Tanner Howell, 16, and Dashia Martin, 17, bag groceries at the Commissary at an Army Family Action Plan Conference – Photo Courtesy: US Army
In today’s world, kids feel a lot of pressure to succeed both in school and in their extracurricular activities. But to what end?
While tests and trophies are useful metrics in measuring success in school and sports, it’s important to think about the person as a whole as your child achieves successes in his or her life.
Need to Redefine ‘Success’ for Children
It’s important that we ask ourselves how we can, as parents, redefine success for our children to make them feel success is not necessarily all about their test scores and how many home runs they hit at the game. Instead, we need to create ways to help our children look beyond these “objective measures” and teach them how to identify their own goals and set other parameters for success.
Over Scheduling – A Bane
Over scheduling is a frequent topic of conversation every time a group of parents get together. Children are constantly receiving signals that in order to be successful, they need to get good grades, be highly involved in extracurricular activities like sports and music lessons, get into the best college, and land a dream job with lots of money. From elementary school on, parents are having conversations about the importance of being “well-rounded.”
These over-scheduled kids are running from school to various practices, then home to do homework, then to bed each night, leaving little quality time for family, play, relaxation, and unstructured exploration of subjects that interest them. Even from a young age, kids are receiving these messages and putting undue pressure on themselves to succeed by society’s standards.
So how do you reframe the discussion about success for your child to help alleviate some of this pressure they are facing?
Have A Frank Discussion
One way to get your child to think differently about success is to simply sit down and have a conversation with them about it. How do they define success? What ways can they tell they’re being successful in school or outside of school? Have a frank discussion with your child about what qualities they think successful people possess.
Try to take the focus of the conversation off of competition and compensation. Instead, ask your child to think about what qualities they possess that make them a great person. Remind them that every time they are kind and compassionate towards another person, or act out of respect, that they are achieving a measure of success that is more meaningful than any grade or trophy.
Looking Beyond Traditional Accomplishments
Help your child consider activities that he or she enjoys that may not immediately lead to a reward, but bring them pleasure and enrich them as a human being. Perhaps you have a creative child that loves to read poetry, an introspective child that loves to explore history through metal detecting, or a problem solver that is taking the early steps toward being an inventor. Work with your child to define success in areas that they care about, even if those areas don’t fall into traditional accomplishments.
Have your children sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of their most admirable qualities and some of the moments in their lives where they have done something that made them feel really wonderful about themselves – something that didn’t involve accepting a trophy or scoring 100% on a test. This will help to shift their focus from viewing success based solely on competition with others, to viewing success as being a great human being with exceptional core values. The truest measure of success cannot be measured quantitatively; it’s about what kind of person you are.
Success as Seen from a Different Perspective
Too often, we hear about kids who are just completely overwhelmed with the pressure to succeed in the competitive sense. As parents, it is important that we sit down with our children and reframe the discussion so that they are able to see success in a different way. It’s not necessarily all about the grades, trophies, and accolades, but about the way that your child is living – compassionately, respectfully, kindly, and happily.
Thomas Miller has been writing about technology andÂ templates and tools for small businessesÂ for nearly a decade. When heâ€™s not writing, you can find him volunteering at his local community center.Â