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How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

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,[1] 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.

1. Inattentiveness

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.[2] 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.

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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.[3] 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.

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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.

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Research discussed in the Wall Street Journal[4] 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.[5] 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.

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The Center for Parenting Education examines the topic of parents as role model and states the following:[6]

“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.

Final Thoughts

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

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on October 23, 2020

How to Help Your Kids to Deal with Bullies at School

How to Help Your Kids to Deal with Bullies at School

Sara is in her first year of Junior High. Every day, when Sara walks down the school hallway between her mid-morning classes, there is a group of girls who will tease, push her, or dump her books from her arms.

She wonders daily what she did to deserve their meanness. She doesn’t even know these girls as they came from a different primary school than her own. Every evening, she lays in bed and cries just thinking about having to encounter these girls in the hallway the next day.

Jeremy used to be good friends with Bill until Bill started calling Jeremy names. At first, it started as what seemed to be Bill trying to get a laugh from the other boys on his soccer team. He would make fun of Jeremy to get a laugh from the other boys. He has continued with the behavior for weeks, but it has gotten worse and Bill now calls Jeremy hurtful names at their soccer practice every day. Jeremy is thinking about quitting soccer because the situation has become so bad.

Renee was born with a congenital defect. Her arm is malformed and she only has three fingers on one hand. She is in her first year of primary school. There is a little boy in her class who makes fun of her arm and mimics her arm movements and shortened arm effect anytime they are together and a teacher isn’t watching. Renee cries at home after school saying that she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. Her parents are bewildered as she has been begging to go to school for years. Now that she is old enough to be enrolled in primary school, she doesn’t want to attend anymore after just one month of school. Her parents have no idea what is causing her to be upset and not want to go to school.

These are just three examples of bullying. Bullying can vary widely in behavior and context. Parents must know the difference between “kids just being kids” and bullying.

Bullying Defined

Bullying involves repeated behavior that harms another child. For example, the girls who continually pick on Sara in the hallway are bullying her by dumping her books, pushing her, and shoving her every day.

Bullying is not always physical, though. For example, in the situation of Jeremy, his teammate Bill is bullying him by calling him names repeatedly.

StopBullying.gov is a website about bullying that is hosted by the United States government. This website provides a clear definition of bullying as the following:[1]

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include [an imbalance of power and repetition].

An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Bullying is aggressive, mean, and/or unwanted behaviors that happen repeatedly to a child.

Intervention

Bullying, especially for kids, requires immediate intervention. If your child suddenly decides that they no longer want to go to school or that they want to quit an activity, then a discussion should occur. Sit down with your child, and ask them what is going on in their life.

Have compassion, understanding, and care in your words and tone of voice so that your child can open up to you. You never know if they are being a victim of bullying unless they open up to you and share what is occurring in their life.

Some children don’t share immediately because they are embarrassed by the bullying. Others don’t tell their parents because they are afraid of the bully. They worry that if they tell, the wrath of the bully may get worse. This should also be a concern for the parents.

Any intervention must be effective in removing the threat of the bully. If reporting the situation makes the bully’s behavior worse, then the intervention has failed.

Talk to School Leadership

Parents should talk to school leadership, such as the teacher, counselor, or principal when a bullying situation is occurring. If the bullying is happening at school, then the staff should be made aware so that they can intervene.

Most schools have policies and protocols in place for handling bullies. Such things may include separating the students so that they aren’t interacting anymore.

For example, with the situation of Renee, the boy who makes fun of her arm may be moved away from the school table they currently share. He would be moved to a separate side of the classroom so that he couldn’t easily communicate or make fun of Renee.

Then, the counselor would talk to the boy about how his actions are hurtful and why he shouldn’t be making fun of anyone. The teacher and principal may have to implement consequences, such as removal from class or suspension, that are made clear to the student and his parent if he continues his behavior.

In many instances, removing the opportunity for the students to interact is the best way for the bullying to stop. If the bully doesn’t have the opportunity to interact or communicate with the victim, their bullying behavior is stopped. This is the reason why in many instances of bullying parents need to involve school staff members (if it is happening at school).

Parents can’t control where the students sit in the classroom. However, the school can change where students sit in the classroom. Parents should speak to the school about the bullying to ensure that appropriate interventions are made, including separating the bully from their victim.

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Parents

Parents are advocates for their children. If parents do not stand up to protect their child, then who will? When a situation of bullying is revealed by a child, the parents need to take the information seriously.

Unfortunately, many parents of bullies don’t want to admit that their child is a bully. It can look and feel like they failed as parents. When a child is being bullied, that parent may reach out to the bully’s parent for intervention only to be put off. The bully’s parent may claim it is the other child’s fault, or they may insist that their child is innocent.

This is why intervention should happen at the school if possible. Parents must advocate protecting their children as bullying can leave mental and emotional scars. The sooner they can get the bullying to cease, the better.

Bullying Can Have Serious Effects

Victims of bullying can develop depression and anxiety. The ongoing bullying can impact a child mentally and emotionally long term. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center cites research that shows that both bullies and their victims are at an increased risk for suicide.[2] In recent years, suicide has been increasing among teens and pre-teens. Bullying, including cyberbullying, is one of the primary causes for the increase in suicide among our youth.

The serious—and sometimes even deadly—effects of bullying should be considered by all parents. If a child comes forward to reveal a situation of bullying, affecting either them or someone else, then parents and adults must intervene. Schools are set up to handle these situations, with policies and protocols in place. The consequences of bullying can be quite serious, which is why most schools have taken steps to institute bullying policies.

Signs of Bullying

Not all kids will come forward to tell their parents that they are being bullied. Parents should be aware of behavioral changes in their child, such as depression, anxiety, sadness, loss of interest in activities or school, sleeping issues, not eating, irritability, and moodiness. If your child exhibits any of these behaviors for a period of two weeks or more, then it is time to talk to the child about what is happening in their life.

A parent who suspects bullying may be happening can talk to their child about bullying in general. The parent can explain what bullying can look like, or they can provide an example that has happened in their own life. They can explain that it is not the victim’s fault.

Let the child know that if they see other children being bullied or if they are experiencing bullying, then they need to tell an adult (preferably you as the parent). When the child believes that telling can help the situation, that child is likely to then talk about it.

How to Help Your Kids

If your child is being bullied, you can and should help them. You can do it not only via intervention within the school but also by helping them cope with the situation.

The first step is talking—having the child open up and talk about what is happening so that you can help them with strategies to stop the bullying. You can’t help them unless you know what is actually happening.

Here are some more ways that you can help your child who is dealing with a bully:

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1. Advise Them to Avoid the Bully

If they aren’t exposed to the bully, then the bullying often stops. This is often why school intervention is needed so that the kids are separated and no longer have interactions.

If it is cyberbullying taking place (e.g., your child is being bullied on social media) then they may need to block the person who is bullying them or put their own account on hold.

2. Advise Them to Walk Away and Not Engage

Many bullies thrive on reaction. The reaction from the person being bullied is what fuels their behavior. They may be doing it to make others laugh, or they do it to feel power over another person. If the reaction from the one being bullied goes away, then the bully may become less interested.

You should advise your kids to not engage with a bully. Walking away without reacting is a good way of handling the bully.

3. Let Them Know It Is Okay to Get Help

The child should feel empowered to get help when they need it. For example, if Jeremy stays in soccer and the coach is informed about what is happening and the bullying happens again, Jeremy should tell the coach.

He can do it confidentially after practice, or he can talk to the coach off to the side during practice if possible. If Jeremy needs intervention for Bill to stop, then he needs to ask for help when it happens.

4. Build Their Confidence

Often, a bully chooses to bully someone because they see the person as a weak or easy target. Other times, a child is picked on because there is something about them that is different. Building up your child’s confidence and self-esteem is important to helping them prepare for handling bullying in the future.

For example, if another child makes fun of Renee’s arm next year in her new class, she would be prepared to shut it down by defending herself confidently with calm words that deter the child from making fun of her again.

Every situation is different. But if your child has something that makes them different or stand out from others, then they can be prepared to handle the situation better if they know in advance what they would say to someone who picks on them for this difference.

5. Encourage Them to Have Positive Friendships

Children and youth need peer relationships. This helps them live a balanced and healthy life. A child without peer relationships and friendships is more likely to be a target of bullies.

Encourage your child to make friends with others who are positive and kind. Help your child develop these skills as well. You can’t get friends unless you can be a friend.

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Be There for Your Child

One of the worst things that a parent can do when their child is being bullied is for them to say “tough it out” or “kids will be kids”. Not taking their situation seriously and not helping them is failing them. Parents must be willing to not only listen to their child and allow them to express things openly, but they must also be ready to help their child.

If your child comes to you because they are being bullied, then take the situation seriously. The lasting effects of bullying are not something you will want to deal with in the future. Deal with the situation at hand so that the bullying can cease today.

Be prepared to take serious action. If your school principal is not taking the situation seriously, then take it to the next level. Inform the school board or school administrators about what is happening. Keep the facts, and let them know you want the bullying to stop immediately.

If the school doesn’t take any action and the bully continues to be a threat to your child, then be prepared to remove your child from the situation or the school, so you can protect your child from harm. Above all else, our job as parents is to protect our children.

Bullying is not a one-time instance of someone saying something mean to your child. Bullying is a repeated act, whether physically or verbally, that is harming your child. Don’t allow your child to be repeatedly harmed. Once you know that bullying is happening, it must be stopped immediately through appropriate interventions.

Get Additional Help if Needed

If your child has been bullied and is suffering from depression, anxiety, or other emotional turmoil because of bullying then they should get professional help. You can go to Psychology Today and enter your location to find a qualified therapist near you. This website allows you to search by issue and treatment age as well. This can help you find a therapist near you who can help your child with their specific issues.

Stomp Out Bullying is another website with additional support and information about bullying. They offer a free chat line to teens who are experiencing bullying. If your teen is being bullied and needs additional support check out their website today.

Final Thoughts

Bullying, especially for kids, is a serious matter that should be addressed as soon as possible. It can bring long-term psychological and physical damage to your children if you don’t act on it immediately. Your primary role as a parent is to protect your child from harm. This guide can help you help your kids to deal with bullies to get them out of harm’s way.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] StopBullying.gov: What Is Bullying
[2] Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Suicide and Bullying

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