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Paul Tough: Some Adversity is Good for Kids [VIDEO]
Education | December 10, 2012

Paul Tough: Some Adversity is Good for Kids [VIDEO]

"I think what we have in our culture," education speaker Paul Tough says in a new keynote, "is an adversity gap." Some children face too much adversity in their life, while other children don't face as many challenges—if any at all. What he says in the speech is that neither option is beneficial to the successful development of a child. "In trying to protect our kids from adversity," he explains, "we are sometimes doing more harm than good." Even though he says that he wants to shield his children from adversity in life—as many parents do—he admits that struggle builds character. According to the research in his bestselling book, How Children Succeed, studies suggest that "moderate amounts of adversity might be good for kids."

In the book, he argues that character traits such as grit and perseverance are just as important important to success in life as cognitive skills. Overcoming obstacles in life—not serious traumas, but hardships like a divorce or the loss of a job, for example—helps people develop these vital skills. "It gives them an opportunity to practice failing," he says, "it gives them a way to learn how to manage failure." Children need to develop the strength to move on from a failure in life. However, there is a delicate balance that must be achieved, he also notes. Children who experience tremendous amounts of adverse events in their lives often have an extremely difficult time overcoming them, while children who experience no adversity in their lives are often no happier than those who experienced a great deal of hardship. Those who tend to be the happiest and most successful, he says in the speech, are those who have overcome three or four difficult life events, and have developed the ability to bounce back from failure or stress.
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