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If We Want Our Children to be More Innovative, Courageous, and Resilient, We Must Encourage Them to be More Vulnerable

What does it mean to be vulnerable?

In a world where it’s become popular to deride anyone who doesn’t have “thick skin”, anyone who believes in standing up for something – including themselves – it may be difficult as a parent to embrace teaching your child to be vulnerable. We want them to be safe, after all. We want them to be protected.

But what is lost in the space between our hearts, and our armor? And what happens when that armor comes off?

In her latest book, Dare to Lead, author and renown researcher Brené Brown tackles some important questions about the demands and expectations on today’s workforce, and how our negative cultural view of vulnerability makes those expectations unattainable.

She states, “If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

There’s no denying that innovation is the highest value currency of today. It’s what drives start-ups to the top of the heap in record times. It’s what keeps established companies from disappearing into the fog of antiquity.

The world economy is powered foremost by innovation.

And an increasing number of companies and organizations are taking note of the discoveries of intellectuals like Brené, working hard to transform their cultures to be more supportive of their employees as complex emotional beings.

Which means the world is working hard to become a safer place.

So what? Mental illness, bullying, violence, and self-harm are all on the rise among teens. Watching the news, getting a glimpse of the world our high schoolers live in is terrifying. Why should you teach your child to bring down their barriers and open their heart to such a cruel world?

And what does that have to do with being innovative?

Success happens where innovation, courage, and resilience come together. It’s no coincidence that each of these is related to vulnerability.

Courage is a precursor to vulnerability. Without courage, our children will keep their hearts hidden behind their armor. They’ll keep their ideas, their hopes and dreams, their joys back there too. With their armor up they risk never making the impact they came into this world to make. And they risk never making the connections with others that make life worth living. They may never hurt, that’s true. But they may never feel anything at all.

Our children’s courage begins where ours, as parents, ends. We must be brave enough to send our young ones into the world with open hearts.

As their courage is tested, something extraordinary and vital happens: our children become stronger. They become resilient.

It’s easy as parents to make ourselves believe that the best way to keep our children from harm is to protect them; teach them to armor up and avoid pain at all cost. In reality, though, the best thing we can do is to prepare them from hardship and teach them how to cope.

The road to success is paved with sweat and failure. True community comes from finding your place after rejection. Contentment is the awareness of that which does not bring us joy, and the presence of those things that do.

We cannot know these higher pleasures without experiencing their less enjoyable emotional counterparts.

Right?

Of course right. So how do we teach our children to find strength in their vulnerability. How do we ourselves embrace our own vulnerability to model the benefits of an open heart to our teens.

First, stop protecting yourself. Take some time to evaluate your relationships and how well you build trust with others in your life. Are you wearing armor into the world? Take it off. Even if you’ve been hurt, try to rebuild.

Next, stop protecting your teen. They will get hurt, and that’s ok. But when they do, be there for them. Not to solve their problems or to ease their pain, but to support them as they work through that pain. Be there with them and don’t look away. You’ll build trust, and they’ll build resilience that will carry them through the rest of their life.

 

Our students are well prepared for the world. Come see how we’re different.

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