Do your children seem contented just coasting through life?
Do they do just enough to get by, while never making the most of their potential?
As a parent, you try to help your children see the importance of doing their best. But they don’t take your words to heart.
They seem to think it’s cool to be laid-back – but you definitely don’t.
So you worry that your children won’t be able to find success in the future if they don’t change their mindset.
If this describes your situation, I’m here to share with you specific, practical ways to help your children strive for excellence.
Just to be clear, when I say “excellence,” I’m not merely referring to getting straight As or racking up accomplishments.
There’s nothing wrong with working toward these kinds of achievements. But the pursuit of excellence is about much more than that.
It’s about becoming the best that you can be.
It’s about cultivating a deep love for learning.
It’s about continually learning and growing.
It’s about making a difference in the lives of others.
It’s about maximizing your talents and abilities.
I specialize in empowering students to become motivated, focused, disciplined, and resilient.
Through working with more than 20,000 students over the years, I’ve come to understand what parents can do to help, too.
So in this article, I’ll share with you 15 powerful ways to inspire your children to pursue excellence.
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1. Emphasize contribution over achievement.
Many children and teens lose motivation when they feel as though they can’t live up to the expectations of those around them.
This applies especially in the area of academics, because they feel strong pressure to achieve certain grades.
When they don’t get those grades, they become discouraged.
To enable your children to regain focus and motivation, emphasize that education isn’t primarily about getting good grades.
Instead, it’s about acquiring the skills and knowledge that will allow them to contribute more effectively.
By focusing on contribution rather than achievement, your children will find greater purpose in their education. This will make it more likely that they’ll pursue excellence.
2. Show your children that hard work is fun.
In order for your children to make the most of their potential, they’ll need to put in plenty of hard work.
The problem is, most students see hard work as something to be avoided whenever possible.
But hard work is both meaningful and rewarding. To help your children see this, share with them the joy of overcoming obstacles, solving problems, and reaping the fruit of their labor.
Gradually, they’ll start to see that hard work isn’t something to be dreaded. It’s something to be enjoyed!
3. Give your children descriptive praise.
What’s descriptive praise?
It’s the kind of praise where you acknowledge your children’s good behavior by specifically describing what they did, rather than using generic phrases like “Well done” or “Good job.”
For example, you might say to your children, “I noticed that you finished all your homework before going out with your friends. That’s responsible of you.”
Descriptive praise is an effective tool in encouraging your children to improve their attitude and effort.
4. Focus on solutions and opportunities, not problems.
This is especially important when it comes to your own life, because your attitude affects your children’s attitude.
So make an effort to reframe problems as opportunities, and explain to your children how you’re taking advantage of these opportunities.
By doing so, they’ll be more likely to embrace this positive mindset too.
In addition, teach your children to ask this question whenever they’re faced with a difficult situation: “What is one thing I can do right now to make the situation better?”
This is a powerful question that will open their eyes to the productive actions they could take, rather than indulging in complaining.
5. Show your children that you’re pursuing excellence, too.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a mechanic, chef, nurse, bus driver, CEO, or homemaker – you can always improve. You can work toward becoming a master at your craft.
As your children observe you attending seminars, taking online courses, and reading books, they’ll be inspired to pursue excellence, too.
6. Don’t complain.
I’m sure you know people who complain all the time.
Do you enjoy hanging out with them? Probably not.
If you continually complain about your work, the weather, or the government, it’s a sign that you haven’t taken full responsibility for your life.
Taking full responsibility for your life means that you don’t make excuses. In contrast, you focus on what’s within your control to make the situation – and your life – better.
Through your can-do attitude, you’ll influence your children to adopt this attitude as well.
7. Be enthusiastic about life.
I know . . . it’s hard to be enthusiastic about life when there are so many frustrations to deal with and problems to solve.
But enthusiasm makes life more interesting and fun. It also makes it more likely that you’ll find success in the long run, because you won’t lose heart so easily.
Not only that, enthusiasm is contagious. Given the influence you have over your children, the more enthusiastic you are about life, the more enthusiastic they’ll be. And the entire family will have more fun!
8. Lead by example.
No matter how many times your children call you “uncool” or “old-fashioned,” don’t be fooled into thinking that they aren’t observing you.
As the leader of your home, your children look to you as a role model.
So if you want them to be passionate about learning, show them that you’re passionate about learning.
If you want them to be focused and disciplined, show them that you’re focused and disciplined.
If you want them to serve the community, show them that you’re serving the community.
As you do this, your children will follow your lead.
9. Remind your children that you love and accept them unconditionally.
Many of the students I work with tell me that they feel as though their parents would love and accept them more, if only they . . .
- Got better grades
- Studied harder
- Performed better in their extracurricular activities
- Used their phones less
- Watched less TV
The list goes on.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s good to watch hours of TV every day or to perform badly in school.
But when children and teens feel that their parents’ acceptance is conditional, they’ll typically turn to the online world or to their friends to find acceptance.
This means that they’ll have less time and energy for more meaningful pursuits.
If you want your children to pursue excellence, remind them often that you love and accept them unconditionally.
This way, it will be easier to hold them to high standards of behavior without jeopardizing your parent-child relationship.
As the saying goes, “Leaders are readers.”
In fact, I don’t know a single successful person who doesn’t read at least ten books a year.
Reading widely exposes you to new perspectives and ideas, enhancing your knowledge.
As you read, share with your children the interesting things you’re learning. This will spark in them a love for learning, which is the foundation of excellence.
11. Stand for something.
At the heart of it, excellence is about becoming a person of principles and character.
In other words, excellence is less about what you do, and more about who you’re becoming.
In order for your children to understand the importance of values and principles, you must stand for something yourself.
It might be a cause you commit to or a set of principles you adhere to. Whatever it is, demonstrate to your children what you live for, and what you’d die for.
12. Develop a clear vision for your family.
When your family has a collective vision that you’re all working toward, your children will begin to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
They’ll understand that they have responsibilities to fulfill, one of which is to maximize their talents and abilities in the service of others.
This week, I encourage you to hold a family meeting and develop a mission statement.
(You can find some guidelines for writing a family mission statement here.)
13. Overcome your fears.
As you pursue excellence, you’ll need to overcome your fears.
If you want your children to lead great lives, show them that you’re passionate about personal growth.
Whether you have a fear of public speaking, heights, rejection, or spiders, take small steps to conquer that fear every day.
This way, your children will be inspired to embark on their own journey of overcoming their fears.
14. Share your struggles with your children.
Dare to be vulnerable. Talk to your children about some of the struggles you’re going through.
As you do this, share with them what you’re doing to overcome these struggles, and how you maintain a positive attitude through it all.
Over time, your children will understand that life is full of challenges, but that working through them is what makes life meaningful.
15. Speak less and listen more.
Tips #1 through #14 are things you should either do or say. But the most powerful way to inspire your children to pursue excellence is to first listen to them.
It’s through listening to them that you’ll understand their dreams, desires, insecurities, and challenges.
With this understanding, you’ll know how best to encourage them to be courageous and committed.
So lecture and scold your children less, and listen to them more.
Not only will this strengthen your parent-child relationship, it will also propel your children down the path of enduring success.
As a parent, you want your children to maximize their potential, and to find long-term fulfillment and success.
By applying the 15 tips outlined in this article, you’ll help your children to do just that.
If you put the tips into practice one tip at a time and one day at a time, you’ll see steady improvement.
So I encourage you to try out just one tip that you find relevant, starting today.
Review your progress weekly, and implement a new tip every couple of weeks.
Over time, your children will be inspired to pursue excellence. And you’ll be a proud parent!
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