Well so here we are! Day 1 of the BlogchatterA2Z challenge. This is the first time I am doing this so a little nervous about being able to write everyday of this month. Fingers crossed! I will be writing about raising capable children – a theme close to my heart. I firmly believe that as a parent our aim should be to bring up ‘capable’ children – children who are capable of handling what life throws at them, capable to decide what is right or wrong for them and capable enough to lead positive and fulfilling lives. Once we have equipped them with the right attitudes, tools and skills, we should be able to confidently let them set sail on the seas. For more on my theme, you can read my theme reveal.
So A is for Aiming High – and as you can guess, this post is going to be all about having dreams, aspirations and ambitions and chasing them. We would all want our kids to be successful and have happy lives. But what do we mean by success? (I had shared some of my thoughts here in an earlier post). I would say success is when someone has achieved what they set out to achieve and are happy with that. And the first step to doing that is helping your child find out what is it that makes them happy, where do their talents lie and what are their intrinsic traits. Each child is different and some may take longer than others to figure out what they want. As parents, our job is to support and guide them in this journey of finding themselves. What is NOT our job is to try and figure out their lives for them.
Many children have been burdened with the aspirations of their own parents and have spent their childhood trying to please them and turn into something their parents envisioned them as. I am not sure that would have given happiness to anyone involved in the process.
Let’s look at 9 ways to help your child dream big and have aspirations:
1. Understand your child: from a very early age, you will start to understand what gets them to tick. Watch what they pay attention to the most. Do they have certain skills, abilities, hobbies or interests. Talk to them about their interests, share your own. Allow them to express their feelings and fears. Find their weak spots and strengths. Encourage the strengths and work on weak spots.
2. Encourage their dreams – however small or big they may be, dreams need to be nurtured. Encourage your child to dream. Forget about what YOU think of their dreams – they may be silly or lofty or impossible to YOU – but then that is through your adult eyes that are biased by whatever life experiences you may have had. As parents we need to learn to be non judgmental and not nip their ideas in bud. So what if you believe that the big bucks are in IT or MBA – if your child wants to be an activist, so be it. My 10 year old son plans to become a paleontologist and a Youtuber – and if this interest continues, we will help him find out more about starting a channel of his own and paleontology.
3. Appreciate and motivate: it is important to continue to appreciate and motivate your children. Encouragement lays the base of self belief which is the ground in which dreams take shape. If your children do not believe in themselves, they will always be afraid of dreaming. I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of self belief and self confidence.
4. Give them feedback – provide guidance: this is as important as appreciation. We need to provide our children honest, constructive feedback. Feedback that can help them improve – don’t shy away from telling them if they have not done a good job. Just remember to combine it with ways to improve. Also remember that they are young and need our guidance. As adults we can help them figure out the pros and cons of an action or a decision or strategy. We can help them best by being their sounding boards. When your children doubt themselves or their capabilities we need to guide them how to aim for and achieve their goals and dreams.
5. Show them the possibilities: Show your children the world – through travel, through books, through meeting people. Open their mind to possibilities. Talk to them about the heroes and achievers. Tell them how all of these were people were little children like them once upon a time and believed in their dreams! Let them know what options are available. It is only when they know enough, that they can make an informed choice. For example, when my husband was trying to choose between architecture and design, his parents took him to various colleges that offered these choices which helped him immensely in deciding his career path.
6. Help them set goals: having dreams is not enough until we learn how to achieve them. Goal setting is a good habit to have and you can start as early as you want. The type of goals will change according to age. You can put in the concept of short or long term goals. Celebrate when a goal is achieved. In my son’s class (9 year olds), kids are encouraged to have academic goals and character goals which they then track through the term. Now that they are learning online, each child has identified weekly goals for themselves. This habit helps children learn to aim and then plan how to achieve them.
7. Excellence and Perseverance: Aiming high is good, but these two attitudes are necessary to achieve those aims. Excellence is the desire to do your best and continue to improve. Perseverance on the other hand is the ability and self control to continue to push through with a task, working to overcome challenges on the way. A combination of both is necessary to achieve what we set out for. For more on these, do read my blogs on both excellence and perseverance.
8. Challenge them: Once children learn about setting goals – you can start challenging them and try to help them aim a bit higher. I like the concept of stretch targets – tell them that if they over achieve that target or complete it before time, there may be an extra reward. This will help them learn how to push the boundaries of their physical strength, mental strength and even patience.
9. Let them fail: And finally, when you teach your child to aim high, you also need to let them learn how to fail. Make sure you do not criticize or discourage them if they fail or make mistakes. Making mistakes is normal, even necessary. Help them understand that failure will teach how to do things better the next time. Tell them that it may be easier to give up but then you miss out on achieving what you set out to do.
These are some of my thoughts in teaching children how to AIM HIGH. Let me know how you are helping you child do that. Hope you enjoyed reading this and will come back tomorrow to read about Being Brave.