There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work. No matter which way you slice it, there’s no magical program or process that will finish your homework or think up the next great idea. These have to come from you.
Generation X, Y, and Z, however, have been labeled entitled, spoiled, and the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation, where hard work is secondary to creativity and inclusion. As we’re finding out, though, we need a healthy dose of both to create success, as an individual and within our society as a whole.
No where is this more apparent than at school, which seems to swing to and from extremes. These days, school is either full of hours of homework a night leaving little if any time for creative outlets or school’s primary focus is making sure there is an inclusive environment where individual creativity is recognized. How to mix these two important factions of our educational system into a rainbow of positive but earned success is the $64,000 question.
Helping children understand the importance of hard work and that earned success doesn’t come easy is a viewpoint I encourage the children and families I work with to incorporate into their parent/child discussions. Here are a few tips on how to help your child develop a strong sense of self while learning the value of earned success:
1. Ask & Answer: Encourage children from a young age to ask the hard questions about themselves and others, and when they do, actively listen and answer with age-appropriate but honest responses. By doing so, you’ll begin to instill in them a love of knowledge and feed their inquisitive nature. Finding out the why of something creates life-long learners.
2. Make Mistakes: Learning from ones mistakes is the foundation of working towards greatness. We can’t expect our children to rise to the level of earned success if they never know the opposite feeling of failure; failure, contrary to popular belief, is not a bad thing. That word is too often thrown around as a negative, when really it’s just another way of understanding how to get up after you fall. We are all going to fall throughout life and it’s important to begin helping our kids realize you can get back up, with even more gusto!
3. Stick with It: Most new things that we try are difficult at first. The question is: does your child want to keep trying that thing. For example, when I was kid my mom made me play the violin. There were several points where I wanted to quit but she wouldn’t let me. So I stuck with it (albeit, not without protest). 10 years later I was pretty good and even made it into the college orchestra. Now, I never played symphony hall or went on to be a famous musician but I stuck with it. In the face of adversity, we are challenged to take a path that may be more difficult than we anticipated. It may or may not pay off financially but it always be rewarded as a lesson in tenacity.
4. Welcome Challenges & Competition: Competition is healthy when it’s done right. There shouldn’t be any parents yelling from the stands, “Hey, your kid sucks!”, but kids should know where they stand in relation to their peers. We already do this, we just don’t like to talk about it. A prime example– grades. A child who is great in math gets an A; we praise him. The same child gets a C in English; we do not praise him. Grades are our school’s way of measuring a child against his peers, and this theme continues to run throughout higher education and careers. Challenging yourself to move from a C to a B in English is healthy self-competition. We need to encourage a child’s desire to do better and move farther down the path of their own success, one step at a time.
5. Just Do It: Whining, stalling, and making excuses for a child’s inaction is only teaching them how to get out of hard work. When I first started my tutoring business, I placed ads in the local colleges. In addition to the wonderful, hard-working students I took on I got a few calls asking me to write their essays or take their tests for them. My response: No. What I really wanted to say to them: How did you make it this far without doing your own work? Maybe I should ask their parents.
All in all, hard work is not for the faint of heart. It’s not a perfect end-game and we’re not going to know every answer. There will be struggles but struggling can be productive. It’s when we don’t let our kids learn how to get of those jams that we fail to equip them with the tools to learn and earn success through dedication, tenacity, and good old-fashioned hard work.
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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com