Parenting the Teenager: Humility

This term’s Flourishing@Wycombe theme is humility. Despite being a somewhat maligned character trait in recent times, humility is making something of a comeback and we’ve been celebrating that this term here at School.

Read this term’s Flourishing Guide on the Parent Portal

Humility is certainly a quality that I hope I can help my children develop as they grow, and something that we always look to encourage in our pupils at Wycombe Abbey. In this instalment of our ‘Parenting the Teenager’ series, we think about how we can develop humility in our children. Below are some top tips:

Recognising the value and benefits of humility
If we want to make a change or develop this skill, then we need to believe that it is important and valuable. Discussing these ideas with our children can help them see the importance of this character trait.

Ask for help
None of us have all the answers but we all have our own skills and areas of expertise. If there are others around us who have a better understanding of something or skill in a particular area, then we will certainly benefit from their help – if only we are willing to ask for it! Young people can sometimes be reticent about asking for help, we can encourage them to do so by modelling this for them when the chance arises.

Admit to our mistakes
Understanding that we do not get everything right is important to developing our humility and showing our children that we, as parents, are willing to accept our mistakes. Being humble enough to admit to our mistakes makes it easier for us to learn about the world.

Seek feedback
If we can ask for help and accept that we are not perfect, then we should be able to seek feedback. This will help us to understand the things that we do well and areas that we can improve. Helping young people to see feedback as a gift and not as criticism is an important part of their growth.

Accept the mistakes of others
If we can accept that the mistakes of others are natural and some mistakes will happen from time to time, then we can begin to understand that they are not necessarily something that should incur our anger and frustration. If we can do this, then we are more likely to reflect upon the fact that we too are liable to make mistakes.

Treat people with kindness and gratitude
Making an effort to exercise kindness and gratitude to those around us helps to grow our humility by focussing upon others rather than ourselves. The more appreciative we are of other people, the more we are able to understand that we are not at the centre of all things.

Explore the outside world and external views
When we are finalising our opinions or deciding upon our actions, we should look to seek different views and ideas from different points of view. We should ensure that we do not live in an echo chamber where the only views that we have are the mirror image of our own. Helping young people engage with a wide range of opinions and engaging them with current affairs, will allow them to gain a wider perspective on the world.

Take note of complaining
How often do we complain? How often do we say it is unfair, that it is all someone else’s fault or that the world is against us? We can encourage people to try ways of noting this, something like moving a bracelet from one wrist to another each time they notice they are complaining.

Avoid the language of pride
We should look for ways to use language that is not too proud. Where it is appropriate, we can encourage people to say ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, ‘our team’ rather than ‘my team’. Focussing upon our language can help shape our behaviour and help us spread humility.

Reflect upon the wider world
Have you ever stood somewhere truly beautiful and been filled with a feeling of awe? Staring out over the expanse of the ocean, taking in the view from the top of the mountain or gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are good examples of places that can fill us with this feeling. Many of us, as parents, take great joy in making it possible for our children to have these experiences. We should do all we can to encourage them to think about what these experiences can tell us about the world and our place in it, something we should be humbled by and for which we should be grateful.

Living and working alongside our incredible pupils I see acts of care and humility each day. The care that pupils have for each other has been wonderfully demonstrated to us by the reinvigoration of our kindness board. With the help of the Head Girl Team and the Heads of Houses, hundreds of good luck messages for pupils have been written by their peers and displayed in the school corridor. It is heart-warming to read the messages that they have written for each other, but just as wonderful has been seeing pupils scanning the board, not to find their own names, but to find the names of their friends and sharing these messages with them. Thinking more about others and less about ourselves is a key part of being humble and part of what means to truly flourish.

Mr James Jones
Deputy Head (Pupils)

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