Every parent wants their children to outshine them..to be smarter, better, faster, more agile, more compassionate, more successful than they are. So, how do we as parents set the stage for our children to thrive and reach new heights that extend beyond our own accomplishments and limitations?
Obviously, genetics play a big part in the developmental foundation of a child. Equally important is the environment in which that child develops. Since we as a society are not yet able to routinely optimize our genetics to benefit our children, we as parents can optimize our parenting with deliberate, intentional practices to help produce stellar children.
Here are a few successful parenting practices that can augment/enhance a child’s aptitudes and intellect.
- Assign your child regular chores and a regular schedule in which to do them. Julie Lythcott Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of How To Raise An Adult, tells us that children raised on chores tend to become collaborative co-workers, more empathic adults and self reliant human beings. Be clear. Be specific. Recognize your child’s efforts with a “nice job, honey,” not a reward, bribe, nor an allowance contingency for doing the chore(s).
- Establish high expectations for and with your child. Children rise to expectations that are clear and specific. The key here is balancing what’s a stretch and what’s realistically doable. If the child is athletic, tie the expectation to a specific aspect of a sport. If the child is a statistically oriented, tie the expectation to creating data for a favorite school subject. Have different expectations for each child because, obviously, each child is different.
- Help the child develop good coping skills. Work with your child to find ways to manage his/her anger, to be able to delay gratification and to develop skills for dealing with resolving conflicts.
- Make sure that you provide your child with enough room to fail. If a child feels that she must succeed at everything she does to meet your expectations, eventually, she’ll simply stop trying and/or doing out of fear of failing. We all know that failure is a big part of success so manage and minimize failure’s risk but do not eliminate it.
- Help your child develop and learn good social skills such as co-operation, intuition, helpfulness, etc. In today’s world, social/emotional IQs are equally as important as intellectual IQs.
- Quality time rather than time quantity is essential to your young child’s development. Keep your child’s environment and interactions with you stimulating, engaging and non-stressful.
- Teach them to have a “fighting spirit.” The foundational elements of mental toughness are tenacity, grit, stick-to-it-tiveness, focus. Help your child develop those elements so she/he will be able to handle sustained, hard efforts over the long term.
- Help them be their own person. Help your child identify his/her own strengths, weaknesses, preferences, dislikes so your child is able to develop her/his own sense of self, not yours. An over-protective parent hinders a child’s sense of independence, competency and self confidence; an under-protective parent hinders a child’s sense of integrity, direction, ability to focus and commit.
- Think long term! Become a parent with an end in mind, rather than a parent who picks at every single thing the child does/doesn’t do. The best way to teach your child certain behaviors is to model them in your own behavior. Your child will notice the more you do them over time.
- Practice the 3 F’s…firmness, fairness and flexibility when correcting behaviors, doling out punishments and communicating with your child in tough circumstances.