Want your kids to have an edge? Want them to become successful? Here’s a checklist BASED ON RESEARCH – how many are you doing?
So you’re a loving, present, empathetic, compassionate parent. You hug your kids, try to avoid shaming them, and lovingly attend to their needs. Great! That’s a wonderful start. But if that’s all you’re doing, you can easily turn them into entitled a-holes. There’s got to be more. Below are 6 ingredients for helping your kid(s) transition into successful adulthood (and roommate, and citizen). You’re the leader in the home, now LEAD.
Without a doubt, one of the best things you can give your kids, is chores. They need jobs. They need ways to contribute. Work is meaningful, and even very young kids love the meaning they experience in work. They don’t always love doing the work (who does?), but they generally love the sense of accomplishment. One of my kids’ first job was to take a damp rag and wipe off the chair and table legs under the breakfast table. Easy, low skill work, but they loved it. Now they take out trash, pick up dog poop, mow the yard, sweep the stairs, vacuum, do dishes, manage laundry, mow the yard….
Kids need to learn to work, and work to learn, and the training ground is the home.
Opportunities to Fail
Failure is a part of life. As you know, “plans” don’t always go as planned. So why do we try so hard to protect our kids from this reality? Failure doesn’t hurt kids, and in fact, can provide them with opportunities to overcome, an important ingredient in developing resiliency. That’s right – your kids needs to experiences challenges, difficulties, and even failures to become resilient. As a parent you actually want to try to protect your kids from disastrous failures that may lead to traumatic experience, but not from the ordinary failures that are a part of life. Support and encourage your kids, praise their effort, but don’t bail them out of every difficulty. Failure is a great teacher.
Opportunities to have a Vote (and Negotiate)
The ability to advocate for yourself, to politely speak your mind, and to diplomatically sway the decision making process, is a tremendously valuable skill. Learning to speak up, confidently speak to adults, and exercising agency becomes a critical element in success. Talking your parents into an ice cream as a kid, can translate to talking your boss into a raise as an adult. Smart parents give their kids instruction and opportunities in which to have a say. Now, this is not giving the kids all of the power or choice, but allowing the negotiation and supporting their choice once in a while. As they age and show good judgement, their power or agency should also increase. Don’t give the power too soon, but don’t hold it back too long either.
Reading (actual words on an actual page)
Reading to your child aloud early on, and later reading with them is one of the easiest gifts to give our kids. Research has so much to say on this topic. Reading supports language, cognitive development, attention and focus, creativity, and academic ability. Smart people read, plain and simple. And reading, or lack there of, is strongly correlated with poverty through studies that investigate “the word gap”, or the amount of words and language to which different social classes are exposed. But hey… if you’re reading this (575 words into a 850 word essay), you probably already convinced.
Talk to them and with them (face to face, not only through a device) – as this actually requires your presence. Commit to device-free meals and device-free commutes. Ask a good question, then sit back and listen to their fascinating responses and thought processes. No need to debate or correct, just curiously listen and explore. (Certainly correct them, but also create moments just to converse). Encourage them to express their (often immature) thoughts and opinions. As psychologist Dr. John Duffy has said, if your kids are talking, you’re not only hearing them, but they are hearing themselves. And being heard and accepted is immeasurably important to the development of the secure self.
Either learn to manage money, or it will manage you. Teach your kids early and often about money and how it works. Teach them about work, income, spending, costs, budgets, saving, debt, interest, investments, philanthropy, and planning. Give kids some money, allow them to spend it, and allow them to wrestle with how to spend it. They won’t be able to buy everything they want, and they’ll have to make choices. That’s life. That’s real. They’ll want something that exceeds their income, and they’ll need to save for it. Give them an age appropriate allowance, and/or pay them for work, then use the opportunities to teach them how to manage what they’ve got. Good stewardship is learned through practice and disciple – give them a chance at both.
AND NOW, give yourself a grade. How are you doing in exposing your kids to these growth ingredients?