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Teaching Children How to be Successful

An infant comes into the world completely dependent on parents to fulfill their every need. Of course, they have no preconceived thoughts as it relates to what it means to be successful in life. However, as children grow and parents continue to nurture and cultivate them, each and every action on the parent’s part will contribute to serve and inspire the child on their journey toward a productive and successful future.

With this being said, when should parents begin teaching children how to be successful? The reality is parents inconspicuously teach children the concept of success from the very beginning. Think about when a baby swallows the first spoonful of solid food, uses the potty for the first time, takes those wobbly first steps or utters a complete sentence. Parents instantaneously express excitement and jubilation over such actions thus demonstrating to the child positive reinforcement. This early interaction between parent and child are signals which instinctively teach and encourage children to complete tasks that will ignite doting parents to respond in an affirmative manner. In other words the child begins to comprehend the awareness that certain actions lead to successful responses and outcomes.

As children grow, they continue to seek the approval of their parents but the net of approval extends beyond the immediate family to include teachers, extra curriculum instructors, peers and more important acceptance of their personal failures and accomplishments. In the book, "Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success" by Dr. Madeline Levine, one of the concepts for teaching children about success suggests parents establish an internal definition of success. Levine says that parents and children need to shift from an external, performance-oriented version of success to an internal version that embraces “real curiosity about learning and how the child experiences things.” She said, instead of equating a high grade with effort and intelligence and a low grade with a lack thereof, switch to questions like ‘Did you learn anything new on the test?’ or ‘What was the test like for you?” Dr. Levine said, encourage children “to go inside and evaluate for themselves.” Finally Dr. Levine said, “at the end of the day that’s what I think authentic [success] means.”

Sure grownups can define success but how do children interpret the meaning of success? As the founder of the ALHsuccesslines Success Membership Program for Girls, a virtual leadership program where girls learn strategies for success, a few of my members shared insight on the subject of success. Zipporah Bright, age 13 said, “To me, success means that you strive to do your best or even better.” Zipporah added, “I am trying to reach my goals by staying focused and not letting things distract me…I believe in myself.” Faith Harris, age 12 said, “You should never give up on your dreams,” she added, “success means working hard and never letting anyone discourage you.” Zaida Bright, age 10 said, “Success means I did something good and nice.” Jaden Yanovitz, age 10 said, "Success means being very good at something." Jhade Carney, age 11 said, “Success means to achieve something.” When asked what she is doing to reach her goals, Jhade responded by referring to her extracurricular activity as a cheerleader, she said, “I am hoping to reach my goal by participating in competitions.” Whittey Flournoy, age 13 said, "Success means working to become a singer." Zakaiyali Bright, age 11 said, "Success is growing up to be a strong young lady."

One sure way to teach our kids how to be successful is to lead by example. Parents should also remember to reinforce their ability to process information and arrive at amicable solutions. Train children on the art of self acceptance and how to embrace individual strengths and talents and not to compare themselves to others. Instill the idea for children to focus on all that is good and to resist urges to focus on negativity.

Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do. -John Wooden

Thanks for Reading!

Angela Harris

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