Raising children is hard work, but fortunately for us, traditional societies have always been very good at it! Through all of history parents knew to give kids a lot of attention in their early years, and then let them make their own way among their extended family and friends. But today’s world is so competitive that parents feel pressured to micromanage their children at home, school, and beyond.
But the young ones really do make their own way in the world. Parenting is hugely important, of course, but most of what determines a child’s future success lies in their genes and in their lives outside the home. Think how tiny babies already have their own unique personalities, as every parent knows. And how children learn more language from their friends than they ever do from their parents.
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Having said that, children do still need lots of attention and encouragement, so at the end of the day it’s all about striking the right balance. Like it’s vital to teach them your values. And how to make good choices, like less TV and more homework! But the best way to ensure their success is actually by devoting less time to your children and more to your spouse.
Because the happier and more stable your marriage, the more successful your children will be. It’s not extra tuition that will make them winners, it’s you showing them what good relationships are all about. Because when children see that their parents are happy together, they’re inspired to learn the skills that will enable them to succeed in life. And to have a good relationship of their own.
You don’t have to do anything particularly special for them to know that you’re happy. They’ll get it just from seeing you being affectionate, teasing one another, and having a quiet drink together. We’re so focused on exam results that we’ve forgotten just how important it is for children to see that their parents love one another.
Endless scare stories also make us reluctant to let our children build a life of their own. But, not letting children take risks, learn from their mistakes and make friends limits their development. And anxious parents create fearful children, who have no faith in themselves or their ability to do anything.
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Children also pay far more attention to what you do than what you say. Which means one of the best ways of getting your child to do something is by personal example. So demonstrate your values by how you interact with others, and your interests by what you do. It’s no accident that people who enjoy a lot of sport, for example, find that their children need little persuasion to take part themselves.
Your children are the centre of your world. But they’re not the whole of it. And no one’s perfect, so just do the best that you can. Because at the end of the day, that’s exactly what produces the most successful children.