In Search of Powerful Frames: How about ‘thriving’?

Those who have followed my blog know that I’m somewhat obsessed with finding powerful frames that can keep us out of the weeds and move us toward more impactful and fulfilling interactions.

In the realm of parenting I’ve been struggling with the challenge of being supportive while holding my children to high standards and expectations- specifically with regard to school.  I’ve already shared my views about the dangers of quantifying our children’s gifts and potential through a hyper-focus on test scores and grades.  With this said, I remain acutely aware of the importance of these metrics within the broader frames of “success” and “opportunity”.   How can parents help children to be their best and achieve their highest potential, while not hyper-focusing on their grades and school performance, which can in turn lead to feelings of inadequacy and fear?

Well, just yesterday I stumbled upon the notion of “thriving” as a potentially useful and powerful frame.  Although it’s a general construct, we all seem to have a clear sense of when our children (or ourselves for that matter) are thriving, and when they are not.  When children are thriving they are at their best, happy and engaged, growing and learning in positive and healthy ways.

Interestingly, the notion of thriving is used as a general medical diagnostic for children.  When a child is not meeting normal growth indicators related to weight and height they are categorized as “failure to thrive” which in turn calls for more specific diagnostics to identify the underlying problems and related protocols.  In this way failure to thrive is not a specific condition or disorder, but is symptomatic of problems that are preventing the child from developing in a healthy way.

As parents, we all want our children to thrive.  In fact, that is our primary role- to provide them with an environment that is maximally conducive to their growth.  As our children grow older, schools become increasingly important in terms of their impact and reach.  Since both children and schools are highly complex with many nuances and subtleties, goodness of fit becomes a critical issue and must be consistently revisited throughout a child’s education.  Those of us who have access to options and the tools to make these assessments are obviously in a place of advantage that all should enjoy.

It’s certainly not easy for any of us- certainly not parents- to stay out of the weeds when it comes to issues of education (see previous post).  Clearly, as measures of performance and achievements become increasingly emphasized and focused upon, the more emotional and fear-based our responses and concerns will become.  It seems that a viable way out of this dilemma is to refocus on the vibrancy of our children (our own and our community’s) and to commit to providing environments most conducive to their growth.

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About mbhuber2013

convener and co-founder of BTEP, instructor for Tanzania Study Abroad course; Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning at University at Buffalo

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