How Can We Prepare our Kids to Be Successful in Life?
I can’t think of one parent that I have ever met who didn’t want success for their child. It’s natural that parents want their child to go out into the world and find success, but what do we mean by “success”, and how do we teach our children to strive for it?
On numerous occasions, I have overheard my daughter’s friends lamenting about the pressures that their parents place on them to be “successful.” I’m always surprised by the sense I get from these kids that they don’t feel as if they are successfully fulfilling their parent’s expectations or goals. I usually approach my offspring later and ask them, “Do you believe that I am proud of you?” And I’m always happy with the answer.
What does it mean to say that we want our kids to be successful? Do we want them to be accomplished in their work and to be financially rewarded for it? To get married and have children of their own? Or do we just want them to find happiness in their own way?
I expect that if you asked a hundred parents, they would probably unilaterally agree that while they want their children to have financial wealth and security and the accolades of their peers, love and family, etc., most of them just want their children to be happy.
Yet, if that were the case, then why do so many children who choose a different ideal of success than the one prescribed by their parents find themselves being criticized rather than supported? It seems that some parents want success for their children as long as it stays within the parameter of their own ideals and expectations…
A Formula for Success
There might not be a magic formula for teaching our children how to succeed in life, but there are a few tools that might just help them on the road to success.
- Self-esteem is inarguably one of the most important things that we can ever instill within our children. It’s the foundation for how they see themselves and their place in the world. Children with low self-worth typically have less self-confidence and may set lower expectations for themselves.
- Maintain healthy parental boundaries and don’t over parent. When we do too much for our kids, we run the risk of reducing their motivation and encouraging dependency. They need to fail sometimes to know what it means to succeed. We may convince ourselves that we are helping our little ones when we tie their shoes, but all we are really doing is teaching them to give up before they even try.
- Shaping rather than controlling our children’s life should be our goal as parents. We do this by asking them what they want, and building a relationship based on respect and not dictatorship. Of course we can’t respect the wishes of our 5-year-old who wants to stay up past bedtime, but we should at least listen to our 10-year old who isn’t enjoying playing soccer. As parents, we should strive relentlessly to practice radical honesty when it comes to our motives as parents – being certain that our motives are not purely out of self-interest.
- Teaching our kids to set goals is a huge part of ensuring their success in life. We don’t just get in a car and hope that we will find our destination by chance; we need careful planning with the aid of a roadmap. When we encourage our children to set small, realistic goals for themselves, and then celebrate these successes, we are priming them for the biggest challenges that they will eventually face on the road.
- Providing structure and setting limits are a core tenet in building success. We can’t expect our children to go off into the world and achieve their goals if they don’t have a strong foundation guided by an intrinsic respect for rules. Our kids need structure and boundaries in order to give them a sense of security and predictability and to respect authority. Our little humans will always try to push the boundaries and test our power. As loving parents, we have to continuously practice tough love.
- Practicing love without a price tag means that we don’t send out the message to our children that their successes or failures affect the love that we feel for them. Sadly, as I mentioned before, some young people attach success to their parent’s love. Many times parents are so focused on wanting what’s best for their children that they don’t remind children that they are appreciated independent of their accomplishments.
There are indeed a slew of practical values that we can instill within our children to point them in the direction of success. But the most important thing of all is letting them know every second how successful they are at just being our kids.
How do you teach your children to strive for success? Does success mean the same thing to them as it does to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!