The top things many parents unknowingly teach their kids that sabotage their chances for success.
Until the mid 1800’s, children were, for all intents and purposes, tiny adults. They worked long hard hours on the family farm, in mines, or in factories. The country was growing and needed production to sustain itself and its people. Kids were expected to shoulder their “fair share” of the burden. It was not until the Industrial Revolution when machines became commonplace and mass production was the “new normal” that society began to think about what to do with children. Think about it. As an employer, who would you rather have working in your factory…a bigger stronger faster employee or a smaller weaker slower employee?
Contrast that with the “feel good” movement of the 1970’s and the self-esteem movement of the last 20 years. Every kid gets a trophy. Some states have grades based on effort rather than results. Achievement stopped being recognized so as not to make the other students “feel bad.” Honor Roll – gone. Dean’s List – bye bye. Class Valedictorian – forget about it. The goal of those movements seems to be homogenous feelings. Everyone should “be” the same and “feel” the same. The problem with that mindset is that people, kids or adults, are NOT the same. Different people have different drives, desires, and goals. Different people learn different things in different ways. The politically correct term used today is Diversity. If we are to celebrate the differences of different people and cultures, shouldn’t we then embrace diversity in methods and outcomes?
Happiness, growth, and being well adjusted is not a zero sum game. One person’s happiness does not come at the expense of another’s. You and I may have completely different visions of what our lives should be like, yet we can be equally satisfied (or not) with our progress. The key is to know the answers to the following questions:
Who are you BEING every second of every day?
What standards do you CONSISTENTLY hold yourself to?
What are your BELIEFS – are they empowering or limiting?
The answers to those three questions are the basis of your identity - the essence of who you are. It guides you in every aspect of your life. To a person with a solid sense of self, so called “tough decisions” are not so tough. Certain choices just are NOT an option because of who they are. For those who have not consciously decided on their identity, those who have not determined for themselves who they are, life usually lacks direction. They often bounce between events reacting to them rather than deciding on a direction and taking action. It is much easier to make a correction to stay on course rather than going in a completely different direction. A perfect example is an airline flight. Did you know that a flight is “off course” over 90% of the time? Wind currents push the plane off its path and the pilot (or navigation system) makes subtle adjustments to keep it on course. Head or tail wins will push for or against the plane. The pilot can slow down or increase engine power to compensate and stay on schedule. If there is bad weather in the flight path, the pilot will adjust by flying over or around it. The key is that it is easier to figure out your options when you have a destination in mind. What’s your destination? What about your kids? Do they have a destination? Did they choose it? Did you? Or worse yet, is a third party like a gang or clique filling that role?
By nature, kids are hardwired to succeed - Perseverance in an innate trait. How many times does the average child try to walk before he or she gives up? How many times do kids smear food all over their face trying to feed themselves before they decide that going hungry is better than making a mess?
Quitting is a learned behavior they learn from adults.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I have tried everything!”? When you dig a little deeper, they did one thing that a friend or coworker told them and that was about it. Many have become so adept at quitting that they have streamlined the process into not even beginning. It’s so much less work and bother that way. What lessons does that teach the children around them?
Kids are smarter than many adults give them credit for. They know what’s going on. They keep score – in sports, in school, and at home. In many youth sports leagues around the country, the “adults” don’t keep score in the younger age brackets. But if you were to go down the bench and ask each kid, they know which team is winning and which was losing. They know who the best players are. If the adults weren’t there, they’d still choose up teams and play.
Giving credit where it is not deserved and, in turn, not rewarding those who achieve does a disservice to all. It actually alters the natural sense of equilibrium between effort and results. It alters the perspective of the child as they grow up into adulthood. Every one of us knows when we are just trying to get by – just meet the minimum requirements. Kids are no different. If they get high praise for just getting by, then that will be their standard as they grow into adulthood. Do you want you kids to just “get by” or do you want them to succeed?
Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book “10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You” as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation – a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowerment programs to public schools across the U.S. at NO COST to the schools.