Kids swinging

Note from Biggest Job Director Pam Hardy: In the Biggest Job workshops, we often talk about rigor – the importance of structure and discipline in our lives, and the ability to see a job to completion and to do it well. Rigor, however, is not a word you hear often in most conversations on parenting. Because I think it’s an important topic, I’m sharing an article written by Laura Gauld that I think is one of the best on rigor.  Thank you, Laura.

The Concept of Rigor

Talking with a group of concerned parents recently, I listened to a father talk about the issues he had with the youth of today (including his son). “It is very hard to ask much of my son and his friends. Our children are indulged much more than we were.” As heads nodded in agreement, I found myself wondering if I was going to be able to teach my children the work ethic that I was taught.

The concept of rigor—how we define it and how we inspire it with our own example, is so vital to developing character.

Master Hyde School teacher, Paul Hurd, built his teaching on a foundation of “rigor first.” Many of his students, initially, did not appreciate his efforts to push them to do things they found challenging or difficult; but, eventually, they were grateful to this teacher for instilling in them the value of rigor, as well as its rewards. Paul wrote:

“Rigor is the fundamental base of the growth process. Character in its most fundamental expression is simply rigorous. Rigor is composed of two basic criteria: structure and discipline. Rigorous structure requires us to step beyond the areas in which we are comfortable in order to take risks—taking risks is necessary to discover new dimensions of ourselves.”

At Hyde School this structure for growth is captured in the acronym of IPSES (intellectual, physical, social, emotional, spiritual) challenges. Members of the Hyde community are constantly asked to accept new challenges in all aspects of their lives—in the classroom, at the dormitory, and on the athletic field.

In the process of taking on these challenges, students, parents, and teachers must take steps to discipline old attitudes that get in their way. This often requires seeking help from others in order to establish or maintain the personal discipline that is necessary to pursue the challenge in question.

This combination of structure (new levels of challenge from a broad array of opportunities for personal growth) and the increasing levels of discipline (capacity to focus one’s efforts effectively) are the driving forces of rigor. The need for the involvement of others in our full acceptance of rigor leads us to understand and use synergy, the next step in the growth process.

Our culture increasingly presents us with new technology that promises “faster, better, easier.” When it comes to raising and educating children with character, we know better – it starts with rigor.