Freedom to Succeed


Parents want children to succeed. However we sometimes transmit our anxiety by putting undue pressure on them and inhibit their freedom. Children should be guided to want good things for themselves.

When we command and demand that they follow our orders we take away their freedom.

Which is better; to have the information and facts about things, reflect, and assess the moral implications and consequences of actions before acting? or to have no facts and no thinking, just following of orders?

Which of these approaches do we want for our children?

Preaching, ranting and commanding that our children study, be high achievers or do anything for that matter, can often result in them resisting and rebelling just to prove that they are in control of us and certain actions.

Children must be free to choose their success. We cannot impose it on them. When I realized this I solemnly expressed acceptance of my 8 yr old daughter’s C grades in her report. I told her that the grades she wished to see in her report were entirely up to her. I calmly admitted to her I had zero control over her choices and attitudes and I could only hope she would choose a path that would bring her happiness and success. I handed it all to her to own. Her turn around was remarkable. Within one school year she got all A s.

One of my sons, when in upper six, said that he was tired of studying and was not going to university. I simply told him that that was fine as long as he found a job right after school or found a course of some kind to do.  I never preached or criticized. He was free to choose his path. I just accepted, prayed and waited. To my utter amazement, he applied to universities, did an undergrad and a masters degree.

So how do we motivate them to do well if not by keeping them home to study, preaching and ranting?

Humans generally all want to succeed. No one wants to fail. Failing is humiliating.

Children are aware that their abilities are constantly being measured and compared to others. Self worth is eroded and many lose the belief that they ‘CAN’.

We can motivate our children by ensuring that they feel capable and that they experience lots of successes. We must have continuous loving calm conversations with and around them about the benefits of having skills and an education. Of course there is no better teacher than parental example so living our lives, eager to learn and continuously improve is also perfect for them to witness.

When motivation comes from within a person we say it is intrinsic motivation.

Their good values are motivating them: Values of dignity, hard work, success and achievement rather than an extrinsic motivator such as rewards offered for achievement.

Let us make time to discuss things with our children, exposing them to inspirational stories of those who struggled to work hard and achieve.


Are Teens Disobedient?

Neurons in the brains of teens go through a process of major pruning during adolescence. They lose millions of neurons and new ones are formed.

Similar to the toddler phase their brain goes through very rapid growth.

5 Major areas of their lives become noticeably different and some challenging.

1. On the positive side they develop new thinking skills as they have greater processing power. They develop adult computational and decision making skills.

2.  Unfortunately their good adult rational thinking can be instantly overridden by emotional impulses driven from the maturing limbic part of the brain, the seat of emotion. Thus their impulsive and at times irrational tendencies.

Some more than others experience emotions very intensely and this mixed with increased hormones result in typical dramatic over reactive behavior: intense excitement, rages, fears, aggression, anxiety and sexual attraction.

It is very important to have many loving conversations with our teens so as to strengthen their rational thinking as rational thought is crucial at this time to overrule their impulsive over reactive tendencies.

3. At this time, as they attempt to process emotions they typically misread people, especially parents and teachers. Again calm communication especially on the part of the adult is essential for co operation. Shouting, nagging, demanding, commanding, criticising, threatening and lecturing simply adds fuel to a fire and results in a division in the relationship where they see that it is not safe to confide or consult the parent and thus become alienated from us, turning to peers for the much needed feeling of acceptance and importance.

4. Peer pleasure is of utmost importance. They tend to be very concerned about what others think of them. They will engage in risky behavior just to gain approval. For most this ranks as top priority.

5. Due to an abundance of Oxytocin hormone they also become very self conscious at this time.

In addition their higher thinking abilities start to question philosophical matters and they start to ask themselves for perhaps the first time: What kind of person do I want to be and what type of place do I want the world to be?

With all this and much more going on in their rapidly changing physical bodies, is it any wonder they get distracted, forgetful, rebellious and make mistakes?

We were not handed a parenting manual when they were born.

The modern teen has a lot more to contend with than in the past. Social media has added an entire new dimension to their mental/emotional health and so too to ours.

Let’s not hesitate to seek guidance and support on how to navigate the teen years with harmony and balance which will raise the odds for raising well adjusted, stable, resilient adults.


A Great Parenting Myth.

UnknownDid you ever stop to wonder how your own children are to be prepared for moving out into the real world?

In the raising of my 8 children, that thought never crossed my mind. I sure wish it had. I think as parents we assume they would just launch out and manage just fine.

There is a myth, a belief, that in order to be a good parent we must prevent and guard our kids from experiencing discomfort, struggle, challenges,  mistakes and pain.

The real world deals out challenges in working and living alongside disagreeable people, disappointments, disloyalty in relationships, negotiating conflicts, bills, mortgages, loans, recovering from mistakes, financial security, major responsibility as parents and not to mention suffering and pain from illness, accidents, trauma and raising a family.

Can we really prepare our children for this?

Yes, with awareness and determination and guts. It takes guts to develop grit in our children. Do we have the guts?

Grit is resilience, the fortitude to withstand tough situations.

Grit is developed by disciplined behavior and actually experiencing tough situations.

So the question is:

How can our children grow to be tough if we do not demand disciplined behavior from them? How can our children grow to be tough if we prevent them from falling and getting bruised and if we dash in to soothe them when they do fall?

How can our children become tough when we protect or rescue them from a little teasing, punishment or consequences at school?

How can they withstand failing or learn to recover quickly from mistakes if we hover so closely that we prevent them from making mistakes?

How can they learn to work alongside difficult personalities and resolve conflicts with peers, siblings and teachers if we intervene when they are in a disagreement?

How can they develop a high pain tolerance if we put numbing cream on skin before they get their shots and let them drop out of sports that require effort and demanding training schedules?

We have gone overboard with protecting our children from necessary struggle and discomfort and pain. We have grown helicopter blades and are hovering over them to rescue them from the harsh realities of life….to their demise.

We can start by demanding they perform certain orderly tasks daily as this builds discipline, be it making up ones bed daily, being orderly with clothes, personal belongings such as shoes, bags, sports equipment, cleaning up after oneself when utilizing common areas, like the kitchen or family space. This is actually also a way to show respect for others. The good ol virtue of fortitude is instilled in this way. If you read my other posts you would have learnt that an easy nag free way to get children to do tedious routine tasks and responsibilities is by using the enforceable statements:

“ I will be happy to do__________________ for you when you____________”

and “ You are welcome to ___________ when you ______________________”

By the way, a gentle reminder that these only work if you mean what you say and say what you mean. If you use the first one you must stick to the statement that you will not perform whatever favor or task for the child you said you would not do when they have not done what you needed them to do.

Helping too much with projects, homework and studying is depriving them of strengthening that independence muscle of doing it on their own.

Taking forgotten books, lunch kits, school supplies etc to school for them is lessons in forgetting, subconsciously the child is thinking:    “ Why should I remember to take my stuff? It’s ok mum or dad will bring it, I need not worry!”

Experiencing losing is such an important character builder, being a good sport, why would we deprive our children of this lesson and not insist they participate in sports day even though they will not win?

There is no doubt that challenging schoolwork, homework, lessons, training schedules and chores can be viewed as blessings to help develop grit in our kids. Let’s not shelter them from it.

PLEASE NOTE HOWEVER that the child who is clearly not keeping up with the curriculum is by no means to be placed in this category. When it comes to a developmental reading or learning delay, unreasonable academic demands can actually damage self-confidence and delay learning further. The child with special needs can actually thrive and grow resilience in the other ways through sports and off course chores.

Let’s form our children to be very employable or better yet who can run their own businesses. Put the helicopter blades to rest and be a consultant style parent. Love and Logic can help us greatly with this or keep tuned for my next post.

Are we putting our kids into too many structured activities?

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Are we being overly eager to see our children blossom? Are we adamant that they get exposed to a wide variety of sports and activities so as to discover where their gifts and talents lie? Or do we really need a place for them to be occupied while we work on afternoons and week ends or prefer to not have to entertain them ourselves?

Some of these are valid reasons for putting our children into too many extra curricular activities.

I just want to caution well intentioned parents that having our children involved in too many structured activities can be depriving them of good old genuine unstructured play time. Its also been concluded that too much involvement can lead to anxiety.

Research shows that children’s brains need down time, day dreaming time, time for their imaginations to spark, time for their brain to negotiate with play mates, time to create, explore, de-stress and process emotions and experiences. This special free time allows self-discovery to take place, discovery about their passions, the stirrings of their heart, their gifts, interests. They have time to become doers not just followers of instructions and restricted to rules of games and activities (which, don’t get me wrong is very important but within reason).

Everything created and invented was fist imagined. Creativity emerges from the imagination. There is no time to engage the imagination when from waking till sleeping their time is structured. Screen time is structured time by the way. The mind does not freely dream or imagine while engaged with a screen.

What do we do when they say they are bored?

We can start by giving them a hug and one to one time to connect and refuel their emotional buckets. When they feel satisfied they will most likely pull away to entertain themselves. If not, then you can offer to have them do a quiet activity near you or get involved with what you are doing. You can find hundreds of ideas to create a Boredom Buster Jar on the web or better yet have your kids create one with you, filling a jar with ideas of things to do when bored.

My favourite response to “I’m bored” is “Great I can find chores for you to do”.

A few things we can do to prepare our kids for the real world.

I allowed my children to spend their precious birthday money, sent faithfully every year by Granny who lived abroad, on things they wanted that I knew were a ‘waste’.

Why did I do this?

I wanted my kids to learn the value of money when they were very young and learn lessons like this when the price was small.

I love to recall the time when one of them (at age 8) spent his b-day money on a pack of imported strawberries (an item not in our regular grocery budget).

I enjoyed seeing him realize it was not at all worth it as, some were green and not tasty and he was compelled to share with his many siblings so he ended up with few. He certainly learnt a lesson and after that he choose more wisely how to spend his savings.

Another one was determined to buy herself a grown up ladies wallet, she was 7 yrs old. I did not stop her. She never used it and admitted a few years later when clearing out here room that it was a waste of money.

Can you imagine loaning them money and asking them for collateral? Why not?

Giving them an allowance and having them budget and manage their own bank account makes them feel so important and trusted. Not only is this preparing them well for the future but it also builds their selfconfidence.

Can our children get anywhere without selfconfidence? Not likely.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to see our teens doing their own laundry and occasionally be preparing their own meals? What a joy! They are more likely to be motivated to do this IF they grow up by our side helping us. When they leave home this will be familiar and therefore it will be one less thing to get used to since they would have practiced at home.

Remember Children learn what they live. When they see us contributing happily to our family needs doing chores: laundry, cleaning and cooking they will tend to be more eager to do the same.

Complain, rant and sulk to manage family household responsibilities and then don’t be surprised when they imitate you the parent and complain and sulk.

No doubt they are driving cars, acting like very responsible adults behind the wheel on the nation’s roads before they go off to tertiary education or the world of work. This responsible behaviour on the roads can certainly transfer into the home where they can sibling sit, house sit, take on responsibilities of running the home, yard, garden, vehicles, shopping errands.

Sounds like marriage preparation to me! How great is that?

We actually deprive and rob our adult children when we do too much for them and don’t expect them to contribute and help and do for themselves. Let’s give ourselves a break, share the burdens of running the home with our adult children and empower them in the process…to face the real world, competent and confident. Highly employable by the way.