Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guiding Children to Success

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Parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever have, but the perks are great. Over the years, I have learned by trial and error. Here is how I helped set my children up for success.

1. Read to your children.

Start reading to your children as early as possible. I can’t say this enough. It helps build vocabulary in young children and encourages a love of reading. Reading is the foundation of education, and giving them a head start is a great way to start your child on a path to success.

2. Stress the importance of education.

Education is key. In my house, education is not an option. It is a requirement. Nothing short of high school graduation is acceptable, and my husband and I have stressed how important it is since our children were very small. As a result, my children have never thought of dropping out of high school. The graduation rate in our house will be 100% because our children expect no less of themselves. They don’t see it as optional. Make education a requirement.

3. Give your child responsibilities.

We buy each child their first car. They know insurance is a requirement, and this gives an opportunity to teach responsibility. Our children are taught that driving is a big responsibility, and they know they must get a job to have this privilege. After they find a job, they begin to pay a portion of the increase in insurance. It teaches them to be responsible, and it teaches them important life lessons about budgeting and paying bills. Give your child age appropriate responsibilities when they are little, and they’ll learn how to be a responsible adult.

4. Allow your child to learn consequences.

Don’t rush in to fix your child’s mistakes. Guide them toward a solution, but allow them to figure out solutions with as little interference as possible. Your child will learn there are consequences for their actions, and they will learn from their mistakes when they must correct them. It is important for children to make mistakes and learn from them. It gives them an opportunity to learn how to deal with things on their own, and it shows them they are responsible for the consequences of their actions. They begin to think about their actions and develop important life skills for adulthood.

5. Shield your children, if needed.

My father was disabled and suffered with chronic pain. When pain management failed him, he became an alcoholic and an addict. I loved my father. I took care of him for much of my youth. I saw addiction up close. When I had children, I knew they did not need to be exposed to his addictions. I did not want this to be something they considered normal. When my father died, my children barely knew him. It was necessary, and I don’t regret my decision. Hard choices have to be made to protect children. Be mindful of what your children are exposed to. If a child grows up in a home with an abusive parent, they think that is normal. It’s the same with everything else. Be mindful, and don’t allow unacceptable behavior to become normalized.

6. Encourage your children to consider options for college.

Our children have always been encouraged to consider their long-term goals. College talks began in middle school. While their career interests changed over the years, college became a part of their personal expectations. Starting these talks early gave them time to reflect and weigh their options. It allowed them to decide what was right for them. College is not right for every child, and that’s okay, but make sure they know they can go to college. Make it an available option.

7. Teach your children it is okay to fail or falter.

Children need to understand that it is okay to fail. They also need to learn that you can always pick yourself up and keep trying. My daughter was set to go to college after graduation. A new graduate who moved out and got her first taste of true freedom, she got pregnant over the summer. Now that her daughter is 2 1/2, she has started college and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She understood it was okay to falter, because she had learned it was okay to fail. She knew she could still pursue her dream, and she is doing just that. She’s strong enough to weather a storm, because she was taught how to pick herself up and keep going. Teach your children it’s okay to fail, and they’ll be prepared to face whatever curveballs are thrown at them in life and keep going until they have accomplished their goals.

8. Spoil your children if you want.

It’s okay to spoil your children. Don’t let anyone tell you different. You just have to balance things. Teach them it’s fine to treat themselves after they have taken care of responsibilities. Reward them from time to time. It shows them there are things to look forward to in life, and it encourages them to strive for greater things beyond just existing. Use it to guide them down a path to success and motivate them to achieve their full potential. My son had a partial nephrectomy. He had seven surgeries in eight months, and he endured a lot of pain and suffering. His dad decided to buy him something he wanted - a BMW. He did not ask for the car. He doesn’t feel entitled because his life has been well-balanced. He feels invigorated for a long ride of pre-med and med school. Why? He wants to be able to afford nice things, and he has a plan to achieve his goal. Our children have been well-loved, and their dad loves spoiling them. They’re not brats. They have been taught balance, and they are motivated to do well so they can live well. It has provided so many teaching opportunities. They learned not to settle for less when they can work hard and achieve more.

9. Instill morals and values, and teach them to stick up for themselves.

Teach your children compassion. Teach them respect. And teach them it is okay to stand up for what they believe to be right, when needed. We raised our children to be polite, but we also taught them to stand up for themselves and others. My children are generally well-mannered, but assertive. They tend to do the right thing as they stick to the morals and values they were taught. However, they’ll never be doormats. We have taught our children that it is okay to question anyone when they feel they are wrong or being wronged. Be respectful, but it is okay to recognize the need to question the motives of your elders or speak out when something is not right. Children need to know from an early age that no adult has to be respected when they are wrong. Teach them morals and values, and teach them to recognize things that are not right. Encourage them to speak out. If someone approaches them in an inappropriate manner, they’re more likely to speak up and less likely to be victimized.

10. Give them great memories.

Have family traditions. Play silly games. Travel when you can. Just hang out as a family, even when they become teens. Make it a priority. We are all here for a short time, and once we’re gone there is nothing more than memories left behind. Give your children plenty of memories. Give them traditions to pass along to their own children. Give yourself memories to live on once your children are grown and gone. Cherish them. Time passes quickly. Make the most of it, and make it memorable.


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