As far as I can tell, most parents want to raise successful children to reach launch-age fully capable of conducting their lives with responsibility and respect. When they leave the safety of their nests feeling self-confident, competent, resilient, and have the drive to contribute positively to the world, they are ready to greet whatever comes at them. We want our children to go out into the world capable of finding success yet able to weather the bumps and storms with a strong sense of self. But, what are the secrets that make children successful?
We do not want our kids to launch with the attitude that the world owes them, they are separate from the rules others must follow, and they shouldn’t have to work hard for what they want. We want them to create interdependent relationships with others and not use their individual power to push others out of their way.
Most of all we want our children to feel inspired and fulfilled in their lives, doing what they love, satisfied with most of their choices and in mutually respectful relationships with others.
Do the secrets that make children successful sound far away? Are you struggling daily with kids who are demanding, oblivious to what you ask, and inconsiderate of others?
Even though your struggles today are very real and very exhausting, this is the time, no matter how young your child is, to focus on the journey of reaching the goal of 100% authority over themselves instead of being the entitled controller we fear is taking over.
Your authority as your child’s parent is to ensure that your child does what he must (use the toilet, brush his teeth, go to school, get to the doctor, go to bed, etc.) because he cannot nor should not be expected to want to—because he’s a kid.
As your child grows, your job is to slowly and gradually hand over this authority as your child becomes capable of managing life’s tasks on his own. This is called letting go. By the time he’s ready to launch, he should be fully able to have authority over himself.
The question becomes, How do I guide my child to full authority? rather than How do I get my child to listen to me? Now.
We get caught up in the minutia of everyday life. We rarely step back to see the big picture. Fears of future horror stories fuel our reactions.
It’s a hard but necessary task to stay in the moment and not project. Secrets that make children successful include:
- An understanding of child development to hold realistic expectations
- An understanding of individual children’s temperaments to keep expectations appropriate
- Your own work to maintain good boundaries and not take behavior personally.
When you are there you are better able to:
- Not fly off the handle with blame and threats
- Empathize with the struggles your child is having
- Interpret behaviors by understanding the emotions that provoke them
- Hold individual expectations of each child
- Problem solve situations rather than resort to punitive measures
- Communicate to your child 100% unconditional acceptance
It is only with acceptance that behavior changes for the better and the self-confidence needed to launch with authority will develop.
Problems arise when you want kids to do what you want right now. When you give in to demands to avoid the emotional upheaval you fear, you teach your child that his wishes are more important than yours—entitlement.
When you do stick to your guns, don’t budge, and stand on principle doling out threats or punishments, you teach your child you don’t care about what he is trying to tell you, he’s not important. The do-as-I-say philosophy teaches kids they don’t matter—shame.
Or if you swing back and forth and blow up if you’re impatient, you teach your child either the power he has to get what he wants—entitlement, or to never ask for what he wants or express negative emotion—shame.
Authoritarian parenting comes when we fear entitlement—letting our kids get their way. Which is why authoritative parenting and the secrets that make children successful requires your own work in self-confidence.
You must be able to say,
- This doesn’t work for me. We need to come up with something different.
- I don’t like it when….
- You want x, I want y. We need to come to an agreement.
For a child to reach full authority of self, she needs to have a strong foundation in a supportive family where she feels heard, believed, trusted, and gotten. Where she knows what to expect and what is expected of her. Where she learns her own capability to handle problems and the resilience that comes from dealing with the problem, learning from it, and moving on. Not where either the problem is solved for her, or the problem is belittled and brushed over.
This is not the experience of a child who is punished or put down for expressing big emotions (“You’re too sensitive”), or who never knows what to expect from a volatile or unpredictable parent (fear and shame). Or the child whose parent believes the way to prepare her for the big, bad world is to toughen her up with criticism (“What’s wrong with you anyway? Why can’t you listen like your sister? Don’t be such a cry-baby. Stop eating so much, you’re getting fat. You do what I say or else. You didn’t do what I asked so you’re grounded for the weekend.”)
This doesn’t toughen a child up; it weakens them. These are kids who have learned not to trust themselves or their parents. These are kids who can be blown down by the storms of life.
To reach authority and thrive, a child needs to believe in oneself, to know that there is a base of encouragement, strength, and support to draw from, to trust the people they depend on to have their back—not to hold them so they don’t fall, but to be there to soften the fall and buoy their own way back up. Then they can move on with confidence once again. These are my secrets that make children successful and fulfilled.