My family is a work in progress. My husband and I am trying our best to be good parents so that we can have successful kids and more importantly, successful adults. We have five-year-old twin boys and a seven-year-old girl. Success to us does not mean great wealth or fame. Our ideals don’t point us toward parenting our kids to become rich and famous. We define success according to our family’s ideals, which include loving others, having good moral character (this is based on our faith), finding passion and purpose for life, and contributing to society in a meaningful way. These are our personal ideals.
Your ideals and definition of success may be different. Every family is different, as are their values. It is important to recognize your own family ideals in order to have direction and purpose for your family. I wrote about this topic on my blog, and you can read it if you are interested in creating purpose and a mission for your family, based on your ideals.
With my own kids being so young, I can’t speak from personal experience on how to raise kids to be successful. We are still in the process of raising our kids and are doing what we think is best to raise our kids to become successful adults. I am hoping and praying that someday, I can speak from experience, when they are grown and leading successful lives as adults. We aren’t there yet.
However, I can look at parents who have raised their children to be successful. There are families that I know personally, along with research articles I have read about raising successful children, from which I have learned valuable tips. I will share what I have learned below on how to be a good parent and raise children to become successful adults.
There is an incredible study that recently released its results following 30 years of research. This study was reported in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry. They followed over 2,500 six-year-old children for 30 years to assess the ability to succeed in life. Their findings reported that the adults who were less successful had inattention at a young age.
Inattention was defined in this study by a variety of variables including poor sharing skills, lack of focus, blaming others, aggressiveness, and high levels of anxiousness. This means that we, as parents need to look at how we can effectively parent to reduce inattentive behaviors. Teaching our children to share, how to focus, and handling issues of aggression and anxiousness are imperative to helping our children become successful adults.
For example, if you attend a parent teacher conference and you are told that your child exhibits high levels of anxiousness, you don’t just brush if off as one opinion or hope that your child will grow out of it. Instead, you look for a counselor or therapist to get your child some help. Perhaps the anxiousness isn’t severe and stems from the difficulties your daughter is having in making friends at school. The therapist helps your daughter work through her feelings and teaches her some valuable skills on how to make friends.
Dealing with the anxiousness and aggression are important aspects of helping children become successful. If your child exhibits these behaviors, then get them the help that they need, for the sake of their success in the future.
2. Be There for Your Kids
One tip for raising successful kids is to be there for your children. Children want their parents. They would rather have time and attention from their parents than toys and things.
We need to ensure that our personal life and work life are balanced, so that our children get the time that they need from us. If we are working 90 hours a week at the office, it is going to be difficult to be there for our kids. They want us to be there for their activities and for their everyday too, including helping with homework and eating meals together on a regular basis.
A study by Raby et al (2014) found that children who had sensitive maternal caregiving early in childhood were more likely to be successful mentally (having higher educational levels) and were more socially competent as adults. This shows that it is crucial for children to have loving and sensitive interactions with their parents when they are young. It affects the child’s development and how they turn out as adults. Young children who are provided with sensitive care, love, and attentions are more likely to be successful as adults.
I have been a stay-at home mom and writer for the past eight years. As a Doctor of Psychology, I know how important parental involvement is during early childhood. I recognize that having one parent stay at home is not an option, or best option, for all families. However, it was for our family. My kids are used to having me at their activities. Recently, I missed a camp performance for my daughter. I was packing our family for our annual National Parks Road Trip that we were leaving on in two days. My daughter had dance camp leading up to our vacation. At the conclusion of that camp, the participants put on a performance. I missed the performance. It was an oversight on my part, due to busyness in packing for our trip and taking care of the twins that day.
I can’t recall ever missing an important event like this for my daughter, ever. When I arrived to pick her up, she was in tears. She was upset that I missed her performance. I apologized and we talked about it. It was eye opening to me. She often acts like she doesn’t care whether I am there to volunteer in her classroom, go on her field trips, or attend her school function. Missing this one event showed me how much she cares. She was extremely broken-up that I was not there for her. It was a good lesson for her as well. Perhaps she will show her appreciation for me being there at her events in the future. We discussed this as well, since it was a good opportunity during that moment of revelation of her true feelings.
All kids want their parents at their special events and moments in their lives. They want their parents to be there for them, to be their ultimate cheerleader. Life is difficult. We all need people and a support system. Parents should be the natural first line of support in the lives of their children. It is not always possible because of life circumstances such as death, illness, or other sad situations. However, if you are alive and able to be there to raise your children and be there for them on a day to day basis, then you should make every effort to make that possible.
Your children need you. They are only little once. Your ability to influence how they develop emotionally, socially, and mentally has a window of opportunity. It is while they are young. Be there for your children, so you can make a positive impact on their development, especially in the first years of their lives, as research by Raby et al. (2014) showed us that the first few years of life a parent’s presence and type of care affects their success in adulthood.
3. Praise Effort Over Achievement
Having grit is a better predictor of success than IQ, according to Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who wrote the best-seller Grit. One of the best ways to help children develop grit is to praise their efforts and not their achievements. If you praise their efforts, then when they fail, they can still identify the good in the situation and not feel like a complete failure.
Children need to be praised. They develop their self-worth and confidence when they can achieve success, even in small things in life such as learning to tie their shoes or learning to ride a bike. They can pick themselves back up from failure as they are learning these activities when they have someone encouraging them along the way and praising their efforts.
If a parent is putting them down and telling them they are such a failure and loser every time they fall off their bike, then they are going to feel defeated and feel like the loser you are telling them that they are.
Your words to your children are powerful. A child’s value in life will initially develop based on what their parents have told them about their value. I have worked with individuals who have had to overcome emotional and physical abuse in childhood. They were repeatedly told that they were of no value. They grew up believing this lie, because it was told to them by one or both of their parents. It took therapy, time, and effort for these individuals to overcome the defeating messages that their parents imprinted on them as children.
If you tell your child that he or she is dumb repeatedly, eventually they will believe you and take it to heart. Some kids take it to heart and believe it the first time it is said to them. Words can damage just as much, if not more, than physical abuse.
Be careful in the words you speak to your children. Children do need correction and guidance, but it doesn’t have to inflict damage to who they are as a person. They should never be told they are dumb, worthless, meaningless, or lazy. They will take these messages to heart. Correction should never involve name calling.
Children need positive words so that they can believe in themselves enough to try. Children who have been encouraged correctly, with praise being provided for their efforts, are more likely to develop grit. Grit is a great predictor of success. You can help your child develop grit by praising their efforts and avoiding negative messages such as name calling and belittling.
4. Teach Them to Work Hard at Home
Successful people are typically hard-working people. People know how to keep going even when they want to give up, and when they have a good work-ethic. Teaching kids to work hard begins at home. This means assigning chores.
Children need to develop a good work ethic and learn to be a part of the team (team family) in order to be successful as adults. Doing chores is not only about lifting the workload for parents and caregivers. It is also about teaching children responsibility and that they have a role in the family chores and workload.
Research discussed in the Wall Street Journal showed that children are more successful as adults when they have grown up being assigned chores on a regular basis. However, their research also showed that fewer and fewer parents are assigning regular chores to their children. Children need to be assigned chores. There are many benefits to chores being assigned such as:
- Children learn that things don’t come free. They must earn an allowance from doing work or chores to earn things that they want.
- Children learn that they are part of a team and that parents aren’t solely responsible for maintaining a household and doing all the work. Children play a role in being a part of the running of a household and this means doing chores daily.
- Children learn that they are held accountable for the job that they do. If they don’t complete their chores, then there are consequences. If they complete their chores, there is a reward (maybe it is having a roof over their head, food to eat, and a home that is maintained); for other families, it may be an allowance provided for completed chores.
- Children learn to work hard by doing chores. Not doing their chores has consequences. Those consequences should be big enough (such as removing technology or favorite toys) that they are strong motivators for completing chores, as required. They learn to work hard and complete the chores, even when they would rather be playing or doing something else more fun.
- Children learn to respect their home. When children have to take care of the home, they become more conscious of the condition of the home. For example, a child that is required to clean the bathroom and then has a sibling come in and use the shower only to leave towels and bath products all over the floor is going to become upset that their sibling ruined their hard work. They will become better at taking care of the home and their belongings, if they have an active role and involvement in maintaining a home.
Extracurricular activities and homework are important. However, teaching children to work hard through chores is just as important, as shown in this Wall Street Journal article. Don’t allow your children to get so busy that they can’t participate in household chores. Chores will help them in their development and ability to be successful as adults.
5. Teach Them to Have Good Character
For many families the teaching of character development is rooted in their faith and religious practices. This is true for our family but, going to church is not enough. We must consciously work to teach our children to be loving individuals. Teaching them qualities of good character is an ongoing daily process. The first step is identifying which character traits are most important.
An article in TIME, written by EstherWojcicki, who has raised two CEO’s and a doctor, outlines specific traits to develop in children to make them successful adults. She identifies these traits that lead to success as trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. These are all character traits that as parents, we have the ability to instill in our children.
It doesn’t mean it is an easy task, but it is about parenting in a way that the development of these specific traits is emphasized. For example, trust should be taught at home and instilled at a young age. When your child lies about stealing cookies from the cookie jar, there are consequences. They may lose their tablet for the next three days. They get this consequence, not only because they took the cookies without asking, but more so because they lied, and this is a trust issue (and you emphasize this when dealing with the infraction).
Teaching these traits is a daily practice. It involves consciously making an effort to work on the development of these traits among your entire household. It starts with you, the parent, first and foremost, as you are the example.
6. Be an Example
Being an example of success is one of the best ways to model to your children how they can become successful. The primary role model for children is usually their parents, as it should be, if possible. Parents are role models for their children whether they want to be or not. Therefore, if we want our children to become successful, then we need to model the behaviors above that are linked to success.
Trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness are behaviors we should model to children in our actions. Our children copy what we do. If they see that we cheat at a board game, then they learn that cheating is okay. If they watch us treat strangers with rudeness and hostility, they will that it is okay for them to treat others this way too. We are an example to our children in all that we do. Being a positive model of good character, working hard, and exhibiting grittiness, all help our children learn from our example and they will be more likely to succeed as adults.
The Center for Parenting Education examines the topic of parents as role model and states the following:
“Social scientists have shown that much of learning that occurs during childhood is acquired through observation and imitation. For most children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers, who have a regular presence in their lives. As a parent, it is impossible to not model. Your children will see your example – positive or negative – as a pattern for the way life is to be lived.”
If we want our children to be successful, we need to model success to them. Not only in the outcome, but the process. This means exhibiting personal qualities and character traits that align with success so that they can learn these behaviors from watching you, their parent, their most important role model.
Successful adults don’t just happen. They are developed. Children who are molded and shaped during their childhood for success are more likely to achieve success.
Parents have the opportunity to influence their child’s ability to succeed in adulthood. It is helping their children develop the qualities and traits associated with success that will essentially lead to children becoming successful as adults. These qualities to instill in our children to develop them into successful adults include hard-work, grit, trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness.
Being in our children’s lives to teach them these traits is imperative. If we aren’t around enough to teach them, they cannot learn from us. They will learn, not only by what we teach to them, but they will also learn by our example. It is important that we model these qualities associated with success consistently in our own lives. Our children are watching our example.
More About Parenting Tips
I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.
There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.
Table of Contents
What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?
1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids
When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it. This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.
When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.
If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.
An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.
Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.
Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.
2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity
Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.
Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:
- Social skill development
- Cognitive development
- Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
- Communication skills
- Emotional development
If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.
Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry. Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.
Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.
Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.
3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure
When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.
It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.
Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.
For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.
Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.
Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.
4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside
Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.
When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.
5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past
When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.
This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.
There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.
Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.
Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.
Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.
How to Turn Things Around?
1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions
Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.
In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.
Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.
When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.
In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.
Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.
Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.
2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing
Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.
As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.
Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.
3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities
Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.
For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.
If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.
Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:
- What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
- Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
- How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
- Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
- Does the child really want to do the activity?
- What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
- Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?
Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.
Get The Kids Active and Involved!
Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.