What does it really take to raise a successful child? In a TED Talk, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford Dean and bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult, explains how parents often have misplaced priorities (albeit with good intentions) when it comes to trying to raise a successful child. So what are we doing wrong and how can we make it happen? Here are her suggestions:
1. You've heard it before: we need to stop with the hovering. Lythcott-Haims talk stems from one big idea (or truth): micromanaging our children’s lives will not be good for our kids in the long run. Spurred on by the fast-paced, competitive world we live in, often, parents can’t help but expect too much of their kids.
“We expect our kids to perform at a level of perfection we were never asked to perform at ourselves,” she said. Lythcott-Haims calls the long list of expectations parents have for kids as a “tyrannical checklist.” Listed here are things like perfect scores on tests, high grades, and being active in extracurricular activities.
Often, to complete the list, parents resort to becoming a helicopter parent, she says, hovering over kids and solving the problems for them. Ultimately, overparenting burns kids out. This then leads to a child who is uninspired and is driven, not by their own dreams and interests, but by grades and college entrance applications.
2. Try not to focus on grades and homework. Self-efficacy, or a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation, does not thrive in a household with a parent who overhelps and overprotects, says Lythcott-Haims. “Self-efficacy is built when one sees that one's own actions lead to outcomes, not one's parents' actions on one's behalf.
If our children are to develop self-efficacy -- an essential life skill -- then they have to do "a whole lot more of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for themselves.”
That's parents should be less concerned about grades, adds Lythcott-Haims, but become far more concerned that their kids have the mindset, skill set, habits and wellness they need to be successful wherever they go. 3. Assign chores and show love. Citing from the longest longitudinal study of humans, the Harvard Grant Study, Lythcott-Haims said that successful kids have one thing in common: they did chores as a kid. Chores can develop a mindset that says “I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole” she said, and “that's what gets you ahead in the workplace.”
The study also found that a big predictor of success is love -- not love for work, but love for other people. “So childhood needs to teach our kids how to love, and they can't love others if they don't first love themselves, and they won't love themselves if we can't offer them unconditional love,” said Lythcott-Haims.
4. Redefine success. How do you imagine your child when you think of her as successful? Does she graduate from one of the country’s top universities? Does she have a six-figure salary in his 20s? Isn’t it also possible that success can mean more than this?
“It's like we literally think they will have no future if they don't get into one of these tiny set of colleges or careers we have in mind for them,” said Lythcott-Haims. “Contrary to what the college rankings racket would have us believe you don't have to go to one of the biggest brand name schools to be happy and successful in life.”
Instead, parents should support their children so they can become their true selves, discover their potential and find their success and happiness there. 5. Prepare them for success but let them pave the way. “Our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood, providing a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores,” said Lythcott-Haims.
On being a parent herself, Lythcott-Haims shared, “It's my job to provide a nourishing environment, to strengthen [my kids] through chores and to love them so they can love others and receive love -- and the college, the major, the career, that's up to them. My job is not to make them become what I would have them become, but to support them in becoming their glorious selves.”
At the end of the day, we must remember that our kids are just that, kids. They learn best through us -- when we show them love and nurture them, not when we hound them on their report cards. By instilling in them traits, qualities, and characteristics like resilience, determination and self-efficacy, our kids will succeed no matter what path they choose in life.