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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Journaling Positive and Passing Traditions

I’ve posted my favorite TED Talk by Shawn Achor several times, so I won’t post the whole video again, just click the link. I like the idea of training your brain to put you in a positive place. One of the things that I particularly like is his idea of journaling about one positive experience you have had in the past 24 hours, and that allows for your brain to relive it, which combined with some other actions in the video, allows you to retrain your brain to default to looking for the positive first. So, I am trying it. I’ll let you know how it works out. Journaling also works as a stress management tool. 

The second cool thing about journaling is that it allows you to communicate with your future self and, more importantly, your future children and grandchildren. It allows you to share with them stories and chronicle important things that have happened in your family, in your life, and in their lives. By writing about the events when they happen, they are fresh in your mind, and the details are rich. The context of the events also shines through when you write when the ideas are fresh in your consciousness.

You don’t have to be an accomplished writer to begin to keep a journal. Particularly if you are writing to yourself or to family members. Like a small gift, it is the thought that counts. You can do it in any format you want. You can write, record audio, shoot video, draw pictures. With today’s technology, the sky is the limit. Have fun…..pass on your family history and traditions through some wonderful stories.

A few years ago I decided that I would start to journal as well. I decided to do it as a book of letters to my son. I start each letter with “Dear Adam,” and then I try to tell him some stories, record some history, and/or offer some advice. I hope that someday, he reads it with as much joy as it gave me to write it. I hope that there are some lessons in there. I hope that it is something he shares. I think my father-in-law has a group of letters that his father wrote to him when he was younger. He has kept them all of these years, because it is a piece of his father, an insight into a man who has been dead for many years. To a certain extent it is a legacy, a form of immortality.

If you are young and unmarried without children….so what? You don’t have to be a wise old sage to chronicle your life for future generations. You don’t have to already be a parent to offer advice based on your experiences. No matter what age we are, we have great accomplishments and we make big mistakes. Why not share the positive thoughts and lessons with your future generations?

For me, it is a fun exercise that makes me smile when I do it. I like knowing that I am passing some things down to the next generation, and while I am writing, it lets me be with him, even when he is away from home.


I made it through another week and for that I am definitely grateful. One of the things that I believe to be a hugely important factor in our success and more importantly our happiness is the idea of being thankful for the great things, large and small, that happen in our lives. If you make gratitude a daily habit, it will make a really big difference in your life.

I had a big week, and for that I am hugely thankful. We got this website up and running, and I certainly need to thank Brock Boland and Tony Moreno for all of their hard work. We’ve been pounding away on it for months.

I am at the point where I am beginning my second round of edits on my full length book “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School, but Usually Don’t” and the feedback has been great. I want to thank all of the people who have read it or are still reading it, Ed Hokaj, Kara and Ryan Bowers, Joe Mineo, Betsy Durant, Steve Naramore, Mary Alice Rooks, and Mary Ertel. This group of people represent many different segments of my life and they are giving up their time for my project.

Finally, I need to thank my beautiful wife and great son, Linda and Adam, who have really supported me every step of the way on this new journey. I couldn’t do it without them.

See how easy it is to offer thanks to the people that you appreciate. And the great thing about gratitude is that it is a two-fold positive force. It makes you feel good by taking a minute to think about and recognize the great things that have happened in your life and it also makes the person on the receiving end feel good…..that, is a multiplier effect and can you think of anything better than multiplying a positive emotion? I cannot.

Take a minute every day to focus on the positive things that have happened in your life and see if you can’t multiply it by sending out a positive message or two, appreciating those positive things. Doesn’t matter how you do it – e-mail ,phone call, text, or social media message. Share your gratitude with those who help you and you will be amazed what happens when you change your thinking from dwelling on the negative to focusing on the positive.

Who or what are you grateful for today?