Last Friday, I, along with many other staff members of the veterinary school, went out to our farm in Ewing, Virginia to monitor and “proctor” an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination).
This exam is different than the students’ written exams in that it’s designed to test clinical skill performance and competence in skills. It requires hands-on problem solving and exposure to situations that they may face once they are practicing clinicians.
Before we set off to our assigned rotations, we gathered together in a lecture hall as the leading professor went over specific details. One thing she said to both the faculty and staff was, “If you notice a student who is experiencing a lot of anxiety and panic, you can pull them from the exam and then we will have them try to go through it again at the end. I’ve noticed that if a student is experiencing that level of stress, it tends to go downhill for the rest of the exam.”
A professor spoke out and said, “Clinicians should be ready for anything. In the real world, they don’t GET another chance if they’re feeling anxious.”
The leading professor calmly replied, “We’re not working with clinicians here. We’re working with baby vets.”
I nearly got up and squeezed the leading professor. (Don’t worry. I held back my emotions for the sake of looking professional in my new job).
I’ve heard this time and time again. Not with vet students. But with my own babies. In my classroom.
I’ve worked with students who have had such difficulty regulating their emotions. The smallest trigger would set them off and lead them to melt down in an extraordinary way. Many co-workers – and even onlookers – would approach me with advice and suggestions on how to deal with the behavior. These opinionated people spoke out against me and felt frustrated that I was “babying” these students. That I was enabling their behavior by creating individual plans for them. By TEACHING them coping mechanisms to deal with setbacks.
They felt I wasn’t doing the child any favors.
They felt that the child should be given “tough love” because, once they left the security and safety of our school, they’d be faced with reality and would need to learn how to independently cope with problems.
But each and every time I was approached with the concept of “tough love,” I responded in the same manner. “Yes. The real world is out there. And, yes, he needs to be ready for it. But he is a CHILD. This is the time in his life where he is still learning how to deal with setbacks and failures and criticism. He shouldn’t HAVE to navigate this independently right now. We’re teaching him now in hopes that he will be able to independently pull from these strategies many years from now when he needs it.”
If we weren’t given the opportunity to practice our skills and practice our strategies and practice procedures, we’d never master them. These children – just like the vet students – are still developing. We can’t expect them to navigate “the real world” without practicing, receiving feedback, and trying it over again. And again. And again.
You are not enabling your child by teaching them coping mechanisms. In fact, you’re doing the exact opposite. You are handing your child the tools they will need to be successful and get through challenging experiences on their own.
Questions of the Day:
- How do you find a balance between “tough love” and “enabling?”