I don’t claim to know everything; heck, most of the time in this adventure we call parenting I feel as though I know nothing. I try to step back and let my kids navigate the world. I don’t jump when my tiny little daughter says she can’t reach the snack on the shelf. I remind her that the stool is by the sink, and she can use that to get the snack herself. We strive to raise healthy, happy kids and at the same time feel the pressure to have our kids excel at everything. From school to extracurricular activities, it’s easy to get lost in the burden to be the best. So how do we raise self-sufficient, well-rounded kids in a world of helicopter parents and overachievers?
Don’t focus on your child’s strengths, but rather celebrate the actions they took to reach their achievements; not the achievements themselves. When my daughter gets a good grade, which for her does not come easy, I don’t just tell her: “Great job, you are so smart!” Instead I tell her how proud I am of her for working so hard to learn the material. I don’t want her to feel I am proud of her intelligence, because what will happen to her self-esteem when she doesn’t bring home a good grade? Will Mom still be proud of me?
I want my kids to know that hard work is valued. For some, like my son, things come easy. But there are times he works hard to improve…like shooting countless pucks a day. When his shot has improved, I make the point to tell him that I am proud of how diligently he has been shooting in the driveway; especially because I know it’s not his favorite thing. Again, I'm not proud of his success; I’m proud of what it took him to get there.
Encourage your child pursue his passion especially if he’s not good at it. If he LOVES to draw but does not have an aptitude for it, don’t discourage…encourage. We work hard at what we enjoy doing, and improvement comes through repetition. Make sure your child knows that it’s OK to not be the best. Let them follow their passions, and not just participate in activities they are competent at.
It’s important to celebrate failures for several reasons. First, failure shows effort, and it’s better to try and fail then to never try at all. Second, we learn through failure. We can’t learn from our mistakes and change the outcome if we always succeed. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result. Don’t raise insane kids; raise kids that thrive on failure, that excel when challenged, and who learn from their mistakes. Finally, letting your kids fail gives you the opportunity to teach them how to overcome failure and disappointment, and to move past it. What have they learned from it? How can they avoid the same result in the future?
No matter how talented, smart, hardworking, or successful a person is, at some point life will not go their way. Do you want to have the kid who loses their cool when they come in second because they were never taught how to lose gracefully? What if he doesn’t get accepted into his first-choice college or is not selected for the job he really wants? How will your child respond? It’s how we handle the disappointments and challenges in life that defines us, not the events themselves...and it is our job as parents to give them the tools they need to face opposition with grace and dignity.