Every parent wants to raise successful kids—but many parents have few clues on how to approach that goal. Here are my top tips for helping maximize your children’s chances of enjoying (in all senses of the word) success and the journey there.
1. Focus on a healthy definition of “success.”
Look up “success” in a dictionary, and the leading definition will likely be similar to “the accomplishment of a goal or purpose.” Notice that does not mention a specific type of goal or purpose, or say who has the right to define such. The world is full of people who’ve achieved “success” according to the “everyone knows” definition of making a certain amount of money or attaining a certain status—yet find no satisfaction in it because their goals were never really theirs. Can it really be called success if it leaves a hole in the achiever’s soul?
If your dream of successful children stops at seeing them settled in financially and physically “secure” lives, beware! You’re at risk for becoming the nagging parent who thinks you know what’s best for your kids and makes everyone miserable pressuring others to follow your idea of the success path.
2. Encourage your children to define and follow their own passions.
No matter how outrageous a young idealist’s dream sounds to you, “be sensible” is never a wise reply. Truly great things are achieved only through trial and error; determination to protect your children from struggle or “disappointment” will only alienate them or stunt their growth, and perhaps rob the world of a future cure for diabetes or advancement in international relations.
3. Emphasize “you’ve never failed until you give up.”
Encourage your kids to follow the example of Thomas Edison, who reportedly said that a thousand failed prototypes were simply a thousand discoveries of how not to do something. Even if a goal proves unachievable as originally envisioned, it’s accomplished something worthwhile if it leads to a new goal—or a new level of self-discovery.
4. Teach the principles of goal-setting.
Goals are most likely to be accomplished when they’re:
5. Be your children’s biggest cheerleader.
Tell them “Go for it” and “I know you can do it” on a regular basis. When they achieve something significant, congratulate them unequivocally.
6. Never imply that “successful” is synonymous with “perfect.”
Few things are more discouraging than having a parent whose reaction to every achievement is “Good work, but here’s where you could have done even better.” Emphasizing impossible standards may push someone into getting straight A’s or a long string of promotions, but it will be empty success because they will be branded with a mental picture of themselves as “never good enough.”
7. Teach and model good habits in all aspects of life.
When you’re energized by good physical health; when you’ve achieved regular balance between work and rest; when you’ve eliminated the nonessentials from life and are fully focused on your purpose—you’re equipped to be a consistent and long-term achiever in the best sense of the word.