The Virtue of Flexibility

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The Junior School Counsellor, Tessa Lloyd, shares with us the Virtue of the month for February 2012

Flexibility is a worthwhile virtue that is often overlooked while we pursue the larger building blocks of character. While those are being put in place, flexibility is part of the glue that holds them together. Without it, we cannot respond and adapt to the changes that life delivers each day.

Change is not always easy. We get used to our patterns and ways of being. We like predictability. We seek it and children especially thrive on it. Predictability helps them feel safe and keeps their lives manageable. Nevertheless, life throws curve balls and we must always be prepared to adapt to new, different or changing requirements. Further, our tastes, feelings and responses shift over time, so we should never imagine that we are fixed in one place. What we know to be true one week (“I hate peas!”) may not be true a month later as we grow and change (“they taste great now!”).

When something in our world isn’t working, we need to reflect on what we can do differently. Perhaps we need to improve ourselves in some way. Being flexible requires a willingness for inward scrutiny, as well as a measure of curiosity and openness. It means that instead of seeing difficulties as obstacles, we see them as challenges that are surmountable, and that also provide opportunities for growth and greater insight.

Parenting must surely be the ultimate test of flexibility. Family life is rarely how we envisioned it and our children present us with a fast flow of opportunities to practice flexibility. Parenting educator Barbara Coloroso talks about the value of flexibility in our parenting. She uses the metaphor of the spine to characterise authoritative parenting. Like the backbone, it is strong, solid and central. Nevertheless, it is also capable of bending and being flexible. It knows when to flex and when to stand tall. Does it always get it right? Not necessarily, but it is willing to re-adjust upon parental reflection- (as opposed to children badgering): “I have been thinking about what I said to you yesterday, and I have changed my mind, we are going to make a new plan”.

As in all other things, children take their cues from us as parents. We are under a lot of pressure to always be good role models! When children hear us railing against change, they are quick to absorb the vibe. When we are unable to respond positively to new circumstances, they are busy taking notes. Conversely, when they witness us take new information in our stride and adjust accordingly, we are fostering their capacity to adapt to change in a healthy way.

Ask your children what flexibility would look like if:

Mum and Dad were supposed to be coming home from a trip and now they are going to be a day late?

Your friend said she would play with you at recess today and now she says she meant next week?

You notice that some of your friends are avoiding you?

Your teacher tells you that you are playing too roughly on the playground?

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Becky Anderson
Becky Anderson is Director of the Junior School. She has also held the position of Director of Leadership Development at SMUS.

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