACreads Author: ‘Learning Comes Through Trial and Error’

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All parents are eager to help set up their children for success, but in too many cases, they’re going about it in the wrong way.

That’s one message included in the new book, The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. And increasingly, the trend is impacting the way students embark on the college search and selection process, author Ned Johnson noted during a Wednesday #NACACreads Twitter chat.

“One of the best things to say to kids is that we have confidence in their decisions,” he tweeted. “Learning comes through trial and error.”

In The Self-Driven Child, Johnson and his co-author, William Stixrud, make a compelling case that the long-term success and happiness of today’s teens is being undermined by parents and school systems that limit opportunities for students to make meaningful choices. The result? Even the highest achieving students are often left feeling powerless, overwhelmed, and wholly unprepared for life after high school.

Rather than developing an internal drive to pursue  subjects, hobbies, and activities they truly enjoy, too many kids are guided by external motivation — “doing something because it matters to someone else,” noted Johnson, a NACAC member. And, in the long-run, the whole set-up is “really bad for mental health and motivation.”

The Self-Driven Child provides remedies, including strategies to help parents stop micromanaging and tips to help students manage stress and find their own source of motivation.

Letting go, Johnson said, can be one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. In fact—even though there may be bumps in the road—kids who feel in control of their lives are much better positioned to make reasoned decisions about college and career choices.

“If you FEEL that you are pushing kids, they feel it too,” he tweeted. “Then, they’ll use their energy to resist you and what is in their own best interest.”

“As all great teachers know, as much as we can, we want to inspire not require,” he added.

Read the full chat transcript and learn more about the book.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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