As parents, we strive to offer our children opportunities with the goal of helping them reach their full potential. We are drawn to the latest child rearing techniques, scour parenting articles, Google experts and purchase products promising all sorts of child advancements. We enroll in the best schools and programs promising to enrich our children’s lives. All of this is done with the altruistic goal to do everything in our power to help our children become successful adults. Despite all this effort, most agree there is no method of parenting proven to directly correlate to adult success. Parenting has no manual other that it requires unlimited energy, unconditional love and immeasurable patience.
However, there may be one simple skill we can help our kids learn that is a predictor of future success. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence sites something called cognitive control in his new book, A Force For Good. The interesting thing is “Cognitive control the power to stay focused and ignore distractions, to delay gratification now in pursuit of a future goal, and to put a damper on destructive emotions “ can be taught. Goleman, 2016. p.128.
Goleman sites a study called the “marshmallow test” done at Stanford University with four year olds. Children were told they could have one marshmallow now or wait several minutes and get two. The children who were able to wait, were tracked through high school and had higher college entrance exam scores than those who couldn’t wait. Research results also showed Cognitive control was a better predictor of adult financial success over IQ.
How wonderful! This information offers you a legitimate reason not to try to fulfill your children’s every need or request as soon as they ask. I can hear you taking a deep sigh of relief right now! You no longer have to feel guilty saying; “You need to wait.” Or tell your children “no” when they ask for something. Instead, require them to earn the money for what they desire. This would force them to set a goal and work hard to achieve it.
When you think about it, the concepts of success and dreams are always in the future for children. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be proficient at a skill. Obviously, those 10,000 hours of practice requires determination and the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a future reward.
We all understand that accomplishing one’s goal requires discipline, focus and withstanding failure. Those who succeed, do so because they had the courage to pick themselves back up from defeat, re-focus their aspirations and self-motivate to try again.
These skills are easier to find when the goal or dream comes from one’s heart and soul. Allow your children the opportunity to dream their own dreams.Even if this means that they are different from your own for them. Guide them through the necessary steps and love them when they fail. Over time you will see that their discipline, drive and ambition for something they love will carry over to other areas of their life too.
Gladwell,M.Outliers. New York,NY: Little Brown and CO,2008.
Goleman,D. A Force For Good. New York. Random House, 2016.