What is the secret to raising resilient children? Matthew McConaughey is an extremely popular American actor and producer who has a story to tell about raising resilient children. His new book, a memoir called Greenlights, which includes some of these stories, is selling well.
McConaughey has received many awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Here is a short transcript (7:28 – 11:44) of a longer interview with John Anderson from his collection of world-class conversations.
‘There’s good fear and I think there’s bad fear. We can be fearful sometimes of illusionary things. They are like, there is not a boogey man under your bed. That is not worth being fearful of. But there’s fear in stuff we do every single day, and I know in that role, in my performances as an actor. When I am scared more but okay, I am going to dive in this proverbial pool, I don’t know what I’m going to get into, but I’m trusting that I’ll come up the other side and let’s go take the adventure.’
‘That is the kind of fear that’s also fun. Then I am having an experience in the role. Then every day I am coming home with a buzz. “Wahoo, I think we pulled it off again. We are still in the game.”’
‘Well, that’s gold, it seems to me because you can adopt this attitude. We hear this term when you are raising kids that parents try to snowplough all the obstacles out of the way. In reality we all know fear, and it’s a question of whether it conquers us or whether we conquer it. It can be a driver for us to find freedom, or it can take us into a very dark and locked up place. That seems what your life discovery has, in many ways, been about.’
‘In many ways I hope so. Let me say two things on this. I was raised in a household where there were consequences and discipline was based on, you had real consequences. In my house growing up it was, you got the belt. My parents said, “We’re not going to ground you because that’s taking up your time and time is your most valuable asset, so just bend over and get it over with”. I was never injured.’
‘Actually, in looking back it was like, wow that was great, it was over, there were no grudges. I have friends and parents who go, “Yeah but you know that fear-based tactic, sort of Old Testament fear-based tactic, it’s not healthy.” And I was like, let me tell you something man, I feared my Dad and I respected him and I’ll tell you this, there were a lot of things that I did not do as a child growing up, for fear of the consequences. It kept me out of a lot of trouble, because I was like, risk versus reward man, I will take a pass on this one, because I fear if I get caught, what will happen. So, fear was healthy for me in a lot of ways.’
‘Now I use this as the term I use today with raising children. Again, I have got 12, 11 and 8. I have not raised my kids through their adolescence and teen years, so I’m no expert on this, but I do think this analogy’s a good one. How high is the limb that our children crawl out on in the proverbial tree in life? How high do we let them climb before we go, “Hey, hey come on down here, buddy!” Because I think our tendency sometimes now is to pull them off the limb when it is way too early. No, that fall, if they fall from there, they are going to land on the grass, they may get a bump or a bruise, that is a good height, let them keep climbing, let them figure it out themselves.’
‘Now there is a point, where if they get way up high in the damn tree we are going to — whoa if they fall from this, this is emergency room or worse, you may want to go, “Hey buddy, come down a little bit. Just a little bit,” you know what I mean — what kid’s not afraid of heights until they fall. They should not be afraid of heights because we tell them, “No, don’t do that because if you fall, you’re going to get bumped and bruised.” Let them climb high enough where they are going to fall. Let them take that extra step. “You think you can make that jump from the boat to the dock, err OK, go for it”. All it takes is one time of them not making it to go, “OK, I tested my limit.”’
‘But we sometimes have a tendency to say, “No, don’t jump, it’s too far” when actually, they’re going to make the jump and actually they’re going to maybe make it an extra 12 inches, if you let them try’.
‘So, I remember the things in my life. I remember a lot more from my experiences. I remember a lot more from my lived-out consequences, for better or for worse, for pleasure or for pain, than I do from what I was told by a book or told by my parents. I remember the stuff that they let me find out for myself.’
Well, you can make up your own mind, but I think Matthew is making a lot of sense. The school of hard knocks can be a painful way to learn. One thing is certain though. We can only protect our children for so long. Knowing when to take the brakes off is the hardest thing.
Yours for Resilient Children,
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