According to research, every truly great organization exhibits a range of “We’re great” language and behavior. The same is true of championship winning teams and powerful social movements. “I’m great” thinking might allow for a top producer or a star player, but it will not create the impact of a group of people who understand that their collective efforts are far more powerful than anything they can do alone.
Don’t get me wrong- it’s not a bad thing to have a healthy dose of self-esteem and a set of skills that allow us to reach our goals. It’s just not where we want to stay- at least, not if we want to do something truly great.
Reaching this next level of success requires a noble mission, a common identity, and shared values. Harry Potter, Hermione, and Ron were on a mission to save the world from Voldemort. They were wizards/witches who valued friendship, courage, and love. The 1980 U.S.A. Olympic Hockey Team was on a mission to defeat Russia. They were American athletes who valued hard work, humility, and innovation. (Put the movie “Miracle” on your family movie night agenda if you haven’t already done so.) Our learners at The Village School are on a mission to discover their gifts and talents so they can use them to change the world. They are heroes who value honesty, passion, and grit.
None of these are solitary adventures. If we want to change the world- in whatever form, we need others on the journey. The “others” in our midst reinforce the shared mission, identity and values that allow us to harness the power of a “We’re great” culture.
As parents, we can do a variety of things to help our children move from “I’m great” to “We’re great” thinking.
- Give yourself an honest self-assessment. Does your language include “I” more often than “we”? Do you talk about others strengths in relation to your own? (For example, our boys have a very good understanding of how our strengths as parents are different and how they compliment each other and make our family unit stronger).
- Encourage your child to form relationships with other children that have overlapping interests and could result in a common goal. Partnerships are good- Triads are better. (Common goals could include building a fort, making a song, or forming a “club”).
- Speak often about your own personal role models, highlighting the specific language and behavior that you admire.
- When your child complains about the behavior of others, reiterate your belief that we all have something to contribute. Re-frame the conversation by asking what their peer’s strengths or interests are and encourage your child to invite this peer to contribute in some way. (For example, “I noticed you have really nice handwriting, would you like to write the title on the poster?”)
- Tell, read, or watch stories that focus on people making the transition from “I’m great” to “We’re great” thinking and behavior. Reflect on them together. (Do you remember the moment you realized you couldn’t do it all on your own? Tell THAT story.)
- Give growth mindset praise every time you see your child working collaboratively and help him/her notice what he/she was able to able to accomplish by working as a team.
Yes, we want our young learners to be confident, capable and self-directed. But more importantly, we want them to learn that the highest level of success is discovered as a team.