Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: success

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    What Starts Here Changes the World

    Admiral William McRaven, bestselling author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World, delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. He shared that after he graduated, he went straight to be commissioned in the Navy and on to SEAL training.

    Although McRaven retired as a Navy SEAL after 37 years of service, his accomplishments were not easy. He recounted six months of grueling exercise, sleepless nights and harassment by professionally-trained warriors seeking to weed out those incapable of leading in an environment of constant stress, chaos and hardships.

    McRaven challenged the graduates, reminding them of their school slogan: What starts here changes the world.

    “According to Ask.com, the average person meets 10,000 people throughout their lifetime,” said McRaven. “If the 8,000 plus graduates here tonight changed the lives of 10 people, and those people changed the lives of 10 people and another 10, in five generations, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800,000,000 people in 125 years. If that kept going for another generation, you could change the entire population of the world.”

    Additionally, McRaven highlighted 10 lessons from SEAL training he believes are relevant to changing the world:

    • Start off by making your bed. By doing this, you have accomplished the first task of the day.

    • Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t change the world alone. Getting to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide you.

    • Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. SEAL training is the great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.

    • Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or perform, you will still end up as a sugar cookie.

    • Don’t be afraid of the circuses. The circus was a form of SEAL punishment which consisted of two extra hours of calisthenics for those who failed to meet physical standards. Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. At times, it will test you to the very core.

    • Slide down the obstacle head first. One SEAL went head first during an exercise. It was risky, dangerous and seemed foolish, but he finished in record time.

    • Don’t back down from the sharks. There are sharks in the world. If you want to complete your swim, you will have to deal with them.

    • You must be your very best in the darkest moment. Every SEAL knows that the darkest moment of the mission is the time to be calm and composed, and when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

    • Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. During Hell Week, SEALS spent 15 hours up to their neck in bone-chilling, cold mud. One student started singing and they all joined in, which helped them survive. The power of one person can change the world by giving people hope.

    • Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. In other words, never ever give up.

    These are powerful words for us all. Are you up to the challenge?

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    9 Tips for Raising Decisive Adults

    Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago.

    “I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move away from being independent thinkers not afraid to speak their mind. I used to ask questions in class and students would be eager to answer. Today they are terrified to be wrong.

    “I have students in my class who are terrible at accounting. I ask them why they are majoring in it and they say, ‘Because my parents told me to,’ not because they are passionate about the subject. They have bought into the notion that their parents know best.”

    Sompayrac isn’t alone. Colleges across the country are experiencing this same phenomenon. As a result, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean of freshmen, began to research the surprising trend. You can read about in her book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

    “Parents are applauding kids at every turn just for showing up versus when they accomplish something,” says Lythcott-Haims. “They are constructing play through play dates. When kids have been raised like this, it is not a surprise that, as young adults, they are still looking for their parents’ approval, direction and protection in college and the world of work.

    “The students were becoming less independent as parents increased control over their children’s lives,” she says. "I noticed that too many students weren’t trying to get their parents off their back; they were relieved to have their parents do the hard work.”

    While both believe that parents mean well in their attempts to help, neither Lythcott-Haims or Sompayrac believes this kind of parental engagement ultimately helps the students.

    “When college students have no idea how to think for themselves, problem-solve and be critical thinkers, that is not a good thing,” Sompayrac contends. “When parents choose their child’s major, intervene in resolving roommate issues or contact a professor about a grade, they are depriving their child of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Yet these are the very experiences that help young people build confidence, make mistakes, experience consequences, pick themselves back up and keep going.”

    So, how can you be helpful without being overbearing? Lythcott-Haims offers these tips:

    • Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.

    • Notice who your kid actually is, what they’re good at and what they love.

    • Explore diagnostic tools such as StrengthsFinder to help your kid discover what energizes them.

    • Express interest and be helpful.

    • Know when to push forward; know when to pull back.

    • Help them find mentors outside the home.

    • Prepare them for the hard work to come.

    • Don’t do too much for them.

    • Have your own purpose.

    Perhaps the greatest way you can prepare children for adulthood is to stop hovering, encourage independent thinking and help them fulfill their calling in life.

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    6 Rules to Raise Your Children By

    How do you teach respect? Will your child’s strong will conquer you before you conquer it? 

    As a parent, you have probably thought about these questions and experienced the confusion of trying to figure out the best way to raise your children

    According to psychologist and author Dr. Kevin Leman, we have arrived at a place in our society where the family focuses solely on the child. He says American parents have become permissive and democratic, and children have become sassy and entitled.

    Today, many popular dramas portray children in adult roles with little respect for parents. The shows depict parents as ignorant, out of touch with the culture and not smart enough to raise a child. Innocent as it may appear, this role reversal seems to encourage teens to be disrespectful to their parents, discounting their authority and their understanding about life issues.

    If a child wants to do something and their parents say no, they sneak and do it anyway. Instead of earning money to buy new shoes, many teens believe parents should foot the bill. In fact, many young people think the idea of doing chores around the house without getting paid is unfair and beyond the call of duty.

    Leman believes that allowing young people to operate in this manner is counterproductive.

    “There are certain realities by which children are going to have to live their adult lives,” says Leman. “The sooner we start teaching what I refer to as the rules of the game, the better.” These are:

    • You’re never going to be the center of everyone’s attention all the time. This means that children should not be the center of attention in their families. Parents should be the center of attention.

    • Everyone must obey a higher authority no matter how old they are. Therefore, parents should expect children to obey, not hope that they will obey.

    • Everyone needs to be a contributing member of society. Too many children constantly take from their families without ever giving back. Leman suggests parents ask themselves if their children ever perform routine chores around the home for which they do not get paid. The only acceptable answer is yes.

    • Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. A child who does something wrong ought to feel bad about it and be held accountable for his behavior. Too often parents feel bad when a child does something wrong. Why should a child accept responsibility for his behavior if someone else takes responsibility for him?

    • You can’t always get what you want and what you do get, you get by working and waiting. Children should receive the things they need and a conservative amount of the things they want. More children need to hear the word "no!"

    • You experience happiness, which is the elixir of success, in direct proportion to how sensitive to and considerate you are of others. Self-centeredness and unhappiness go hand in hand.

    Finally, Leman admits that teaching your children these rules won’t create “perfect kids.” We all make mistakes and sometimes children have to learn these lessons the hard way, but by making them aware of the real world, children will have a better chance at becoming happy, well-adjusted young adults.

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    7 Benefits of a Summer Job

    If you're a parent, you're probably bracing yourself for the summer with your teen. There are so many things to consider: everything from what time your teenager needs to be out of the bed in the morning, how much time they should spend gaming, expectations around the house and curfew, just to name a few. And typically, the teen’s perspective is vastly different from your point of view.

    Obviously, the school year can be very taxing and it’s nice to have less stress during the summer. But experts encourage you to avoid throwing structure out the window as your kids rest up for the next school year.

    One way to keep your teen constructively involved is to strongly encourage them to find a summer job. While 13 or 14 may be too young for employment, they do have other options. It isn’t too young to do yard work, babysit, clean houses, or some other type of work.

    Teens can learn so much from a job experience. In fact, it can help prepare them for life. Actually going through the interview process is a serious accomplishment, as many young people struggle with conversations that don’t involve texting. Learning how to look someone in the eyes and answer questions about yourself is huge.

    Once they have secured a job, they typically have the chance to learn a few things, like how to:

    • Get along with a diverse team of people,

    • Manage their time,

    • Deal with authority figures other than their parents,

    • Engage with people who are rude and difficult,

    • Build relationships with kind and encouraging people,

    • Develop an understanding of a work ethic, and

    • Handle the money they earn.

    One teenager accepted an 8-week job as a summer camp counselor. The job was not glamorous and many of her co-workers were challenging, so the teen frequently talked with her parents about the difficulties she was experiencing. Halfway into her commitment, she told her parents that four other camp counselors had just quit. The parents felt like the teen was looking for a way out as well.

    Both parents strongly advised her not to quit, reminding her of the commitment she made. She stayed, and to this day has never forgotten the lessons she learned about how to treat people, what respect looks like and that she had it in her to overcome adversity and finish what she started. She also learned a lot about herself that summer, and while she wouldn’t want to repeat it, she would not trade those valuable lessons. 

    Summer jobs can teach the life lessons most parents want to instill in their children as they prepare for independent living. If you're wondering where to start, First Things First is offering Success Ready on May 31 and June 1 at Chattanooga State. It’s a 2-day networking experience for teens ages 16-18 who are interested in summer employment.

    Day one consists of communication skills, going over the basics of a job application, how to prepare for and what to wear for an interview, managing conflict and keeping drama to a minimum. Day two will feature a job fair with a number of employers who are ready to hire for summer jobs. You and your teen can find more information about Success Ready here.

    Your teen may simply want to build their resume for college or prepare to learn a vocation. Either way, securing a summer job can be just the character-building experience they need to give them that extra boost. It will certainly teach them lessons that will serve them wherever life takes them.

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    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.

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    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.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    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.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    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.

    For more insight on parenting, download our E-book "4 ways to stay connected after Baby" Download Here

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    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.