The other day I heard someone say, “Parents work so hard and sacrifice so much so that at the end of the day, our kids will be a little further ahead and have more opportunities than we did.” This isn’t specific to our generation, as generations of parents before us have wanted better or the best for their children. We all stress that our children aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve or that they’ll fall behind somehow. Is there some magical remedy that you can tap into to help your child excel?
Let’s take a look at why we want our children to excel.
“I want them to have a better life than I did.” This is a common phrase that many parents share. And while many can offer the better life in the younger years, there comes a time when your child will leave the nest and rely on their abilities. This is why many parents feel the intense need to pressure their children to excel. Because if we can guarantee their success while they’re young, perhaps that will spill over into their adult years.
Another reason some parents wish for their children to excel is that they are competitive. Before you gasp and brush this off, let’s understand that many parents who have already been raised in or even work in a more competitive environment find that ‘pushing’ their children to do their best comes naturally.
You may assume that a competitive parent is the one screaming from the stands at the basketball game. But, competitive parents come in all different forms. While sports parents are the most relatable when we talk about competitive parents, we must remember that parents can also be competitive in the academic portion of life. For example: “My child has the best grades in the class.” “Well, my child was reading at the age of three.” “Did you know my child got an award for the best voice in her school?”
They’re our kids; we like to brag about them! But we must be cautious that that pride doesn’t put pressure on our children to excel. You might be thinking, ‘hold on, I thought this blog was about getting my child to excel?’ And it is. So, let’s jump to the first tip to help your child excel.
Help your child excel with these 7 tips.
1. Don’t place too much pressure on your child.
This tip is number one because it is the most important. As you read above, you’ll see that we as parents love to praise our children and brag about them for all their successes. But, you must be careful not to allow that bragging to pressure them always to do the best possible. Your child is exceptional, but you need to let them succeed and fail. When you only allow them to ‘do their best all the time,’ they will become overwhelmed and resent the idea of the success that you want for them.
Did your child have the best grade in their class or homeschool class during 7th grade, but their grades have declined in their 8th-grade year? That’s ok. Avoid saying things like, “I don’t understand what happened? You were doing so good.” That is unnecessary pressure that won’t lead them to success. In many cases, it will just lead them to the opposite.
2. Don’t push them.
Is this another confusing concept? Can your child excel without you pushing them to do so? Absolutely, and more so. Forcing your child to ‘do better, and be better without care and understanding will lead to frustration and overwhelm. You should aim for your child to trust you and know that your love for them comes before your desire for them to excel. Your child needs to know that you know what they need, what they can handle, and who they are. They don’t need us constantly reminding them of what they ‘can’ or ‘should’ accomplish.
While gentle nudges of love are acceptable, you have to be sure to keep those nudges peaceful, caring and loving.
3. Be sensitive to their needs.
Every child is unique in their way. One child might excel in sports but struggle with academics; another might excel in academics but struggle with sports. Some children may do well at everything they try, while others may work a little harder to accomplish what they need. Your child has needs, wants, hopes and dreams. Be sensitive to their thoughts and feelings. If you aren’t sure what your child ‘wants,’ then ask them. Talk to them. Could you help them?
Forget forcing your child to answer questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” instead, ask them, “what do you want to do right now?” Does your child have unique interests that they’d like to explore? Do they want to spend more time with you? Would they like to learn to cook with you? While you, as the parent, do have a good sense of what your child wants and needs, there is probably something you’re missing. Do you want to help your child excel? Then start a conversation.
4. Stop stressing so much.
This tip is significant for all parents but especially for our homeschooling parents. Are you stressed out that your child isn’t meeting the learning standards that they should? Do you worry that they aren’t doing enough in a day, so you essentially force them to sit and finish four pages of math, five pages of Language, and practice an instrument for a half hour?
Are you stressed and slightly annoyed when they don’t do all the things on the academic list? When parents are stressed, we tend to be less affectionate and responsive to our children. Parental stress can inadvertently spill into our parenting style, which has many adverse outcomes for our children. One particular concern is the feelings of failure and rejection that some children may experience when they feel as if they are the reason their parent is stressed.
If you want to help your child excel in any area of their life, being stressed about their success isn’t the answer.
5. Support their interests.
The outdated education system of measuring success based on grades is flawed. You should aim to support their interests because when your child can explore their interests, they will maintain much more learning than if they were forced to meet the standards of a broken education system.
What does this look like? If you want to know what your child is interested in, then clearly, as stated above, the first step is to talk to them. And if you and your child are still not getting a clear understanding as to what their interests might be, dive into some interest-based learning materials to help them find those things that make learning fun. You could explore Special Interest Units like our Unique Electives for more variety for interest-based learning.
6. Model a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
It’s no secret that children mirror what they see. Are you living a healthy and balanced life? Do you make sure you are ambitious regarding your health, nutrition, exercise, and rest? Does your child see you enjoying healthy hobbies and interests? When your child sees you modelling a healthy and balanced life, they will aim for that also.
Does this mean you must eat kale salad in front of them and run marathons on the weekend? No! There are two extremes when it comes to a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle. Aim for balance for yourself, and model that beautiful balance for your child.
7. Emphasize the importance of character.
Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Excellence is a habit. Your child’s success in life is based on healthy habits. What are some fundamental habits that can lead to success? Listening, organization, sharing, timeliness, attention, good conduct and respect for adults, peers, and oneself. Just like it is essential to model a healthy and balanced lifestyle, it is as important to model a good character and help your child develop these fundamental habits for success.