I’ve interviewed Professor Tanya Byron several times over the years and she talks more sense about children and teenagers than anyone I‘ve met. And the fact that she told me not to worry when my children refused point-blank to have anything to do with star charts was a bonus.
Tanya has been a clinical psychologist for 23 years and earlier this month I spoke to her about a keynote speech she’s giving to the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference in December. Once again, her words struck a chord as she talked about her concern that today’s youngsters lack emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. A lot of them, she said, are afraid of failure, afraid to take risks and afraid to think for themselves.
“Children are being raised in captivity,” she told me. “When was the last time you saw a kid out enjoying themselves on their bike?
“Children are not really encouraged, supported or taught how to assess, take and manage risk and I think it is developmentally catastrophic for them.
“Risk taking is seen as a very dangerous thing and to be avoided at all costs.
“We live in a litigious, risk-averse culture where paranoia is rife and we have an education system that is so built around targets and testing that teachers and headteachers are constrained from being innovative.
“But risk taking is important because it helps children to accept, understand and embrace failure. The times when you fail are often the most powerful learning experiences one can ever have.
“When I talk to successful people and ask them about their most cherished memories in terms of how they got to be where they are, it’s usually built around times when they messed up. But boy did that really teach them something. It got them to expand their thinking and their learning and inspired them to push on in the most impressive way.”
Wise words in my opinion. What do you think?
You can read the whole interview in this week’s SecEd magazine.