Support vs. Challenge

Support vs Challenge

I’m not sure the very first time I was introduced to the human development concept of “support vs. challenge”. . but I’m pretty sure it was sitting in the office of one of my former bosses and it probably started out with something about a Bob Dylan song and then onto the real lesson. . . “it all comes down to support vs challenge A., you’ve gotta learn how to support and challenge people just right. . .”

The last few years I ended up working with the “Master” of “Support vs Challenge” himself. (who without a doubt was responsible for teaching my former boss the concept himself) (I like to go to the source on things to learn. . . )

Support vs. Challenge is human development concept that says (basically) that in order for people to develop they need to have the right ratio of support and challenge in their environment. I have charts and notes and graphs about how this concept plays out in the development of leaders, college students and staffs. When people are in an environment of too much challenge with not enough support they get frustrated. When people are in an environment of too much support without enough challenge, they get bored. Either way people get stuck and don’t reach their full potential.

All that “academic” knowledge is great, but what it really comes down to, and where I’ve really seen the concept in action is with my seven month old.

He is a late sitter. He was rolling over and showing off young. But he wasn’t sitting up like the rest of the six month olds. I wasn’t challenging him enough, I was over supporting and not challenging. (I had that ratio wrong!). Our Gymboree teacher pulled me aside one day after class and said, Do this, this and this for three days, he’ll hate it and cry, but in three days he’ll be sitting up and loving it. (in other words “you are supporting him TOO much and not challenging him enough. .” )

So we followed her recommendations, I challenged him to sit, I let him fall over and then pulled him up again (didn’t support him as much as before, so his muscles got stronger) and guess what. . .Now he’s a sitter. He will sit for a half and hour and play with his toys.

Support vs. Challenge. Isn’t it cool how we learn this concept in a very physical way at seven months (through watching his muscles develop), so that when he is 10, and 15, and 21 I’ll know how to support and challenge him in ways that are so much less tangible, but important none-the-less.


3 thoughts on “Support vs. Challenge

  1. hmmm…so when my 7 and 9 year old come to me and say “I’m bored” then I am right in line to “challenge” them with a chore! Its great. The more bored they are the more housework gets done! Congrats on the sitting! I love the first year milestones…Gretchen took her first steps yesterday!

  2. So true! How many kids don’t excel because they aren’t given the challenge to rise above! We use that philosophy (not in your exact words) in my job at the hospital…it’s all about empowering them so they can accomplish things on their own and feel a sense of pride and industry!

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