One of the joys of parenting was teaching my kids how to navigate life. There are unspoken rules, simple courtesies, and ways to make an impact. Each day we are given a set number of hours to be totally present, to learn all we can, and to give back. If our kids can view the world from that vantage point, they will be way ahead of most their age.
Believe it or not, there are hundreds of training opportunities before your kids leave home. By making the most of those, we prepare them for operating in the real world where no one cares if they survive or not. Whether it is cleaning the family bathroom, helping a neighbor, volunteering at church, participating in an internship, or working a first teenage job, kids need to know that their performance matters. Not only do the unseen things build character, but more people notice than kids might think.
Here are a few of the things I tried to instill in my kids:
Do more than is expected. Get in the habit of going the extra mile and doing a phenomenal job no matter how trivial the assignment. Doing small things well can lead to bigger, more interesting things.
Be early. Those who are perennially late for work are disrespecting other people. They are actually stealing from those they work for or wasting other people’s time who are waiting on them.
Finish the job. Even if it means working overtime, stay late and finish what needs to be done. That builds trust and says volumes about someone’s work ethic.
Leave your phone turned off in a pocket or purse and don’t turn it on until you leave the building. If you are at work, you need to be working.
Hustle. If your data download is running slow or if you’ve finished your assignment for the day, look for other things that need to be done or ask the supervisor how you can help and what you need to learn. This simple rule helped one of my kids get a great job offer after the junior year of college. The other intern who chose to surf the web and make origami flowers while waiting on her data was NOT offered a job. Enough said.
Learn all you can from any situation. From sitting next to someone on a bus, to asking great questions of those with more experience, learners will always be ahead of the pack. Always.
Send a thank you note. Those who are mature enough to be grateful for opportunity often find themselves being given more opportunity. It’s funny how that works.
Do something that other teens don’t do. I required big leadership projects of both my kids before they left home. My daughter’s huge fundraiser got the attention of an interviewer for the ivy league college where she was later accepted and then attended. Was it because she impressed a man at the fundraiser? Well, probably not totally. But it did open a door that she was qualified to walk through.
People have often told me how lucky my kids are, but I don’t believe in luck at all. They knew the rules of the road.
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