By now most parents have agreed that trying to bribe college administrators and coaches to achieve admission for their children is NOT the way to go. Which leaves us with the question, “How can we ensure our children’s success so they can enjoy the life they imagine?” The short answer is, “We can’t.” However, we can greatly increase the chances of it happening naturally – without manipulation or deception – if we follow three steps.
To begin, let’s flush out a definition of success that provides clarity for this parenting challenge. I prefer the definition offered by Dr. Paul Stolz in his book, Adversity Quotient.
“Success is the degree to which one moves forward and upward, progressing in one’s mission, despite all obstacles or other forms of adversity.” So, it’s not about money or status.
As long as our children are able to continue making progress in a worthwhile endeavor, in spite of setbacks, they are enjoying success. This success breeds more success. Here are three steps we can take to facilitate this happening naturally.
1. Teach our children that efforts yield results. We are not born into this world understanding this concept. It is learned. Our children began learning the lesson as they started walking. More attempts equaled more consecutive steps without falling. When we share with our children our stories of struggles to acquire the skills we’ve needed, we are helping them understand the value of investing energy. Increased effort leads to an increase in results. Whether it’s in math class or on the tennis court, there is a direct correlation between purposeful, deliberate practice and achieving a desired outcome. Since results are not always immediate, we are called upon to encourage their efforts while they’re waiting for their young mind and body to improve in a noticeable way.
2. Teach our children that adversity should be expected. Pity parties are optional. There will be setbacks, delays, learning plateaus, and obstacles. Each of those serve a valuable purpose. We assist our children in their growth when we discuss the value of each challenge; when we ask them to identify the benefits of each heartache; and when we point out the hidden opportunity found in their struggles. Help them embrace each discomfort.
3. Teach our children that all choices have consequences. Some are pleasant; some not so much. Perhaps this is one of the most difficult lessons to accept. The first temptation is to blame someone or somethings for our circumstances, rather than to accept personal responsibility for our choices that created them. Everything is a choice. Choices produce success and they produce lessons; but not necessarily failure. We guide our children toward maturity when we allow them to enjoy, and endure, the natural consequences of their choices. We must admit to them that we have learned our most important life-lessons through good choices and poor choices. And life will always re-enroll us in whatever life lesson we stubbornly refuse to learn.
When we use these three steps to shape the attitudes and efforts of our children, they will not need us to rescue them from an uncertain future, nor to create a future they haven’t earned.