We all want our kids to be successful, not necessarily in the sense of becoming President of the United States or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but certainly in the sense of wanting them to succeed at whatever path they choose in life. However, it’s hard to know how to do this; push too hard and risk becoming a stage parent, or adopt a laid-back approach and risk raising a slacker.
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What’s more, if you don’t have the resources to get your child a fleet of private tutors, you may worry that they’re going to fall behind. However, there are certain universal qualities that you can instill in your child that will help them grow into a responsible, healthy adult.
1. Teach Gratitude And Respect For Everyone And Everything
You’re probably already teaching your child to respect authority, to respect other human beings, to respect animals – all important things. However, you should be sure to teach your child to respect other things as well, from people to property.
If you teach your child to take good care of their room and their possessions, they’ll have a greater sense of responsibility for their own things and be less likely to take them for granted. This will, in turn, help them to see that they have to work for and earn the things in life.
Along with this respect, teach gratitude; remind them to thank the people around them, whether it’s for a birthday gift or for helping with homework.
2. Teach Empathy
In order to be successful, your child needs to work with other people. That means understanding where those people are coming from and why they think or act the way they do. It doesn’t do your child any good to look down on others, whether because they think those others are unpopular losers or because they think they’re stupid bullies.
This doesn’t mean teaching your child that bullies are acting in an okay way, but it does mean teaching your child that all people have reasons for acting the way they do; maybe the bully picks on others because they are picked on at home, or the girl with the dorky unpopular clothes has to get them from Goodwill.
3. Teach Responsibility And Consequences
In order to become responsible, your child must learn that actions, both good and bad, have consequences. On the plus side, this means paying attention to your child’s good behavior and giving them praise and rewards when they do right.
On the negative side, this means consistent discipline – something that doesn’t always come naturally to parents. However, if you let your child get away with behavior that they know is wrong, or if you simply buy them a new toy every time they break or lose the old one, they’ll never learn that their actions have consequences.
A frequently lost and replaced toy at six can turn into a frequently crashed car at sixteen or frequently unpaid rent and utility bills at twenty-six.
4. Teach Perseverance
Some children are naturally timid and afraid of failure, preferring to stick to what’s comfortable rather than taking risks and trying something new at which they might fail. Others will stick a toe in something new but immediately back out when it’s harder than expected.
Don’t force your child to stick with an activity they genuinely don’t enjoy, but if they’re only backing out because it’s too hard, hold their feet to the fire and encourage them not to give up. This means praising your child for trying hard and failing as well as for success – and meaning it.
A child can instantly feel the phoniness of a halfhearted “good try, sweetie” and come away feeling even more discouraged. On the other hand, if you truthfully say, “I love how you keep trying and not giving up even when it gets hard,” your child will be more likely to see that perseverance as a positive quality.
5. Teach Problem-Solving
Like the old adage says, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Teaching your child perseverance is a good start, but if you don’t help them learn how to change their approach so they’ll be more successful next time, they’re bound to become frustrated.
If your child keeps hitting a wall, sit down with them and help them brainstorm solutions. This will help them learn to think creatively to overcome their problems rather than trying the same old methods over and over again. When they reach a hurdle as an adult and can’t figure out how to jump over it, they’ll remember that they need to try a variety of different solutions.
6. Teach Willpower And Self-Control
There are two sides to willpower and self-control: keeping a rein on your temper and emotions and learning how to delay gratification by pursuing that difficult or boring task that will have long-term payoff rather than watching TV or playing video games. Teach your child calming strategies, like taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or simply walking away during an emotionally intense situation.
Play games that encourage self-control or planning ahead, like red light, green light or puzzle games. If your child has trouble with self-control, praise them extravagantly for making disciplined decisions. Give your child an allowance (whether to give it by itself or as a reward for chores is a whole other discussion) so they can begin to learn the concept of saving their money for something terrific rather than frittering it away on inexpensive things that they won’t enjoy. Self-discipline and self-control will help your child immeasurably to reach future success.
7. Teach Integrity
None of us want our children to lie, cheat, and steal their way to success. Reward honesty and integrity in your child and teach them the difference between right and wrong. If you’re watching a movie or TV show, ask your child questions about why the hero’s behavior is so heroic and the villain’s behavior so villainous. Talk about people you admire and why you admire them.
8. Teach Through Your Own Actions
The best way to teach every one of these lessons? Walk the walk. You can talk about integrity until you’re blue in the face, but if your child sees you rolling through stop signs, telling white lies, or “forgetting” about the items under your grocery cart, they’re going to emulate that behavior. If you lose your temper with your child, they won’t learn the lessons about self-control that you want them to learn.
If you constantly mock and gossip about the stupidity of people who disagree with you, empathy is going to be the last thing they learn from you. Be the person you want your child to be. Of course, you’ll fail sometimes. In that case, do exactly what you hope your child would do in that situation – apologize for your mistake, explain why it was wrong, and do your best not to do it again.