We all want the best for our kids, and learning to plant the right seeds, how to nurture them and then step back so they can grown, is a parents most important job. Here are the 11 seeds for what makes a child successful in life that can be planted early, and given the right amount of time and love to grow into the world on their own.
Nurturing Children – 11 Tools for What Makes a Child Successful in Life
I’ve been thinking a lot about what my three children need from me for the 18 years I have to raise them in our home. My older two are almost nine and this has me taking serious stock about what they have now, and what they still need from me and their Dad.
What can I do to prepare them best for their lives when they’re on their own?
I read a quote the other day that said, “Successful children have parents who are always working on their parenting skills.”
As I was thinking about this, I realized, it’s easy to get caught up in one area I’m focusing on, such as right now, I do my best to get 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each of my kids daily and fill their attention buckets.
However, when I’m focusing on this one thing, whether it’s positive discipline, routines, or adverting power struggles by giving choices, I also realize there are other aspects that slip through the cracks.
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you focus on just one thing.
Think about if you’re building a home. You won’t just one type of material, but many, right? You can’t build a home with only nails.
That’s exactly what parenting and raising well adjusted kids is like. You have to use many different tools, various materials, certain forms of carpentry and blend them together over time.
When I read through my collection of my favorite positive parenting books, there’s a common theme of what children need from parents to walk confidently into the world on their own.
These are the seeds you can plant early, and watch as they grow from years of nurturing and love.
Parenting is an slow dance, based on your best instincts and intuition.
But knowledge is power, especially while raising happy kids and raising a child to be successful in life.
There’s no “right way” to raise a child, but there is knowledge that can give us insight into what seeds need to be planted, how to nurture them and step back to watch them grow.
Here are the 11 things parents can do that help to make a child successful in life that go further than the basics of raising kids (you know… routines, sleep, healthy food, exercise, safety, etc.)
- Teach Emotional Intelligence
- Connection & Relationships
- Give Kids Power
- Allow Children to Struggle & Overcome Failure
- Teach Kids to be Kid to Themselves & to Others
- Give Them Freedom & Independence
- Your Parenting Lens
- Create a Save Haven with Your Home Atmosphere
- Monitor Messages from Outside Sources
- Teaching Responsibility & Self-Discipline
- Manage Money is a Lifelong Skill
Here are the 11 Skills that Will Help Raise a Successful and Happy Child
1. Teach Emotional Intelligence & Show Kids It’s OK to Cry
It’s okay for children to cry, to get angry, to feel jealous, overwhelmed, mad and excited.
Emotions are simply a way to expression one’s feelings and while they sometimes have negative connotations, what one feels is natural.
The problem, is that children don’t have the brain development to begin regulating their emotions until around the age of 7 when he higher brain starts to take form, and only then can they start to hone the skills to express them in healthy ways.
This explains why temper tantrums and meltdowns are hard for little ones to regulate up until the age of 7, because they lack the bandwidth to deescalate their emotions at that time.
However, as children age, it’s important to teach and allow children how to name their emotions, communicate what they feel, problem solve solutions and seek out calm ways to regulate their big emotions.
Not only do children with a strong awareness of emotional intelligence help themselves, but they’re more attuned and empathetic towards others. They makes it easier for them to recognize body language and facial expressions of others and make the connection to emotions.
These are lifelong skills that will benefit children as they grow into adults in relationships, in workplaces and social settings.
Say yes to feelings, even when you say no to behavior.
You can teach emotions with these magic emotional picture cards and calm down card sets. If you have older children learning to regulate their emotions better, the Green Means Go! Stoplight Method is an incredible teaching tool.
2. Connection & Relationships
The parent-child relationship is one of the most important, and defining relationships a child will have throughout their lives.
A parent, or adult raising a child becomes a safety net for kids when they try new things, deal with hard circumstances, struggles, are hurt, etc.
A relationship built on respect, empathy, trust sets the standard for all relationships in the child’s lives, more than one rooted in control and coercion.
Amy from Positive Parenting Solutions teaches that children need their attention bucket filled daily and if you spend 10 minutes solo with your child each day you’ll set yourself, and your child up for better behavior and higher quality connection.
3. Give Kids Power
Recently, I’ve had a few conversations with a children’s therapist what it means to meet children’s core emotional needs.
One of the key things she talks about is to let kids have more control.
This is a hard one for a lot of people, I know I like feeling in control precisely 99% of the time, so giving away some of it, makes me uncomfortable.
Think about it.
Who makes most of the decisions about what your kids eat for dinner, when they go to bed, where they go, what they wear, what they’re allowed to do and not do?
When I put myself in my kid’s shoes, I can see crystal-clear why power struggles happen.
The problem with too much control is that it creates two types of kids.
- Kids who always comply
- Kids who defy
My friend Darcy went on to explain that kids who always comply are less likely to not think on their own or act autonomously because they’re focused on pleasing their parents and getting approval, instead of doing and thinking for themselves.
And then, kids who defy are often labeled “troublemakers.” These are the kids who you think of when it comes to “power struggles,” and they have power struggles because they don’t feel they have any and it’s one of their core needs.
You see the problem?
Don’t we all want kids who think for themselves, and aren’t compelled to defy and engage in power struggles? Too much control doesn’t allow for any of these things to happen.
So, what do you do?
Treating the cause means supporting children’s need for more control over their own lives.
How the heck do that? Where do you start?
You give your children choices so they get the power from being the decision-maker.
- Have younger children? Start with offering two choices for dinner, for what to wear, between snack options. I
- If you have older children, offer choices for where to go for dinner, an outing or fun event, or if they want to do homework before or after an after-school snack.
Here are more ways to help give kids control:
- Throughout the day, provide your kids as many proactive choices as possible. If you can, plan choices ahead when you know there is potential for power struggles, and this will also help you stay calm.
- Don’t jump in when your kids are hurt or upset to fix things, but let them fail to help them develop the ability to manage negative emotions and find solutions on their own.
- Provide lots of opportunities now for them to make mistakes when it’s not as big a deal, than when they’re adults.
- Listen to their opinions – they may have an opinion you haven’t considered. This goes both ways as well. When I share my perspective and explain my reasoning, they’re more likely to accept my decision because they understand it.
When you give power to your kids, they’re more respectful and willing to do what you want or need to do such as running errands, or sitting down to do homework, when it’s your time to make a choice.
I promise, Letting go for the need to control means more freedom for you too!
4. Allow Children to Struggle & Overcome Failure
I was recently talking to my college swim coach about the girls on his team. I had noticed being on the pool deck at swim meets and practices, that they weren’t as “competitive” or team oriented as my squad was when I swam back in the day.
When I asked him, what was up, he said the girls were afraid of failure and wouldn’t race each other in practice and didn’t like to compete with one another.
These are college students who are swimming at a Division 1 level, at the top of their game and they’re afraid to swim “too fast” or upset a teammate by leading their practice lane or swimming against a friend at a swim meet.
He also said the parents of these girls frequently emailed and called his office to voice their concerns about practices (how hard they were, there were too many of them, etc.) and the meet swim race line-ups.
I’m sure my eyed bugged out of my head when he said this to me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I still can’t.
Part of my 10 years swimming as a high-level competitive athlete were riddled with failures. In fact, most of my years swimming was a learning process in failure.
I did not win every race. I did not have good practices every day. In fact, I would have a terrible season that’d last 6 months before I got over a training or racing hump, but that was all part of the learning process.
I had to learn how to fail, pick myself up, do the hard work at practice, get back on the block and dive in for more races again and again.
I had to keep going.
I had to work hard.
And the lessons I learned about struggle and failure has taught me to try new things, to do hard stuff, to push myself and keep going.
This is what kids need too. They need your support to try new things, to do hard stuff and for you to be a safety net when things don’t go as planned. Encourage your children to try new things, to pick them up and keep going.
All failures teach an important lesson that makes us all more resilient, and heck no, that means parents shouldn’t always be inclined to step in to “fix things” for their kids whether in elementary school or middle school, and certainly not college.
5. Teach Kids to Be Kind to Themselves & to Others
Children learn from their parents how to act, treat others, talk to themselves and language to use. Modeling positive behavior at home demonstrates how to be respectful, caring, loving, positive and confident in their own skin.
Parents are and will always be a child’s biggest role model.
How you treat yourself and those around you sets the precedence for how your children will treat themselves,and others, too.
Teach children to be kind to themselves, but also empathetic and do and say kind things to others.
6. Give Them Freedom & Independence
Children need freedom to explore, try hard things, be creative, and go out into the world not needing their hand held.
This is particularly hard for some parents to let go and not hover whether it’s out of fear or need for control, but it’s important to remember that our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world when we no longer walk beside them.
If they don’t experience the world on their own as children and teenagers, how will do they do when they’re in the thick of it solo?
How much freedom is appropriate to allow?
We don’t want to raise kids that feel entitled to always get their way and do whatever they want, but don’t want to hurt our relationship by being too rigid and arguing with them.
Supporting your kids need for control is an art, not a science. You learn as you go and as they grow.
Kids having control over their lives isn’t about letting them do whatever they want.
Kids need routines and limits to make them feel safe, have structure, they just need age-appropriate freedom as possible.
7. Your Parenting Lens
How you see your child matters. It matters a lot.
How do you talk about your child to others? Are the things you say negative or positive? Do you use negative language to say things like, “he’s so hard,” “he’s stubborn,” “he’s difficult,” “he can’t follow directions,” and more.
The way you see your child, the parenting lens you have, will become the mental dialogue of your child. How you see them, will become how they see himself.
Sometimes it’s hard to think before we speak, but it’s never been more important when little ears are around and hear, and then internalize, the words you think and feel about them.
What do you want the running dialogue in their heads to be of themselves?
8. Create a Safe Haven with Your Home Atmosphere
What does it take to create a positive home for your child? For them to feel safe, loved, heard and respected?
Creating a positive environment is important and will be a factor that affects your children their entire lives.
How many times have you walked into a home that has a negative, or bad feeling to it? You want to try your best to build the opposite – to create a warm, safe haven for your children who will want to come back to even once they’ve grown and moved away.
But, having a positive home atmosphere goes far beyond comfortable, cheery decor. It’s about hugging, loving, laughing, showing affection, celebrating wins, being empathetic, kind and acting playful together as a family.
Think about your body language and the language you use with your children.
How do you start your day with them? Shouting to get out of bed, or gently wake them up, snuggle for two minutes?
After school do you smile and tell them how happy you are to see them? Do your eyes light up? Or just start asking how their day was.
Your home should be a nurturing place for children to develop a positive self-image, confidence, and attitude.
What happens when your home isn’t a safe haven?
- When your parents are present, but not emotionally available… this hurts you.
- When you don’t receive genuine encouragement or praise, your efforts start feeling worthless.
- Learning you are good enough and deserve good things is established in childhood. When you don’t have this, navigating life, work and social circles become doubly hard.
- A positive home environment sets the tone for good (or bad) relationships you’ll have in your life. What you are taught and what relationships are modeled is what you will accept in your own.
- Anxiety and depression are two of the most common effects linked to negative home environments and dettached parent-child relationships.
Here is a great resource for building a positive home.
9. Monitor Messages from Outside Sources
Think of all the messages children are inundated with from peers, media, social media, video games and television.
Are the messages that are being shared with your children the ones you want them to be exposed to, or to have as their own?
Limiting screen time and device use is important, particularly as children get older and interact socially through apps and online programs where body image, bullying and sexual content is prominent.
10. Teaching Responsibility & Self Discipline
Once your child is a teenager, it’s too late to expect them to know how to be responsible or disciplines if these principles are instilled already. You can’t suddenly spring responsibility or self-discipline on them.
Teaching responsibility means showing your children what is expected of them, and accepting the consequences of their actions if there’s a negative outcome. This means parents have to set firm boundaries and to also share what the consequences are if the limit is tested.
Here’s an cliff notes version of teaching responsibility and self-discipline skills to kids throughout childhood:
- Provide structure – use routine cards to create structure to your day as well as implementing chores.
- Explain the reason behind your rules, don’t simply shout out the rules with no explanation.
- Give consequences. Explain what the consequences are, and be prepared to follow through on them immediately.
- Praise good behavior. Praise the good stuff you want to see often, and reward it on occasion when you can.
- Teach problem solving skills to children and step back, giving them space to use these skills.
- Model self-discipline skills for your children to follow. You’re the biggest role model for your children, so it’s time to show them what self-discipline and doing the right thing looks like.
11. Money Management is a Lifelong Skill
Money is something I really struggled with as a young adult because my parents never taught me about money.
I never learned how to manage it because I never had it to learn how you save and how to budget.
I spent it when I had it, and spent more than I had by making bad decisions with credit cards.
Not knowing about money made me feel out of control, helpless and like the least money savvy person on the planet.
A small starting point for young kids, and because in elementary school they’re already learning about money, and are aware of how money is used and the things they want cost money, this is a great opportunity you don’t to miss.
For over two months, we’ve used these allowance and reward charts to…
A) show our kids how much control they have over the end result and
B) for my older kids who receive an allowance, start the process of raising money competent kids, and
C) give the kids more independence
Note: My youngest is five and uses a reward chart for small rewards she can earn by fulfilling her responsibilities during the week. We’ll work in an allowance in time, but for now, she doesn’t have a true understanding of what money does.
I realize some may see giving my children an allowance as controversial, but I want them to make their spending mistakes now, so they don’t in the future.
This means they get to decide how to spend their money, even if I’m cringing or think their purchase is a bad idea, I’ve been resisting the urge to control what they buy.
I’ve seen them think twice about how to spend or save their money, and also rethinking purchases after they’ve been made and making different decisions the second or third time around.
At the beginning my son’s money burned a hole in his pocket as soon as he received it, but in the last few weeks, we’ve begun noticing him saving his money and planning for things he wants.
We’re on the right path and starting you, so that when our kids are older, they’ll know how to save, budget, spend and plan ahead, and hopefully be better with money than I was as a young adult.
Related Positive Parenting Resources:
- 8 Highly Effective Ways for Teaching Kids Respect & How to Be Polite
- 6 Positive Parenting Techniques to Use Rather Than Yelling
- How to Meet the Core Emotional Needs of a Child
- How to Learn From Your Anger & Why Anger Isn’t a Bad Thing
- Teaching Feelings & 6 Steps to Help Kids Express Their Emotions
- Stop Power Struggles with Kids & Deal with a Disrespectful Child