Usually, I like to highlight my own ideas in these blogs. However, for this post, I wanted to encourage readers to review Time Magazine’s September 5, 2016 lead article on “Ordinary Families – Extraordinary Kids,” Since some of you might not have access to this Time magazine issue, I am going to summarize the article’s key findings. Because I think they are crucial for any parent.
In this Time magazine article, the author examined ordinary families that produced extraordinary kids. Success of those kids was defined by their leadership, service, or achievement; it was not defined by fame or money. The author highlighted how these families were different in so many ways (ethnicity, wealth, areas of interests, etc.), but the author tried to uncover what was common (and necessary) for producing such successful kids. The article discovered 6 key features for raising extraordinary children.
First, each family seemed able to instill a sense of drive in those kids, coupled to a parental expectation for future success. There did not appear to be any additional pressure for success. It was just a perspective that each child was special, that each child had some gift, and that each child would build a career around that gift. There was also the expectation that the child would rise above any barrier. One parent, for example, always whispered into his kids’ ears (while they were asleep), “I can and I will.” Each family promoted that same empowering attitude.
Second, each family focused on early education, well before the start of formal education. The type of early education varied, but the focus on education always started in the first couple of years. The education might be home-taught reading and writing or even art projects. It could be early pre-school classes in more formal programs like Kumon. It could be a family habit of weekly trips to the library, even when the kids were jut 2-4. Studies have validated that early education approach. The first few years of life are the most important for learning and brain development.
Third, each family exposed the kids to politics and the world’s conflicts – and make that awareness a permanent feature of their in-home education. In addition, the parents seemed to reinforce the viewpoint that world may have problems, but the individual could make a difference. The world was not unmanageable; it was malleable and could be shaped. That perspective seemed to reinforce the kids’ feelings that success was possible. A person could succeed through activism – becoming involved and taking action toward specific goals.
Fourth, each family faced varied and different conflicts and barriers, including violent neighborhoods. But the conflicts were never between the parents. A positive relationship between the parents seemed crucial in creating the atmosphere where the kids could develop to their own potential. There was even a persuasive sense that the family was always more important that the individual. So, these kids grew up with family support and no internal parental conflict, thereby allowing them to focus on their own personal growth and development.
Fifth, each family did not make any attempt to shield their kids from personal losses. Instead, with the untimely death of family relatives or friends, the parents made an effort to underscore the importance of going for the things you wanted now, not later – because life is short and you never what may happen. The kids did not grow up with a preoccupation with their mortality, but they seemed more poised to utilize their time wisely. They also seemed to learn the fundamental lesson for all of us. We’d better find what he like to do – and start doing it.
Sixth, each family steered clear of restrictions on the kids’ interests and passions. It was a common perspective shared among the parents. They were the opposite of helicopter parents. They would not recommend a path or push any passion. Instead, they would support their kids’ decisions and choices. With this framework for the household, the kids could follow their own dreams. In family after family, the successful kids did just that. They found a passion and they created their own purpose. They were given freedom and they were allowed to soar – to hit their own target.
In summary, these six points give any parent some guideposts for raising their children. Establish a solid relationship between your partner to set a positive, safe home environment. Encourage early learning (it will become a life-long habit) so their brains can develop to their full potential. Expose them to the world with an empowering perspective that the world can be changed. Expose them to mortality with the message that everyone needs to go for what they want – and go for it without delay. Do not restrict their own interests or passions. Most importantly, do not impose your own parental interests.
Lastly, as quoted earlier in this post, the Time magazine article highlighted those 5 words: “I can and I will.” Those words do not have an object. The parent needs to “push without direction.” If a child is provided the right home environment, if a child is taught that the world is malleable, if that child develops with a positive “I can do” attitude, and if that child is not swayed away from their own interests/ passions, then that child has the best chance to grow into a successful adult.
So, how about adopting some of these parenting skills …
And then supporting the success of your children …
Just be sure to give them the credit …