Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: success

  • Post Featured Image

    Struggles Can Lead to Success

    A college freshman working as a summer camp counselor called her parents to vent about how bad things were with her supervisor. It was halfway through the program and six other counselors had quit because they were unhappy and not having fun. As the conversation continued, the parents realized their child wanted their permission to quit as well. Although it was a difficult situation, her parents told her to finish her commitment.

    Have you ever watched your child struggle with something so much that it made you sick, and you wanted to rescue them? At that moment, what should you do?

    • Swoop in and save them from experiencing further pain?

    • Watch from a distance, knowing this is part of growing up?

    • Move closer and offer to assist them as they work to figure it out?

    In many instances, parents are actually “swooping in” instead of letting their children struggle. It could be anything from a tough game, a difficult teacher, a complicated paper, an honest mistake or a friendship gone awry. But are parents really “saving the day?"

    Most parenting experts would say these parents are actually hurting their children in the long run. They mean well when they seek to protect their children from experiencing pain, disappointment and/or failure. In fact, the parents' goal is to set their children up for success. But unfortunately, young people who are never allowed to fail, experience consequences or problem-solve become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with adversity, setbacks and failure.

    An ancient Chinese proverb says. “Failure is the mother of success.”

    Think about it.

    How many times has difficulty motivated you to keep on trying until you figured it out? Whether it was memorizing a recital piece, learning a football play, writing a paper or tying shoes, how did you feel when you finally accomplished the task? More than likely, you felt a sense of pride, newfound confidence and perhaps a little more independent. All of these are important ingredients for success in life. Consider how you would have felt had your parent swooped in to do these things for you.

    Beginning with the end in mind, besides academics, what do you want your child to learn this year? If helping your child to be confident, independent and unafraid of failure is your goal, it may require some restraint on your part.

    Here are some tips for when your children fail:

    • Unless they are in harm’s way, avoid fixing it for them.

    • Allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, even when it is painful to watch.

    • When they do fail, address what happened and ask what they would do differently next time.

    • Instead of taking matters into your own hands, go with your child and stand with them as they learn how to discuss an issue with their teacher.

    Failure can be a powerful motivator. Instead of viewing your child’s failures as a direct reflection of your parenting skills, see them as steps toward future success.

  • Post Featured Image

    Kindergarten and Your Child's Future Success

    Did you know that kindergartners who share, cooperate and help are more likely to succeed later in life?

    That's exactly what researchers from Pennsylvania State University found when they analyzed 753 children in Durham, N.C., Seattle, Nashville and rural Pennsylvania. 

    Specifically, they evaluated kindergartners on various social behaviors - including their ability to resolve peer problems, listen to others, share materials, cooperate and be helpful. The research team monitored the students until they turned 25.

    The study found that children who were more likely to share or be helpful in kindergarten were also more likely to obtain higher education and hold full-time jobs nearly two decades later. Students who lacked these social competency skills were more likely to face more negative outcomes by age 25, including substance abuse problems, challenges finding employment or run-ins with the law.

    Utilizing a five-point scale, researchers assessed each child's social interaction with other children. Overall, their findings showed that a higher rating for social competency as a kindergartner was significantly associated with all five of the outcomes studied.

    The study controlled for the effects of poverty, race, having teenage parents, family stress, neighborhood crime, and for the children's aggression and reading levels in kindergarten. Still, the researchers found that for every one-point increase in a student's social competency score, he or she was:

    • Twice as likely to graduate from college;

    • 54 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma;

    • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25.

    For every one-point decrease in the child's score, he or she had a:

    • 64 percent higher chance of having spent time in juvenile detention;

    • 67 percent higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;

    • 52 percent higher rate of binge-drinking;

    • 82 percent higher rate of recent marijuana usage;

    • 82 percent higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing at age 25.

    "The good news is that social and emotional skills can improve," says Damon Jones, Ph.D., senior research associate at Pennsylvania State and lead author of this study. "This research by itself doesn't prove that higher social competence can lead to better outcomes later on. But when combined with other research, it is clear that helping children develop these skills increases their chances of success in school, work and life."

    High-quality relationships and rich social interactions in the home, school and community prepare children for the future. Research has shown this for years, but this study reinforces it. Never underestimate the importance of stability in the life of a child.

    From parents and extended family to child care providers and neighbors, everybody can help young children develop these social-emotional skills.

    So, how often do you provide children in your care the opportunity to:

    • Solve their own problems (within the reason);

    • Make decisions;

    • Understand other people's feelings;

    • Share with others;

    • Be helpful;

    • Express themselves appropriately with direction;

    • Listen and follow instructions; and/or

    • Cooperate with others without being prompted?

    Clearly, providing these opportunities is beneficial, far beyond kindergarten. Although it may be easier for adults to make these things happen for the kids, easy is not always best. Step back and see what they can do.

  • Post Featured Image

    Raising Successful Children

    Before school starts, you can’t go into a store without seeing school supplies. Kids are cramming in their summer reading and some parents are relieved that summer is almost over.

    The new school year seems like a natural time to think about your child's future. Parents often say they want health, happiness and success for their children, but do their actions actually help or hurt when it comes to preparing their kids for these things?

    “Many parents micromanage their children's lives,” says Charlie Sykes, author of 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education and Dumbing Down our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write or Add. “Between parents who are extremely anxious to make sure their children are always happy and the obsession of the education system about self-esteem, we have this weird stew that profoundly impacts our children in lasting ways.”

    How do children become responsible adults if they don't work through problems, experience failure or deal with difficult people?

    Numerous media stories highlight parents hovering over their children in the young adult years. Some parents even call employers and involve themselves in their child's love life.

    “Instead of allowing them to experience adversities, parents bubble-wrap their kids,” Sykes says. “This keeps children from developing coping and problem-solving skills. People learn how to be competent adults by working through the bumps and bruises and ups and downs. If parents do this for them, the kids have no immunity to the normal curve balls life throws at us.”

    Sykes contends that parents who really want to help their kids be successful must learn to say no. Unfortunately, many parents want to enable, be a good buddy or be constantly concerned about staying on their kids' good side.

    “I think I had wonderful parents,” Sykes says. “I guarantee you they were not obsessed about what I thought or felt about them. They did not freak out when I was unhappy about their decisions. They stayed the course as my parents. Instead of being concerned about how I felt on a particular day, they were focused on the end results.”

    Sykes believes we aren't doing children any favors by insulating them from reality and responsibility. He encourages parents to pick positive and negative role models, and find out what they do with their children. Use them as examples of what you want to see and what is not appropriate.

    “If you inflate your children’s expectations, every area of life, including work, marriage and parenting will disappoint them,” Sykes says. “Parents who believe it is their job to meet every single 'want' of their child run the risk of creating unrealistic expectations. This will probably lead to great disappointment in life.”

    So, step back and evaluate the things you currently do for your child. If those things aren't moving your child toward adulthood, it's a great time to try something different.

  • Post Featured Image

    How Children Succeed

    What exactly does it take for a child to succeed in life? Is it good grades? High test scores? Tenacity?

    According to Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character and Whatever it Takes, adults focus on high test scores, pre-admission to preschool and SAT scores as child-success indicators.

    Based on research, however, Tough says we focus too much on these areas. He believes that the most important qualities have more to do with character. These skills include perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control.

    Tough and his wife became parents while he was writing his book. Surprisingly, the research actually made him a more relaxed parent. When his son was born, Tough was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race - the faster a child develops skills and the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life.

    These days, the author is much less concerned about his son’s reading and counting ability. While he certainly believes those things are important, he's more concerned about his character. He wants his son to be able to recover from disappointments, calm himself down, keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating and be good at sharing. He also wants his son to feel loved and confident, and have a full sense of belonging. Most importantly, Tough wants his son to be able to handle failure.

    It's hard for us parents to let our children fail. Why is that? Because everything in us wants to shield them from trouble. But Tough and others are now discovering that we may actually harm our children when we try to protect them. By not allowing them to learn to manage adversity or to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity produces character. And character, even more than IQ, leads to real and lasting success.

    According to Tough, scientists realize that early adversity in a child’s life affects the conditions of their lives. It can also alter the physical development of their brains. This knowledge is being used nationwide to help children overcome constraints.

    Regardless of socioeconomic status, Tough contends that children with the proper support in the most painful circumstances can still achieve amazing things. But many children do not grow up with that right support. For example, there may be two parents in the home who are so bent on their child’s success that they never let him experience failure. Or at the completely opposite end of the spectrum, there's no support to help the child get back up when he fails.

  • Post Featured Image

    The Blessing of the Skinned Knee

    Is it possible that a skinned knee, failure on a test and not planning your child's life completely is really a good thing? Dr. Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist and author of The Blessing of the Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, would say yes.

    "The biggest problem I see today is that loving, devoted parents, armed with good intentions, treat their children like royalty," says Mogel. "Parents are putting themselves in the role of butler, secret police, talent agent, ATM and hospital staff member, doing things for their children that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves."

    Mogel believes this parental behavior is ultimately a bad set-up for kids.

    "I frequently see parents who treat their children like hothouse flowers, who must depend on their parents for survival," she says. "They overschedule, overprotect and overindulge their children to the point that the children end up feeling a combination of entitled, dependent, anxious and like they don't measure up."

    In many instances, these young people head off to college full of hope. Three months later, they return home because they didn't know how to deal with their roommate or the professor refused to spoon-feed them information. Perhaps, they simply don't know how to work through problems on their own.

    If it feels like Mogel is stepping all over your toes, you are not alone.

    "There are many great parents out there with fantastic intentions who get carried away in their efforts to raise a successful adult," Mogel says. "In the end, nobody wins. Boys go on strike, girls become perfectionistic, and parents get angry."

    So, how can parents avoid falling in this trap?

    Mogel provides these words of encouragement to well-intentioned parents:

    • Kids go through phases ... glorious ones and rotten ones. Do not confuse today's snapshot with the epic movie of your child's life.
    • Know the difference between a child's wants and needs. Don't fall for the smooth-talking 15-year-old's line: "Mom, you'll probably want to buy me a brand-new car. It'll be really, really, really, safe ... definitely safer than me driving your big, old van." Privileges are not entitlements.
    • Let them learn to do for themselves. Remember, your child is competent.
    • Listen four times more than you talk. Before you nag, remind, criticize, advise, chime in or over-explain, say to yourself "W.A.I.T" (Why am I talking?)
    • Remember that disappointments are a necessary preparation for adult life. Stay calm when your child isn't invited to her friend's party, gets cut from the team or doesn't get a lead role. Without these experiences, your child will be ill-equipped for the real world.
    • Be alert, but not automatically alarmed. Stop and ask yourself: Is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?
    • Don't take it personally if your teenager treats you badly. You can't always judge his character on the consistency of in-house politeness, clear speech or degree of eye contact. Instead, notice what teachers say and whether he's welcome at his friends' houses. Also, observe his manners with neighbors, salespeople and servers in restaurants.

    Mogel readily acknowledges that parenting is hard work and that the competition is fierce. However, parents who are intent on raising self-reliant, resilient and accountable young people will gladly put forth the effort.