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Raising a Successful Child Is a Curse for Every Parent

Raising a Successful Child Is a Curse for Every Parent

It’s tough being a parent. Parents do their best to make sure the kids live healthy and happy lives. Despite the good intentions, sometimes parents miss the mark. One of the most common mistakes that parents make is that they hang their hopes for success on the kids without realizing it.

The well-known movie Little Miss Sunshine, is an example of this. The movie is built around a family’s journey to take their little girl Olive to a pageant. The family’s happiness seems to hinge upon Olive’s ability to perform in this pageant. That’s a lot of pressure for a seven-year old to bear. While Olive marches to the beat of her own drum, many of the other contestants’ parents are hyper-aggressive. They’ve set a standard that’s nearly impossible for a child to uphold.

    These kids’ happiness isn’t coming from a joy of competing. In many cases, though, their parents’ happiness comes from the success of their children. It’s wonderful to want our kids to be the best at whatever they do, but we must ensure that they’re doing these things for the right reasons.

    For the best of the kids?

      I don’t know a parent who doesn’t want their kid to have more opportunities and have a better quality of life than they had. Parents sign their kids up for classes, put together special outings, and demand that they have the best education. Parents want their kids to grow up to be the smartest, most artistic, most athletic, most compassionate adult that they can be.

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      When parents get into the mindset of raising “winners”, they run into trouble. Where there are winners there are also “losers.” It’s one thing for a child to feel competitive, but when parents become competitive, it can take the fun out of any activity.

      For example, if someone says that kid A plays the piano more beautifully than kid B, kid B’s parents might decide that he needs to practice more. Kid B attends more intensive piano lessons for longer hours so that he can improve. Just to assure that his musical superiority is without question, kid B’s parents also get him violin lessons.

      When kid A’s parents host the coolest birthday party of the season, kid B’s parent’s try to outdo them. They add more entertainment and invite more children so that kid B can have the most friends. In reality, kids A and B probably don’t care about fancy parties. This is about their parents.

      The unspoken war between parents

        Parents can be cruel to one another. When a parent doesn’t push their children to be involved in many activities, other parents may judge them. They may say things like, “Why aren’t they nurturing their kid’s interests by getting them into more activities?” or “Why are their kids so quiet? It’s like they don’t know how to interact with others because they never do anything.”

        The people who are saying those judgmental things may be genuinely worried, but the criticism may also highlight their insecurities about parenting. In response to this judgement, parents start to care too much about what others think of their children. They may feel that how people view their kids is a reflection on them.

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        The self-conscious parent judges themselves based on what people say about their kids. “She said my daughter lacks social skills. Is that my fault? Is it because I keep to myself so much?” We forget sometimes that kids have personalities all their own.

        The self-consciousness and judgement have nothing to do with kids’ happiness. This is only about parents feeling secure. It seems like the better a kid does, the more parents feel like they are doing the right things as parents. They place their value and self-worth as adults on the shoulders of their children.

        An endless chase to get ahead

          Growing up is hard enough without added pressure. Being a parent is already stressful without having impossible standards. Kids and parents suffer when they are locked into unrealistic expectations.

          Children are extremely sensitive and intuitive. They pick up on everything their parents do, and they genuinely want approval. If they place more value on pleasing their parents than on doing what they love, they’ll never be happy.

          When kids are forced to focus on their parents’ expecations, they don’t get the chance to think for themselves. It feels good to get attention and recognition when you are the best at something. Kids who can’t meet the standard will always feel unfulfilled and unhappy.

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          Parents who only take pride in their kids for their victories—whether those are sports trophies, good grades, or other awards—are missing out on a huge opportunity. Instead of teaching a child not to be afraid of failure, they show kids that their worth is outside of themselves. Their self esteem is built off external validation.

          Of course this is bad for the kids, but think about what it does to the parents. They run themselves ragged trying to make sure that their kids are always ahead of others. Children miss out on a childhood, but parents also don’t get to experience the joys of raising a child.

          Set an example by self-focusing

          Parents are often taught to sacrifice everything to ensure that their kids have the best opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with making sacrifices, but parents must remember that they have an identity outside of their children.

          Parents who are hyper-focused on their child’s success are unintentionally modeling a need for external validation. Instead of showing kids how important it is to be yourself, they make kids’ self esteem dependent on what other people think.

          Nobody intends to teach a bad lesson. Luckily, kids can bounce back from this sort of pressure if parents recognize that they are behaving this way. Parents can teach kids what true happiness looks like by making time to do the things that they want to do. Model balance and stability for kids, and you’ll be amazed at the good that can come from it.

          Let them fall, and let yourself fall

          When parents relax, they learn to take failures in stride. They can take some of the pressure off themselves and their kids.

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          We’re going to mess up and fail sometimes. We can’t learn unless we make mistakes. How great is it that kids can make mistakes in the safe environment of your home? They’ll be better at handling failure in adulthood if they haven’t spent their whole childhood being the best at everything. When children make mistakes, everyone learns too. Their mistakes can make you a better parent. You may have to help them problem-solve or learn a new skill to deal with the problem.

          For parents who’ve been living through their kids’ successes, changing this pattern can come as a real blow to the ego. Kids have to learn how to pick themselves up after falling down, and they have to learn that they won’t always be the best at everything.

          You might have been afraid to let them fail because you didn’t want them to be disappointed, but now you can teach them about resiliency. You can show them that they still have value–even if they fail. That inner strength will carry them through any challenges that life brings to them. It will teach them to pursue the things that they want rather than do what someone else wants them to do.

          You have the power to shape your child’s self-esteem and self-worth. As Mr. Rogers says,

          There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.

          The best thing that you can do for kids is to nurture their interests without losing sight of your own. Understand that they will make mistakes, and be there for them. Teach them what healthy competition looks like, but show them that they are more than the sum of external successes and failures.

          More by this author

          Anna Chui

          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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          Published on November 12, 2020

          How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

          How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

          As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

          How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

          What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

          If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

          Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

          Identifying Strengths

          Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

          I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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          Participate in Their Play

          Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

          According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

          When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

          Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

          Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

          Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

          Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

          When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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          Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

          These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

          Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

          As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

          Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

          Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

          At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

          Um, yes, please?

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          As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

          Provide Many At-Bats

          Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

          There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

          Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

          Teach Them to Trust but Verify

          Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

          You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

          Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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          Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

          Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

          While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

          Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

          I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

          So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

          How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

          In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

          More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

          Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

          Reference

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