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(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

The dream of every parent is for their children to be successful. But will children naturally strive to succeed and how much should we push them or help them along? There have been plenty of well documented cases of parents pushing their children too far. At the other extreme, many parents give no encouragement to their children, to the extent that kids are without goals or purpose and can feel worthless. Is there a happy medium?

One of the common mistakes of parents is to push their children to achieve the parents’ dream rather than allow them to meet their own goals. Ask yourself whether your children really like a sport or hobby they are doing or whether you are the one who likes the activity and you want your children to like it too. If they don’t, this might lead to conflict and resentment, and pushing them will make things even worse. They may prefer to pursue some other interest, one that they are better at or like doing more.

Rather than push them in a certain direction, let them try many activities, especially in their younger or formative years. See what they are good at and are happy doing. Once this is established, you can nurture them along in this direction. You will find it unlikely that you will need to push them much at all. Putting too much emphasis on one activity is unhealthy. Make sure your children have balance in their lives and encourage them to pursue a range of activities with many groups of children.

Think of the consequences of pushing your children too hard at a young age. This seems to be common in areas like pageants and acting. Some parents go to extraordinary lengths to try and ensure their children do well. Braces on a two year old to correct a crooked smile can lead to physical and psychological problems. A child who is pushed to attend numerous auditions for acting work and not get one job may become stressed and unhappy at the situation. It could be time to try something else.

Don’t be too critical of your children if they don’t succeed. Provide encouragement and accept that participation in activities is about enjoyment, gaining experience, socialization, and developing skills rather than being the best.

You shouldn’t have to push your child to be successful. Rather, there are a number of things you can do to enhance your children’s path through life. Success is more likely to come from pursuing these avenues than by merely pushing children to succeed:

– Boost your children’s self-esteem by making them feel good about themselves. The best way to do this is to remind them of their successes and good qualities.

– Having goals in life will help your children succeed. These can include study or career goals as well as where they want to be in their sports, hobbies or other activities in years to come. Guide them as to what might be feasible but let them set the goals.

– Discuss with them what they think their strengths and interests are. What are their best subjects? Which sports and other activities do they enjoy most? This will help them make the right choices to succeed.

– Make sure your children remain optimistic about the future. There will always be violence, unemployment, drugs, and so on, but at the same time, we have never had so many opportunities in our lives. Encourage positive thinking.

– Always encourage your children to ask questions as this is part of the learning process. Give appropriate answers and make sure you listen to what they might have to say on the topic.

– Energy levels are important too. Children are more likely to succeed in their studies, career, sport and life in general if they stay fit and healthy by exercising, eating properly and getting their sleep.

You don’t need to push your children too far at all to succeed. If you see that they are uninterested or unhappy in what they are doing, it is time to review the situation. Find out what they really like doing or are good at. Let them try other activities and different subjects at school. Give plenty of encouragement and perhaps help them set some goals.