Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (February 4, 2016)
We all want our children to be successful but what are some ingredients to success? I would choose these 7:
1. Be their champion
One of the most powerful things a child can hear an adult say to them is “I believe in you”. It empowers them to believe that they can reach their potential and gives them a sense of ownership to do better. Most parents would say that they believe in their children but that message needs to be conveyed to them. In a world where everyone is competitive and has high expectations of our children, we need to be their greatest champions to say that they are not perfect (no one is!) but that we believe in them. As the great educator Rita Pierson famously said in her TedTalk, “every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connections and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Be that champion for your child.
2. You mean what you say and say what you mean
“If you don’t clean up your room, you won’t get to go out for dinner.” 30 minutes later, you’re in the room cleaning up after your child and rushing your child out of the door for dinner. What message does this send a child? That it’s okay to not do the things you tell him to. And that then leads to mistrust and then subsequently he might start not to mean what he says. So when setting boundaries and giving consequences, make sure you mean what you say and say what you mean. It’ll help build discipline, trust and a sense of responsibility.
3. You invest in their character
‘Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success’ – John Hays Hammond. At the end of the day, it won’t be a person’s GPA score or net worth that determines his success. It will have been the choices he made, the relationships he built, the wisdom he used, the way he touched other people’s lives and the difference he made in his community. Those are all things that boils down to a person’s character. And character is like a tree – sow the seeds early on and you’ll see a strong tree growing over the years. Make the investment early on and reap the benefits for a lifetime.
4. You give them exposure
Successful people are ones who are able to relate to, communicate with and respect others, even if they are different. So one key in raising a successful child is to give her exposure to different environments, cultures, people, languages so as to widen her horizons. This will enable her to converse with anyone she meets and to have a sense of openness to different people. Read books about different cultures, take the opportunity to meet people from different socio-economic backgrounds, travel to different places, learn a new language.
5. You give them a sense of responsibility
As adults, we all need to carry many responsibilities – from personal responsibilities, to financial, family and work. Successful people are able to shoulder responsibilities and execute them with diligence. Start preparing children for success by giving them things to be responsible for and instilling in them a work ethic and sense of responsibility. Start small by having him take care of his own personal belongings like his schoolbag and homework and then move on to helping out with chores around the house and managing his own bank account. If he can learn to be responsible for the small things in life, he’ll successfully be responsible for the bigger things in the future.
6. You teach them to collaborate with others
In our world today, collaboration is used and valued more highly than ever before. Classrooms are organized for group work, work meetings are team discussions, and even global politicians gather to tackle the world’s largest problems. Being able to communicate and collaborate with others is an essential ingredient to success. Give your child the opportunity to work together with his sibling on a project that promotes teamwork; engage in activities in and out of school that require working with others. It’s a skill he’ll need for his future.
7. You lead him to care for others
Mark Zuckerberg took the world by storm when he announced that he would be giving away his fortune over the years to fund philanthropic work. What he’s doing is in line with the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and other high net worth individuals. What strikes me is not the amount he’s giving but that he’s using his resources to care for others and wanting to make this world a better place. We and our children may not be able to give away what Mark Zuckerberg is but the point is that successful people care about others and that’s something we can all do. It may not be money but it could be time and effort. Start creating a culture of care in your family by leading your child to think of others, and it could be writing a get well soon card to a teacher who was on sick leave, visiting an elderly home to take care of them, or just caring for people in the family. It all starts small but is a key to success.
There are so many more things that contribute to a person’s success but these 7 serve as a good start for me. Hope you find them useful as you raise your child now with the future in mind.