In this day and age where family size has dwindled to 2 kids or less, parents have used their numbers advantage to pour more of their time and energy into their children. On the one hand, parents are spending more time with their kids, and that’s a good change. On the other hand, parents are spending more time with their kids, and in many cases that has resulted in micromanaging and over-protecting kids. So for this holiday season, here are a few presents that I believe every child should leave home with at age 18 that they themselves have to earn; parents can not give these to their offspring.
1) Self-Esteem: Self-esteem comes from doing, from taking action, from gaining confidence through hard work and perseverance. This requires many experiences throughout childhood where parents step back and let their kids: make mistakes and learn from them; take risks and learn their limits; feel frustrated and push through it to achievement; handle the normal emotions and ups and downs of life on their own; find their own self-motivation. This is how self-confidence is achieved.
2) Hope and Optimism: These two qualities are some of the best predictors of success in the first years of college, more significant than high school grades, ACT scores, or IQ. And self-efficacy underlies them both. You see, once you have overcome obstacles, met challenges in your life, and been able to forge your own path, you will have more hope that you can do the same in the future, and you believe you will preservere and come out on top no matter what life throws your way. That’s how young people become more hopeful and optimistic.
3) Motivation: Every child and teenager needs to find their own intrinsic motivation for doing anything in life. When it comes from them, for their reasons, they are all in and fully engaged. And they also own the results and the sense of fulfillment that comes from a job well done.
4) Happiness: I want kids to learn to not let what others think and say dictate their choices and decisions about anything. When you accept total responsibility for everything in your life, and never blame, that to me defines true freedom. This in turn allows you to set your own course, to do work that has meaning for you and that you love, and happiness is the result.
5) Purpose: Last but not least, all children must grow up and find their own reason for being on this planet. They need to be allowed to make their own mistakes, in their own time, and to learn their own lessons from them. And as Forrest Gump’s mom said so beautifully, “you have to find your own destiny”. Our children’s paths may end up looking a lot different than ours, but as long as it is theirs, it will bring them joy. The renowned psychologist Joseph Campbell said it best when he told his students: “Follow your bliss!”
Decide on a course of parenting that will allow these 5 qualities to emerge as your children grow into adults. We can support this growth, but cannot do it for them. That’s the way it’s always been, and the way it must be even in this day and age of hyper-parenting.