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Millcreek Journal

Granite School District hosts Parent Resource Night at Churchill Jr. High School

May 07, 2024 03:29PM ● By Lizzie Walje

Duncan Kirkwood, a former Marine turned activist, author, and motivational speaker, travels across the country teaching kids and parents about how to cultivate resiliency. (Lizzie Walje/City Journals)

On a rainy evening in April, Granite School District invited parents to attend a special Parent Resource Night at Churchill Jr. High, where they promised attendees would be treated to a compelling panel discussion on resiliency, a notable guest speaker, and plenty of cookies to go around.  

The night started off strong with a panel discussion hosted by local anti-bullying organization Stand4Kind. Per their website, “Stand4kind started because there was a problem in our schools; students were hurting, and people didn’t know how to help. We’re committed to making sure that students, parents, and teachers have access to quality training, resources, and programs.”

The panel was comprised of several Stand4Kind representatives, featuring some notable names including BYU alum and former NFL player Bronson Kaufusi and local activist Jaynee Paulson. Kaufusi was able to touch on his experiences as a student-athlete and spoke extensively about how dedicating time and energy to sports taught him about responsibility and perseverance. Paulson, a mother four times over, was also able to shed light on how she pushes her kids to try new things, highlighting that failure is necessary and doesn’t have to be written off as negative. 

Stand4Kind has held events all across the state, addressing both students and parents through their assemblies. The organization discusses a handful of subjects, particularly those that are plaguing modern students like bullying and substance abuse. While there are some aspects of teenagerhood and adolescence that seemingly endure from generation to generation, it’s clear that many contemporary parents are feeling a sense of disconnect when it comes to establishing an effective parenting style. 

At one point in the night, the audience was encouraged to ask Kaufusi, Paulson, and other Stand4Kind members any questions that they may have. One parent took to the microphone to express his confusion at how to best parent his child, despite feeling like he often can’t relate to what his son is experiencing.

“Our world views are just so different,” the father said. “I sometimes don’t relate to my kids because I feel like the pressures are so different. What’s so different in our world?”

Both Kaufusi and Paulson acknowledged that the generational divide is real, pointing to technology and social media as the primary culprits. Both explaining that never before have children been so inundated with thousands of competing messages due to social media’s widespread influence.

“Social media opens them up to a lot more,” Paulson said. “They’re dealing with the same sort of things [we were], but just on a much larger scale. And the political climate. That effects them too. Nothing ever stops for these kids.”

Another parent wondered how they could teach and instill a sense of resiliency in their child. Paulson talked about the importance of letting children “fail forward” which starts by creating opportunities to try new things, especially outside of the child’s comfort zone. Kaufusi agreed, before saying that when he was a kid he was often reluctantly try new things by himself. However, he mentioned that his parents would regularly encourage him to try new things in a group setting, where he could be surrounded by like-minded friends and peers. By creating that sense of community, Kaufusi felt more comfortable engaging in activities that were outside of his comfort zone. 

Before guest speaker Duncan Kirkwood took the stage, one parent provided the final question of the night. “Could you talk a little bit about peer pressure? And how to address things like vaping, drinking, and drugs with your child?”

Paulson explained that honesty is typically the best policy when it comes to sensitive topics. She also urged parents not to lie about their own experiences with the aforementioned, stressing that it's OK to be upfront with children and admit you’ve made mistakes. 

Ultimately, Paulson thinks that modeling good behavior is the best way to impart morals and values on your children. Showing them how to act by modeling good behavior is often more effective than telling them. “When it’s all said and done, it’s going to be difficult to get them to meet your standards of behavior, if you’re not even meeting those standards yourself,” Paulson said. She also made it clear that this doesn’t mean parents can’t make mistakes. “Just try to be honest and transparent when you do make mistakes,” she added. 

The night concluded with a presentation given by Duncan Kirkwood, a former Marine turned activist, motivational speaker, and author who travels the country giving speeches on resiliency. Earlier in the day before Kirkland presented at parent’s night, he addressed an auditorium of Churchill middle schoolers, teaching them coping mechanisms and telling them how to cultivate a sense of resiliency within themselves. 

Like the Stand4Kind panel members before him, Kirkwood spoke about the importance of teaching kids that it's OK to fail. He explained that while a parent’s natural inclination is to protect children from pain and harm, it's necessary to let them fail once in a while. Failure is what teaches resiliency, because it teaches students that failure is not the end of the world.

“Learning how to fail is a lot like learning how to ride a bike. When you’re learning to ride a bike you fall, cry, get knocked down. The lesson is that falling is part of your journey, and that’s a good lesson to connect as you do anything in life,” he said. 

Kirkwood explained that while it's not always easy to watch, allowing your children to fail once in a while is how you teach them how to become more resilient, especially in the face of adversity. 

“We didn’t allow our kids to fall enough. Now we’re scared to even let them fall. But you need to give them space to fall because in the struggle they develop new skills. If you rob your kid of that, you rob them of their potential,” he said. 

Kirkwood also emphasized the importance of communicating with your children, which he acknowledged is not always easy to do at this stage of their lives. This is why he encouraged parents to ask more pointed questions, instead of the generic go-to questions we’re all guilty of having asked at one point or another.

“Instead of just asking your child how their day was, which doesn't always lend itself to conversation, ask them to tell you three things about their day that was good,” he recommended. “Not only does that get your child talking but it also encourages them to talk about things that are positive.” λ