6 Ways to Adjust Your Parenting Habits to Generate Kid Success

It’s the end of the first semester, or halfway through the year if your kids are younger. It’s the perfect time to make adjustments to your routines and habits to help improve academic performance as your kids finish the school year.

I firmly believe that habits are the key to any real success. People underestimate their ability to form their own habits and create a life that supports their success formula and the goals they set for themselves. Parents underestimate how much their own habits influence the success of their kids. I feel so strongly, I’ve written about it several times. Here and here are two of the best pieces I’ve written. Here is a list of six habits that you can create for yourself that will rub off on your children. If you include your kids, they will develop the same habits along with you.

1. Be interested – I come from less busy times. We actually ate dinner together several nights a week in my house as I was growing up. There is no doubt that dinner time is a great time to have conversations about your day. Sometimes it is really hard to get your kids to engage, particularly if they are high school age. It’s worth the investment. Genuine interest in the academic activities your kids are involved with will pay off in a variety of ways. If you want to build a relationship that shows your kids that you are interested in what they are doing, this is a time that requires you to be non-judgmental. I don’t know what clued my parents into my creative side, but my parents paid for me to take summer classes at the Studio Arena Theatre School, to take private art lessons with a local painter, and to take guitar lessons. In the mid-1970’s, the chances of making a living at any of those things were very low. They never worried about that, and that nurturing allowed for me to grow those interests (and all three of them are still a part of my life today.) Those activities, while they may not provide a path to a steady and lucrative career, they do help kids grow as creativity has nice benefits and it is still a place for kids to learn passion, discipline, and to take pride in their work.

So, even if the busy family life gets in the way of a family dinner, there are plenty of times daily to take interest in what your kids are doing, what they are studying, what their best friends are up to. There is the car rides between soccer practice and music lessons. There is always a few minutes before bed time, or over a bowl of Cheerios in the morning. If those times are difficult, make a date to go out to dinner, to take a walk, to have an ice cream cone, whatever. Being non-judgmentally interested in your kids’ lives creates a connection point that will help drive success, as our kids love to impress us with new information learned or by sharing their accomplishments.

2. Be positive – Study after study after study proves the value of positive thinking. It was Henry Ford who said “If you think you can do a thing or you think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”. This is one of the greatest habits you can give your kids is the power of positive thinking. Positive thinkers can see themselves being successful and can use that power to drive themselves to success. Train your kids to default to the positive first. Exercise gratitude for the things that you have and look on the bright side when things go wrong. My grandmother and my mother both used to say “if you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say anything at all.” Great advice.

My favorite TED Talk is by Shawn Achor and he gives some great tips at the end about how to achieve a positive lifestyle.

3. Work together – One of the best things that you can do to help your child be successful is to lead by example. Throughout the child rearing years, you can be certain that your kids want to listen to you exactly never. I know how frustrating it is. I not only have my own son, but, as a teacher, I have lots of other people’s kids who don’t want to listen to me. Here is a simple tip. If you want your kids to sit down and work, sit down and work with them, starting when they are younger. So many jobs require us to take work home. Sit down at the same time as your kids and do your work. If you don’t have a job where you take work home, sit down and pay the bills or balance the checkbook (do people still have checkbooks?) Read the newspaper, read a book, write thank you notes. If you are sitting there doing the same things that they are learning in school; reading, writing, math, they will see the value from the person they learn the most from. This is a great habit to start when your kids are young. Keep it up, however, when they get older. Leading by example is the best way to drive lessons home.

4. Set rules – There are so many distractions in the course of our days. Some are self-induced and some just pop up. While you can never eliminate them all, you can certainly create a set of rules that limits the ones that you can control. Probably the biggest distraction of modern times is technology. Set rules around technology use when it is study time. Phones should be silenced and in another room. Internet access should be limited to what is needed for what the academic tasks are. There shouldn’t be TV or music going on. Music is probably OK, so long as it doesn’t have lyrics. Instrumental stuff has less of a tendency to split the processing power of our brain. Your rules can include breaks for technology, but really only if it is a long study session. When you are interrupted by social media or texting, it takes approximately 23 minutes for your brain to get back in the groove. Isn’t it better to just finish the project and then check your social media? Make the rule that study time is a no tech time.

dadkidhighfive5. Set goals – If you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to get there. Teaching your kids to set goals to work towards is an essential habit. Successful people set goals. They can be goals for the day, for the week, for the marking period, or for the school year. They can be goals related to the teams they play on or related to their music lessons. The best way to teach your kids to set goals is to set goals as a family, AND to include the kids in your goal setting. For the family goals, the kids are a part of the family (which is also an important attitude to promote, if you want them to remain engaged as you get older) so, they should have a say in the family goals. It is essential to set or review goals at the beginning of the school year, at the semester break, at the beginning of the summer (learning activities shouldn’t stop just because school is out of session) and at the beginning of big projects like sports seasons, rehearsals starting for a play or even at the onset of a big project like a research paper or presentation. Goals are the key to keeping things moving in a positive direction and not ending up having to cram at the end.

6. Reward yourselves – I know I respond to rewards. I set up a goal to work towards and a prize to earn when I get there. You can do the same thing with your kids. Finish writing the first draft of the paper and we’ll go get ice cream. Or we’ll all go see a movie after we finish working in the yard. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but it could be dinner at a favorite restaurant for acing a hard test or getting a good grade on a big project. I never wanted to try and buy my son’s accomplishments. I wanted him to take pride in his work for the sake of taking pride. (I wasn’t always successful in this idea.) I did, however, want to motivate him to get to the end of a project, and I did want to celebrate his achievements. Some ideas worked better than others. Some didn’t work at all. Rewards, however, can work on goals of any scale.

Whether you want to believe it or not, you are one of the largest indicators of your children’s success. Even if it seems like they are not listening, your actions will teach them the skills they need to be successful. Habits and skills are both learned behaviors, not genetically endowed. Every parent can teach them, every kid can learn them.

When I wrote “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t” I focused on essential life skills that parents and teachers could instill in our kids. Although the title refers to high school, there is no reason you cannot begin to teach your kids these skills at an early age.

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Success Summer Style – 5 Beneficial Activities for Your Time Off

If you are a person who gets time off during the summer, you can choose to be summer lazy, or you can choose to utilize a small portion of your time off to increase your chances of being successful in your endeavors. Here’s five things that you can do during the summer to recharge your batteries and build your chances of making it to the top in whatever you do.

1. Work on creating good habits

Habits are the building blocks of success. One of the greatest leadership books of all times is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey. Do good things over and over until they start to happen without you even thinking about them. There are so many good habits you can build for yourself. Reading is essential to growth. Whether it is the sports page or books on philosophy, reading daily will keep your brain working and grow your vocabulary and writing skills, no matter your age. Exercising is another great habit that you can build over the summer. Even something as simple as a 30 minute walk regularly has great health benefits. How about journaling regularly? It helps you organize your thoughts, and it is a great way to record for you or your family the great things that happen. It is a proven fact that journaling helps your brain relive good events that happened to you and that has outstanding affects on your mood. My journal is actually a book of letters to my son. Hopefully, in years to come he will enjoy all of the great events in his life that I have chronicled for him. Maybe there will be smiles AND lessons in there for him. Spend your time off creating habits that will keep benefiting you for years to come.

2. Family time

As my son gets closer and closer to finishing up college, I am more and more aware that he is going to be heading out to start his own life soon enough and that means less time with me. Whether you are the child or the parent, you can drive more family time. A strong family is definitely one of the keys to success. Make sure you allot some time weekly to spend with the people you love the most. Share goals, successes and compliments. Every one will benefit from time spent together.

3. Learn a new skill

Isn’t there something out there that you have wanted to master. Get out there and do it. Learn to juggle, or play the guitar, or design websites, or learn to cook, or take up photography. There are countless “how-to” videos on the internet. Don’t know what it is that you want to do? Spend some time watching TED Talks, you are sure to find some inspiration there in the hundreds of talks they have online. There are sections and sections of books on every imaginable topic at your local bookstore. If you add one new skill each year, imagine the things you will be able to do in your life. My friend, Ed Kilgore, a former sports director in town climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro AND wrote a book, all after his 63rd birthday. Doesn’t matter how old you are, you can learn new skills.

4. Explore

Curiosity is one of the keys to great success. Take things apart and see how they work and then put them back together again. Go hiking or fossil hunting. Park your car and walk around new areas of your city or town. Visit museums and see things that are new to you. Eat ethnic foods that you have never eaten before. Drop your canoe or kayak in a place you’ve never paddled before. Exploration is a path to thinking and thinking is an ingredient to innovation and success. You don’t have to spend a lot money. There are also sorts of places to explore for free or cheap. Almost every town or city has nature trails or parks to explore for free. Get out there and see new things. You never know what you may find.

5. Volunteer

There are few more thought provoking or rewarding activities than giving back to your community. Even better if you can find an activity near and dear to your heart. There are not-for-profit organizations and church groups. You can participate in neighborhood clean ups, read books to young kids, or raise money for the local children’s hospital. Volunteering is also a great way to impress people and grow your network. This is also a great opportunity for family time. Working together, with the people you love, for a common good, is one of the most rewarding activities ever.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it grows your mind, body, or network of people you know. The one thing you don’t want to do with your time off is to waste it. No one ever gets better by  watching hours of television on beautiful days.



Unintentional Inspiration

I had a great day yesterday. Well, a mostly great day. It started rocky, but we weren’t going to let that ruin the fun, and the unintentionally inspiring day we had. The day started with my wife’s corporate holiday celebration. We received tickets for the local tour of Irving Berlin’s  “White Christmas” at the Shea’s Buffalo Theater. Sitting in that majestically beautiful old theater always inspires me. I’ve seen countless shows there and even worked a handful early in my career.

I knew the show. I’ve seen the Bing Crosby film that it was based on, but it’s been years. One of my major focuses as of late has been how powerful our minds are in contributing to our success. How creating a habit of positive thinking can have such incredibly positive impacts in your life.

Late in the first act, the character Bob Wallace finds young Susan Waverly suffering a bout of insomnia and sings her to sleep with the beautiful ballad “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and it was just further validation of the point I have been trumpeting for a few weeks – positive thoughts right before you go to sleep set the seeds in your subconscious that grow into really great things in your life.

Make it a habit to think of positive things as you lay in bed at night. If you can’t sleep, focus on the good things, not the bad things that are keeping you awake. Plant those seeds and grow really great successes.



Five Great Habits to Create on the Road to Success

If you have ever met me, you know that I am a fan of habits. Ever since I started teaching Leadership skills to high school students, I have studied the powerful role that habits play in our daily lives. From the most mundane things, like brushing our teeth, to the more high impact things, like eating healthy, our habits are what push us in the direction of success or of failure. Continue reading