The New York Times published the article, “What Does It Take to Climb Up the Ladder?”, and I found it intriguing. It examined the less-easily measured qualities that lead to success, like resiliency, curiosity, and self-control in relation to socio-economic and family status. What was interesting to me is that family money, in and of itself, is not a determining factor in development of these character qualities. What has more bearing on character development is the structure of the family unit.
How so? The young people who struggle the most come from broken homes, often from single-parent households. This quote from the article really sums it up: “Family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation.”
While this is interesting, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Children from a wealthy, stable, well-educated family can lack the resiliency and grit to make it through life successfully. On the other hand, many wonderful humans come from single-parent or disadvantaged households.
Whatever your family situation is, here are some tips to help raise successful children:
Embrace an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parents are rational, receptive, and flexible. They encourage independence in their children, but give them only as much responsibility as they can handle. Instead of demanding blind obedience, they set clear rules and are willing to explain those rules to their children. Children of authoritative parents are independent, assertive, self-confident, and socially responsible and tend to do well academically. Because they are allowed room to try new things on their own, these children are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and are ready to work on both.
Model the behaviors you want to see in your children. Your children see everything you do, and soak it up like a sponge! Make sure your actions are saying what you want them to say. Be honest and authentic.
Don’t focus too much on achievement. Of course, you are proud of your child when they get good grades or excel in some other way. But are those individual achievements really what’s most important? Isn’t it the journey? True success comes from teamwork. The most successful people surround themselves with talented people who make up for what they lack. If you focus too much on the individual achievements of your children, they will not learn how to work with others, ask for help, and may give up out of discouragement.
Offer praise (but not too much). Children need praise to build their self-esteem, but not so much that they depend on praise from others to feel good about themselves. Their confidence must come from within. When you do praise your children, praise the effort they put into something.
Say no. This simple, but powerful technique is key to raising a successful child. It teaches children to work hard for what they want, and to be patient when they have to wait for it. Help them set goals and create a plan to achieve them. This will teach your children how to deal with the initial disappointment, and refocus on the goal ahead.
Parenting is never easy and sometimes you find yourself unprepared to deal with a challenge. Rather than spinning your wheels and getting more and more frustrated with your child, talk to a family counselor. The right advice and the right time can save you and your family a lot of heartache. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office to set up an appointment.