Setting Up Your Kids for Success

By Tracey Dowdy

There are as many different parenting styles as there are parents in the world. The one thing we have in common is that we want our kids to succeed and we do our best to ensure our kids are set on the right path. Success will look different for everyone, but we all want our kids to grow up to be happy and fulfilled and make the world a better place.

Remember, you’re not raising children – you’re raising adults. The tools you give them now are what will be in their kit later when they’re grown and outside your sphere of influence. In her TED Talk, “How to Raise Successful Kids — Without Over-Parenting,” author Julie Lithcott-Haims says, “My job is not to make them become what I would have them become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves.”

  • Following these tips will set your child on the road to success.Look for teachable moments. A teachable moment is simply a real-world opportunity for learning, whether it’s being patient when you don’t feel like it or the consequences of not putting away a toy that’s now lost or broken. It’s an ideal moment to not only satisfy a child’s natural curiosity with a life lesson that lasts much longer than the moment.
  • Praise them the right way. Of course your son is the most handsome little man in the world and your daughter is the world’s most beautiful astronaut-ballerina-warrior-princess. But it’s far more important to praise your children for their hard work and accomplishments than their talent. Carol Dweck’s research on fixed mindset vs. growth mindset will change the way you parent. A fixed mindset believes talent and skill are inherent and cannot be changed. Those with a growth mindset believe talent can be developed over time and that it’s possible to develop skills if you try hard enough. So, instead of praising your children for their talent, praise them for their efforts and accomplishments.
  • Teach them to set goals. Teach your kids to set goals: short term – study for my spelling test; and long term – score 10 goals this season. By setting small goals, they’ll learn the value of perseverance and pushing through, even when they want to quit.
  • Show them it’s okay to fail. Building on goal-setting, show them it’s okay if they fall short. Marilyn Price-Mitchell writes, “Children who develop resilience are better able to face disappointment, learn from failure, cope with loss, and adapt to change. We recognize resilience in children when we observe their determination, grit, and perseverance to tackle problems and cope with the emotional challenges of school and life.”
  • Encourage their passions. Success isn’t solely defined by money and power – it’s also defined by fulfillment. People who have discovered what they’re passionate about and have somehow found a way to make it a part of their life either as a profession or as a hobby are the happiest and most successful adults.
  • Be a lifelong learner. Set an example by creating an environment that encourages a love of learning and discovery. Be open to learning opportunities and exploring the world together.
  • Assign them chores. Chores mean much more than just help around the house. Lythcott-Haims says “If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so they’re absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole.”
  • Show them the value of healthy relationships. According to research by Harvard University, children who lack close, meaningful relationships are more prone to poor academic performance, are more likely to get into trouble with the law and are more likely to develop psychiatric and mental health problems. “Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development.” Teach your kids how to make friends, be compassionate, and how to manage their emotions.
  • Teach them the importance of finishing. Educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author Michele Borba says it’s important to “Teach your children to hang in there when the going gets tough, but know when to let them throw in the towel. You’ll need to weigh which lesson is more important: Helping your child learn to stick it out, or the realization that some activities just aren’t the right match. And you’ll need to decide on a case-by-case situation.”

We can’t promise success for our children, but we can help our kids define what success looks like for them and equip them for their journey.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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