Parenting is an awesome responsibility that involves an incredible amount of work.
It isn’t easy to be a great parent!
I’ve had the privilege of speaking to and working with thousands of students and parents. Through these interactions, I’ve come to realize that despite their good intentions, parents often do things that confuse, annoy, anger or frustrate their children.
I’ve noticed the many mistakes that parents make in trying to raise happy and successful children.
I’ve also observed what winning parents do differently.
Based on these observations, I’ve come up with a list of 10 questions that all successful parents ask themselves.
(Just to be clear, I’m writing this post from a child and a student’s perspective. Also, to avoid repeatedly writing “he or she,” I’ll assume that the child I refer to is a girl.)
1. Do I want what’s good for my child or what’s best?
(This point is inspired by this excellent article.)
It’s natural for parents to advise their children to pursue the safe, predictable and practical route.
Parents do this because they don’t want their children to experience uncertainty or discomfort.
This is the good path.
But is it the best path?
In most cases, no. The best path is usually the one that’s full of challenges, obstacles and disappointments.
It might even be full of the “f” word: failure.
Winning parents distinguish between “good” and “best,” and continually encourage their children to choose “best.”
2. Do I measure my success as a parent by the quality of the relationship, or by how effectively I can control my child?
Winning parents understand that it’s more important to build a relationship with their child than it is to find innovative ways to control her behavior.
Just because your child obeys your instructions doesn’t mean that you’re a world-class parent. It just means that your child is obedient.
If this obedience comes at the cost of your parent-child relationship, the tradeoff might not be worth it.
3. Do I speak to my child as if she’s destined for success?
Let’s say that your child does something bad.
She steals a pen from the school bookshop.
How would most parents react?
Most parents would say to her, “How could you do something like that?!? You’re such a bad girl. You’re so dishonest! I’m ashamed that I’m your parent. I’m going to punish you!”
Successful parents, on the other hand, say something more along the lines of this:
“I’m surprised that you would do something like this. You’re usually such an honest and well-behaved girl. I would never have expected you to do this. I’m still going to punish you so that you’ll learn from this mistake, but this is really so unlike you.”
Children have a strange way of becoming what others’ view of them is—especially their parents’.
If you speak to your children as if they’re destined for success, it’s more than likely that they’ll live up to the good name you’ve already given them.
4. Do I say the following things to my child?
- I’m proud of you.
- I believe in you.
- You can do it!
- I’m there for you.
- I love you.
- I’m sorry. I was wrong.
- Will you forgive me?
- Thank you.
- What do you think?
Winning parents do.
5. Am I trying to make my child successful just so that I will feel successful?
It’s difficult to measure the success of a parent, which explains why many parents subconsciously decide that they’ll measure their own success by how successful their children become.
This can be very unhealthy, because parents can force their own—sometimes narrow and restrictive—definition of success on their children.
Winning parents deliberately define success for themselves, and allow their children to do the same.
6. Do I recognize that I’m responsible to my child and not for her?
Parents often think that they’re responsible for their children.
Responsible for their academic performance, for their behavior, for their social etiquette.
But no—parents are only responsible to their children.
Parents are responsible to their children by giving them love and support and a good home environment.
Children are responsible for their own lives.
If your child misbehaves in school, she’s the one who will be punished, not you.
Successful parents recognize that they aren’t responsible for their children, so these parents don’t carry a burden that they were never meant to carry anyway.
7. Do I model the behavior that I want my child to exhibit?
Most parents want their children to be curious and to love learning.
If you’re a parent, when was the last time you talked to your child about something you learned recently that you thought was super cool?
8. Do I focus more on what my child does or on who she is becoming?
This anonymous quote sums it up:
Many succeed momentarily by what they know;
some succeed temporarily by what they do;
few succeed permanently by what they are.
Winning parents empower their children to pursue permanent success.
9. Do I end every lecture with LOVE?
When parents reprimand their children, the message of love doesn’t always get communicated.
Successful parents, on the other hand, conclude every lecture with a reminder to their child just how much they love her.
They end with LOVE, not anger or disappointment or frustration.
10. Do I ask my child to make a commitment, or do I force her into doing things?
Winning parents understand that every great student, musician, athlete, entrepreneur, technician, salesperson, etc. came to a point where they made a commitment to greatness.
Commitment involves making a choice. You can’t force someone to be great.
That’s why successful parents don’t coerce their children into taking action. Instead, they allow their children to make choices and to take responsibility for those choices.
Parenting is a noble calling.
To all you parents (and future parents) reading this, I know you’re up to the challenge.
Image: Parent and child