Devoted parents work hard trying to find the correct path to the goal their child seeks. In their heart of hearts, they want to believe that there is a magic formula for achievement, that if they do the right things in the right sequence, they can guarantee their child’s victory. These parents are always on the alert and asking questions of those they deem successful. These queries come in many forms:
- How many volunteer service hours does my child need?
- How many AP classes does my student need to take to get into Harvard?
- Is Activity A more impressive than Activity B?
- How many SAT Subject tests are required to impress an admissions officer?
In the drive to find the answer, they often miss the point. They are asking the wrong questions.
Rather than searching for a conventional capacity or trying to define a maximum level of achievement, we need to be searching our child’s ability, heart and mind. Instead of an outside measurement, we need to discern an internal need.
To acknowledge that each child is wonderfully unique is not an excuse for mediocrity but the exciting revelation that it will take all our parenting skills to help each of our children grow into their best selves. They aren’t like anyone else and thus the activities they choose, the hours they volunteer, they way the spend their time needs to be unique to them. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about the award they win or the college they get into, but if they are pushing their own limits and growing into a better person with each step they take.
Certainly our children need to be stretched. They need to do things that are hard for them. They need to learn to do things they don’t like. But that doesn’t mean we cram them into a life that we think is impressive at the cost of their souls.
I try to invite kids to do difficult things in an area they love. I want to help stretch each student to discover their own limits, which are often far beyond what convention would tell us for teens. When a child does find something worthwhile to spend their days pursuing, they rarely look like other kids. They might not have volunteer hours or piano or soccer. Instead, by helping them become more of who they are, we give them the possibility of discovering greatness that we might have missed if they were busy doing all the things everyone else said was important.
Today I invite you to forget the standard questions. Instead ask yourself the following:
- What skills does my child need to develop to reach his unique potential?
- What weaknesses are in my child’s life that will hinder her future and how can I creatively help her overcome them?
- How do I stretch my student to see what they are capable of?
- How do we, as a family, achieve a healthy balance of work, service, and rest?
The right questions, framed outside of conventional boundaries, can guide your family onto unexpected paths that lead to a life of incredible richness and depth. It won’t look like anyone else. And that, my friend, is exactly what we want!
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