Recently, I experienced a challenging parent moment that resulted in my own parental growth. It made me stop and think about the opportunities for learning all around us and how often we do not capitalize on those. Why is that and how do we change that behavior? In order to even begin to answer that question, we must first look at the barriers to learning.
Allow me to share with you my own recent experience and the barrier I recognized in my own behavior. My daughter has played field hockey at a competitive level for 5 years. She has loved it, we have loved watching her grow and play, and there was so much she was getting out of being a part of a team. Upon picking her up from camp this summer and 3 days before summer training started, she informed her father and I that she no longer wanted to play the sport. This came out of nowhere and my husband and I found ourselves on foreign parenting ground. We felt she was giving up so many opportunities - a state tournament championship with her high school team mates, a possible athletic scholarship for college, and memories that would last a lifetime.
We questioned if this was just an act of laziness we had not seen in her before – after all she is a teenager. We thought she would have regrets and lose her spot on the team for good. And we have always placed expectations on our children to be involved in productive activities so what would she do with her free time now? We asked her all these questions, we challenged her to really think about her decision, and we respectfully thought about her responses.
She was prepared to answer all our questions (she knows us too well) and she had valid points. In the end, we had to let this 15 year old make her own decision even if it meant making a mistake. And we were sure this was a mistake! Selfishly we were going to miss the field hockey community but all we could do now was hope she learned something from her “mistake.”
Fast forward 6 months and her grades are better, she is involved in several different activities at school and outside of school, she has expanded her group of close friends, and most importantly, she is noticeably more relaxed and free-spirited. You see, it turns out that shifting her focus from field hockey to a variety of other activities wasn’t a mistake at all. She didn’t have anything to learn, WE DID.
We learned that she knew herself better than we did. After 15 years, she is still teaching us how to be parents. So why did it take me 6 months to learn that my daughter knew herself so well? The answer is simple – I had my own agenda of guiding my daughter because I was closed off from seeing her own capabilities of guiding herself.
According to Dr. Neil Thompson on his Human Solutions Bulletin, “One very strong barrier to learning which, unfortunately, is quite common … is a culture which does not value learning.” I would say we value learning in our home; however, we also mistakenly lean towards thinking we, as the parents, are the experienced ones so we know best. In a workplace or personal environment where the culture doesn’t value learning or has other agendas/priorities, a sense of defensiveness develops and prohibits people from trying new things or looking at things from a different perspective.
Unfortunately, as I personally experienced, this can lead to fear of trying something new. I had my agenda which was for my daughter to keep playing the sport and this prohibited me from seeing her reasoning clearly. To create a learning environment, we need to look beyond learning from mistakes, and establish a culture in which learning is an everyday way of work. We need to develop a work environment that utilizes and believes in all the capabilities of the individual team members and foster a learning culture. Only through these actions will we see and be able to look for opportunities to learn, develop and improve on a daily basis.
This post was written by Robin Shartzer. Robin has over 14 years of diverse experience in the talent acquisition community. Robin is currently as an Operations Manager with Yoh’s RPO Division. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from University of Louisville, a M.A. in Leadership from Ohio State University, and resides in Louisville, KY with her husband and 2 children.