What Makes a Parent Successful?

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Success can be defined in so many ways—politicians can count the number of votes received, schools can prove how many kids passed a standardized test, businesses can track sales. Some people may see beyond those definitions, and there is certainly a lot more to success than the simplistic notions above. But defining successful parenting is even trickier.

I read an article published recently on the MindShift website. It was entitled “If School is not Relevant“ and it posed some thought-provoking questions about the effectiveness of schools in teaching children to succeed.

The author, Shelley Blake-Plock, an educator himself, encourages us all to redefine success as an achievement inclusive of failures. “Because we are all failures of one sort or another. And though we like to focus on what we consider positive, it is more often the case that we live in a world comprised of systems of struggle and unanswerable questions. And we fail on a regular basis. And we need students who understand how to fail.”

He states: “Imagine if schools were judged not by how well students achieved while they were in school, but in how well they achieved once they left. If schools saw their worth not in how many kids got accepted to college, but in how many kids went on to live meaningful and engaged lives and who would point back to their school years as the point of relevancy that was the foundation of it all. If schools gauged themselves not by how many kids passed a test, but in how well it prepared those kids who did not pass the test to see themselves as worthy of respect and ready to take on the challenges of life. In fact, if schools worked to make entrepreneurs and role models of every kid who failed a standardized exam. If failure became a calling card for innovation.”

He continues: I want to hear from the kids for whom school didn’t work. I want to hear from the alumni who feel cheated by the system. I want our schools to be judged by how well we respected the humanity of the student who graduated with the lowest GPA and how we celebrated and engaged his or her capacity within society.

Those questions caught my attention, and I’ve adapted three of them (freely) to apply to parents. Why to parents? Because family is a child’s first school and source of life skills. Here they are:

  • What if parents gauged their success, not by how well their kids are provided for financially, but in how well prepared their kids are to take on the challenges of life?
  • What if our unshakeable belief in the humanity of our own child (even if/especially when they are very different from us) was the single greatest impetus for them to finally believe in themselves?
  • What if our kids can point to the time we spent with them and the values we taught them as the reason for their success?

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When children are young, one of the best ways parents can spend time with them is reading aloud and talking about what has been read. Here are two ways to enrich your conversations with your children about books you’ve read together:

Ask questions about what happened in the story: Asking children questions about what they’ve read teaches them how to reason and helps them develop common sense and logic, both valuable tools for taking on the challenges of life. It helps them learn to put thoughts and feelings into words. Asking for their observations teaches them to trust their own insights, and that those insights are interesting to us as their parent.

Ask questions about what didn’t happen in the story: Questions about details that are not specifically mentioned in a story teach children to use their imaginations to project their ideas beyond what is known and to draw conclusions that make sense based on the details they already know. This can help them become creative problem-solvers as they develop intuition and the ability to make logical inferences—another great way to help children prepare for the challenges of life.

Begin laying the foundation now for your child’s best life. Read together. Find out what they’re thinking and feeling. You won’t regret it.