Top 10 Tips To Raise Successful Children

Top 10 Tips To Raise Successful Children

One of my closes friends P., got married and moved to America about two years ago. Last month they were overjoyed at finally having received their Green card, a goal that they had been working towards for the past two years. More happy news was in store for them when P realized she was expecting a baby. The young couple were gloriously happy till they started talking of the future. Though coming to America- the land of opportunities- had been a dream come true for them, the prospect of raising a child in this uber modern culture was quickly turning into a nightmare. They considered an Indian school to be the ultimate training ground which laid the foundations of a disciplined life, instilled respect for authority and imparted education with high standards. Though both held American universities in very high esteem, they felt that the child would have the best advantage if brought up in an Indian environment early on. After all they were themselves the products of such a system and were doing spectacularly well for themselves. They had also observed the American born children of immigrant Indians and were terrified of having an offspring that emulated such standards.

 

P has a master’s degree and a high paying bank job. Her husband is a scientist and holds a prestigious position in the research segment of the United States defence department. But all these achievements and possibilities were for naught when they packed up any remnant of a highly successful and enviable life in America in anticipation of the foetus that will consume all aspects of their lives in the years to come.

Perhaps it is because I am nowhere close to being a parent that it is easy for me to surmise the situation in unsentimental terms. Rather I am closer in generation to the child for whom the parents are ready to sacrifice all in order to ensure that he has the best life possible. That child, who is going to be the progeny of two highly successful people, is already having his school, college and profession being fixed for him. His parents are turning their world over in anticipation of the success he will reap two or three decades later. The older he will get, the more their expectations will rise. In case he shows even the tiniest lapse or vulnerability, the efforts to bolster his success will be doubled and he will be reminded of the sacrifices made so he is able to have this opportunity or the high standards of the previous generation that he will have to uphold. Perhaps events will not uphold exactly in this manner. This is a rough guide, intended to express the basic scheme of things. Many parents who tend to operate within this framework are very liberal. The child is encourage to follow his heart when choosing a profession, allowed plenty of room for decisions and loved beyond measure. But irrespective of whatever path the offspring chooses and however open minded and loving the parents may be, success is not only expected. It is demanded.

However, dear parent, if you were to adjust your world viewing glasses slightly and re-examine your definitions of success, happiness, love, life, etc., then the process of raising a successful child would become infinitely more joyful. Would you not want your child to be as proud of you as you are of him?

10. Don’t Decide the Child’s Career:

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It is natural to want the best for your child. But what you think is best is often times not what is actually the best. He has to make his share of mistakes and arrive at the right decision. Years of trials and tribulations will occur before the child can become an adult. During such trying times, your child will need your guidance and your wisdom. He will need you to be there to comfort him when he falls down and hurts himself. Setting up strict life decisions will prevent him from getting hurt. But it will also prevent him from really living. An empty shell with no passion for his work is not likely to achieve any success in life. Let the decision be his own. The success will be that much dear.

The reason “3 Idiots” became such a popular movie was not because it was an excellent entertainer. It resonated with the audience in so many ways, inspired the youth and moved the harshest parents. My uncle walked out of the theatre because the story hit too many home truths for him. But unlike the movie, his story did not have such a happy ending. A college peer confessed that he had dropped out of a prestigious engineering college and entered a media course after seeing the movie. His staunchly strict parents had supported this decision after sprouting tears at the cinema hall.

9. Encourage Competition, Not an Inferiority Complex:

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Words like competition, rat race, pressure, etc., are most commonly used to describe the twenty first century fetish for success. Competition thus becomes the life blood of success. The child is furiously egged on in academics and sports to win coveted prizes and come home with stellar report cards so proud parents can boast to relative and colonies about their gifted progeny. Then those parents, not to be outdone, go ahead and groom their children like race horses upon whom they have bet their lives. I used to tutor sixth graders who felt there was no option but to succeed, or rather conform to their parent’s definition of success. The thought of life as a mediocre pupil was too unthinkable, too stigmatic.

What kind of a childhood are these children having? Competition is important, but at what cost? Children brought up like this hunger for success not for their own sake, but for those of their parents. Love, fear, and self-loathing propels this kind of success. It is not long term. Once high school is over and the energy fizzles out, they will have no enthusiasm left for life. The feeling will descend that the most important battle is won, the finish line crossed.

To avoid such a burnout, give the child space. Let him fare in school according to his abilities. Forget the opinion of the rest of the world. Encourage competition with other peers, but most importantly encourage completion with the self. Urge him to outdo his own last performance. True excellence comes from within, not by emulating the standards of others.

8. Instill A Love Of Reading:

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The importance of this advice is severely undermined in most Indian households. Whats more appalling is that even teachers do not care. Barring the most exceptional souls devoted to mentoring and education, most teachers are bothered with finishing the syllabus and dictating answers that meet the criteria of the Board. Heaped with pressures of study, the child is just exhilarated when the precious few moments of recreation are spent before the television. Reading is the last thing on his mind then.

Divith, a ninth grader I used to tutor till last year, is a perfect example. When employing me, his mother proudly beamed that her fourteen year old son was preparing for both engineering and medical college entrance exams. As a result his literature and humanities subject marks were suffering. These were the least important subjects in her eyes and my job was to get him to just pass in these since that was the minimum required.

The boy could not construct basic sentences properly, had no ideas or concepts and was proud of the fact that he had never read a book in his entire life. His parents considered reading a frivolous activity. He diligently took notes in class and mugged them every single day for three hours. He was among the top 5 in his class. I had never met anyone with such a stunted imagination before.

The true purpose of education is not gaining knowledge. It is the application of that knowledge. What hope is there of success when the very idea of gaining that knowledge outside classrooms, willingly and freely, is so scorned upon? If your child loves to read, then that is the best gift you have ever given him. Half your work is done. It will open his mind, encourage thoughts and ideas, strengthen ambition and emphasize what’s really important. Success will then become a natural succession.

7. Have Your Own Life:

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Like “3 Idiots”, Amir Khan’s other movie, “Tare Zameen Par” too went a long way in exposing parent child dynamics and conflict in a success obsessed world. Before the theme of dyslexia took over the movie, the father felt ashamed at being saddled with a stupid son. But the mother’s reaction was most revealing. She moaned that she had given up a thriving career to be a stay at home mom and dedicatedly raise her sons. Why then was she being punished thus?

If you depend your own success on your child’s success, then irrespective of his outcome in life, you have already failed. You were a bright, thriving educated individual with prospects and potential before you had a baby. You had a social life and hobbies. Being a parent comes with its own set of responsibilities that should not be taken lightly. But the baby is a part of your life, albeit a very important part, but not your whole life. It is not fair to the child to burden him with your unfulfilled expectations and definitely not fair to you. Keep at the life you had before you had the child, perhaps in a more relaxed state. Your success will inspire your child to be successful. Despite your best intentions, the results are quite the opposite when you are throttling that success down his throat.

6. Do Not Cultivate Gender Prejudices:

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From the moment your baby is born, the society and especially the media will take pleasure in bombarding you with stereotypes and dictate how the child should be brought up. Do not align your definition of success with theirs. In your arms is a tiny little human being whose mind is open and impressionable. It is up to you how you form and develop that mind. Once you start giving it to the Barbie doll army truck pink versus blue fad, there is no turning back. Whether you have a girl or a boy, the rest of the life is an uphill struggle to assert the individuality of one’s own self outside the reserve of gender roles and discriminations.

The society is really good at making daughters feel ostracized, insecure about their looks and their bodies, undermining their ambition and making them feel like second class citizens. Sylvia Plath wrote The Bell Jar in America more than fifty years ago. Yet it rankles true of Indian girls eerily even today.

But the boys have it even worse. They grow up with a false sense of entitlement, take pride in disrespecting the gender that gave them life and take things for granted that need to be earned. When the reality strikes to be absolutely different than the dream world they have been encouraged to live in, thanks to regressive television soaps and overindulgent parents, then fate seems too cruel to be borne. Frustration, resentment, anger, and despair well up to the surface. There is no place in their hearts to go after success, success they believed was theirs to begin with.

Love your child for who he or she is, not for who the world tells you they should be. Develop their young open impressionable minds with art, music, literature, cinema and education. When they face prejudice and discrimination from others, battle it out with them. Show them the right from wrong. They will grow up to be conscientious individuals with tremendous integrity and panache. Your success as a parent will reflect in their achievements of tomorrow.

5. Sibling Story

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Most researches show that children with siblings are far more likely to inculcate qualities that deliver success, in comparison with children who grow up without a brother or a sister. The qualities I speak of are patience, sharing, caring, empathy, wider perspective, endurance, competitiveness, resourcefulness, creativity, relationship values and the lot. Children will also learn the importance of money and the ways of managing it more effectively since the resources in a two child family tend to be more limited. Success is not built on the foundation of abilities. The abilities are sustained by the qualities which gives success wings. Growing up with siblings ensures that these qualities germinate from within and blossom into blooms that nourish our ambitions.

4. Focus on Extra Curricular Activities:

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Putting your child in every after school activity that there is, ranging from German, Spanish, Italian, Tennis, Swimming, Dance, Skating, Drawing to Piano, Sitar, Guitar, French and the like, is surely a death knell for any creativity and talent that is waiting to be developed. However focusing solely on academics and not giving extracurricular activities its due credit is equally harmful to his overall personality development. Academic achievement walks a tightrope between a child’s abilities and a parent’s expectations and demands. However, the extracurricular should be the child’s domain alone. It is his choice what excites him most and your job is to stand on the side-lines and cheer on. When he has no prior expectations to fulfil, then his potential will truly blossom. Be it drama, debate, painting or karate, anything and everything that stimulates and excites the child should be enthusiastically pursued.

3. Bond with Your Child:

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The child has the first relationship in the world with parents and psychologists say that every other relationship he develops later in life is a reflection of that first bond. How you behave with the kid will determine the course of his life to come. Being the strict person who sets rules and checks his homework is important. But it is also important to have a non-judgemental open relationship that encourages the child to treat you as a friend. This will invite sharing of confidences and assure the child of your support in case of difficult times. Studies have shown that autocratic parents with authoritarian views are far less likely to have successful children than liberal parents with an easy-going attitude. Don’t live your life by strictures of parenting. Evaluate what the term means to you. By being your child’s friend and sharing your own confidences with him, you are treating him like an adult, like the way he wants to be treated. Discuss and dispel taboos, don’t set them. His respect for you will magnify and he will become a mature and self-reliant individual. Sharing this special relationship with one’s child is a huge self-esteem boost for the parent too. Apart from making you feel young, energetic, motivated and appreciated you will also have made the best friend of your life.

2. Ban The Television:

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You don’t have to go through the same painful procedures yourself in order to ensure the best for your child. Have a TV installed in the master bedroom and watch it when the tots aren’t around. But for the first five years, and then as long as you can, try to limit the child’s exposure to TV as long as you can. Proper cognitive development is crucial at this time. The consequences of this will widely affect his thoughts and abilities even later in life. The TV will strip the child of his imagination and then fill the mind with commercial culture. Once the child is acquainted with the allure of the magic box then it will be very hard to separate the two. So for best results, it is advisable from the beginning to ban the offensive item. I have already emphasized the need for books. Apart from reading, introduce the child to music and drawing. Play games that involve lots of thinking and creativity. Have a few hours in the open air each day and encourage lots of socialization with other children of the same age. A cousin’s mother got her started on pottery. The little girl loved it so much that she would spend hours moulding clay into misshapen objects which the mother lovingly displayed on her office desk for all the world to see. Today, at ten years of age, Geeti’s intelligence can give any adult a run for their money.

 

1. Have Faith:

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And finally…. The hardest thing to do is to do nothing at all. Age, wisdom, experience and maturity is on your side. It is immensely difficult to sit back and watch your child make mistakes that you could prevent by simply telling him what to do. From small everyday situations to landmark life decisions, you have to have faith in your child to trust him to do the right thing. He knows what he wants. If he doesn’t yet, then he will learn. He is young. Give him time. By making his decisions for him, you are not increasing his chances of success. Rather, you are putting a firm lid on that intelligence development meter. Oprah Winfrey said that you will get all that you want in life, just not at the same time. Give him the right to make his own decisions (within reason of course) right from school days. It will empower and emancipate him, teach him the true meaning of responsibility. Don’t rush in to interfere when obviously some of those decisions are wrong. The discretion to make exceptions of course lies with the parent. After all, the parent knows best.

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