It’s common for a parent to desire success for their child. And why shouldn’t we? Watching your child fail is difficult. I think watching my children fail or struggle hurts my heart more than failing or struggling myself. In my head, I know though that struggles and failure are inevitable, because everyone has those experiences.
Success can mean different things to different people. What parents teach their children about success can be very different, as well. There is so much that we don’t even have to say to our children since our actions can speak so loudly to them. What will I teach my children about success and what will they perceive from my actions?
As a former educator, my answer to this question was definitely influenced by what I’ve studied and what I’ve seen in the classroom. A common concept that I was taught was to praise a child’s effort rather than the product that is produced. I think that this concept of praising effort really puts children on an even playing field. In a classroom, every child may not be able to produce a project, test score or assignment that’s worth an “A.” However, every child can work hard in the classroom—and that hard work will look different depending on the child.
Ideally, I think this would mean that high achieving students won’t stop trying if things come easy for them, and lower achieving students wouldn’t feel discouraged when looking at other students’ abilities. This really stuck with me and I’ve thought a lot about how I can use this at home with my children.
For me, I want to teach my children that working hard and putting in their best effort should be thought of as success. Perfection doesn’t equal success in my book. Constantly feeling the need to strive for perfection can become stressful. It’s so common to hear about the overwhelming stress that high schoolers feel as they prepare to enter college. I think a lot of that stress can come from pressure to get the best grades and best test scores while taking the hardest classes. For some children, that stress may begin much younger than high school. Personally, I don’t want my children to feel stressed by school. I would prefer that my children think of school as challenging, motivating and enjoyable.
So as my young children grow and experience struggles, accomplishments, set goals and make big life decisions, it’s important to me that I have intentional conversations with them. I want these conversations to be encouraging and supportive. I also want these conversations to ignite passion in my children.
I will tell my children how proud I am of their hard work. When facing something tough, I will praise their perseverance. We will celebrate academic progress even if that means going from a failing grade to a “C.” The importance of taking failure graciously will be discussed, because so much can be learned from failure. Encouragement will continuously be offered with the hope that they won’t limit what they will try. In my eyes, having these conversations from a young age can help shape a healthy relationship with success.