Recommended Reading

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By Peter L. Benson, Ph.D.

This is a guide to coaching teenagers to be the best that they can be. The more that we believe in their potential greatness, the easier it will be for them to believe it as well. It requires discovering empathy, understanding, and enthusiasm that perhaps you did not realize (or forgot) you possessed.

While teenagers are children, they are also reshaping into the adult versions of themselves. This is a terrific transformation that we all make and it is best done with the guidance and support of caring parents and adults. The impact that experiences have during this time should not be underestimated.

Although this book was written with teenagers in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean that many of the central ideas couldn’t or shouldn’t be applied to younger or older individuals.

It’s all about discovering, recognizing, and following what Benson refers to as Sparks. Often, recognizing sparks is the easy part (sometimes, though, it’s not), but learning how to activate and support those sparks is the crucial next step.  The chapters of this book follow the path of how to help a teenager identify their sparks and how to support them in following their sparks.

It includes short quizzes to help someone reflect on themselves in order to gather data and become more self-aware. Multitudes of other resources are also available for maintaining sparks.


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By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

A must-read!  It’s highly likely to hear the name Dweck if you attend any academic workshop or conference. Tapping into the potential of neuroplasticity, the theory provided in this book has the potential to change brains and lives.

Rather than focusing on intelligence, Dweck explains that it’s our mindset, or how we approach tasks, that can create a basis for success. More than that, she discusses how our mindset (fixed or growth) affects our accomplishments with school, work, leadership, and relationships.

The value of this idea to a young person is clear. The added benefit to a child of having parents, guardians, and teachers all using growth mindset-type language around them is just as important. It shifts conversation from “I failed this math test because I am not smart enough” to “I failed this math test because I did not fully prepare myself, but I will learn from my mistakes and do better next time.” This follows the mantra “Reward direction, not perfection” and hard work.

During a period of education that is all about “grit”, Mindset helps the reader to acknowledge their mindset, analyze their mindset, and change their mindset. All of this leads to changes in motivation, self-image, and productivity. Dweck asserts that parents should not shield their children from failure (or lie about it), but rather to honestly confront it and use it for the next challenge.

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How Children Succeed
(Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character)
By Paul Tough

Here we have nearly everything that you need to know about the power of grit – or, will-power, perseverance, resilience, and metacognition. Tough discusses failure and success equally, as well as the complexities of thinking.  He lends more to the conversation about how children are not simply “smart or not”, what it takes to succeed, and what works (and doesn’t work) with supporting young people in the role of parent, mentor, teacher, and more.  Success and failure are analyzed in Dweck-like fashion: learning from mistakes and training the mind to appreciate sincere effort over mere intelligence.

It is becoming more and more widely accepted that these qualities of “grit” are a truer indicator of future success than many academic skills. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how these qualities develop, how to utilize them, and how they interact with each individual’s personality. This is especially crucial as we support children and young people from various backgrounds (often disadvantaged ones).

Tough weaves the stories of individuals he’s met into his research and reflections.  He went out into communities to learn about the topic upon which he intended to write and he met many memorable people.  Their captivating stories all illustrate important points about child-parent attachment, resilience, understanding undesirable behavior, and intelligence.

His discoveries are especially valuable as he investigates what success means and how it occurs within different socio-economic backgrounds.  No matter the reader’s walk of life, Tough offers guidance based on true success stories for how to make the best of the resources that are available to the children that we care about.


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