The Wright’s Are Right About Parenting

The following quotes are from David McCullough’s wonderful book The Wright Brothers (2015).

What a marvelous remark about parenting. And notice the emphasis on encouragement and curiosity – technically the positive affects, rather than negative emotions of fear, shame, distress, and so on.

Years later, a friend told Orville that he and his brother would always stand as an example of how far Americans with no special advantages could advance in the world. “But it isn’t true,” Orville responded emphatically, “to say we had no special advantages… the greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.” (p.18)

This second quote is from a letter Wilbur wrote to their friend and mentor Octave Chanute after the three of them had a falling out. Several issues come to the fore, including interpersonal skills and the possibility that language can help resolve emotional misunderstandings.

Octave ChanuteI believed that unless we could understand exactly how you felt, and you could understand how we felt, our friendship would tend to grow weaker instead of stronger. Through ignorance or thoughtlessness, each would be touching the other’s sore spots and causing unnecessary pain. We prize too highly the friendship which meant so much in the years of our early struggles to willingly see it worn away by uncorrected misunderstandings, which might be corrected by a frank discussion. (p. 250)

This last quote involves the brothers’ father, Bishop Wright.

Bishop Milton WrightIf money had been his and Wilbur’s main objective, Orville insisted, they would have tried something in which the chances were brighter. He thought it fair to say he was well-to-do, rather than wealthy, and loved to quote his father: “All the money anyone needs is just enough to prevent one from being a burden to others.” (p. 259)


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