The ideal child: IQ in the low 200s, the wisdom of Socrates, the compassion of Mother Theresa, the business mind of Donald Trump, the strength and skill of an Olympic athlete, the leadership of Winston Churchill, the pen of Shakespeare, the tongue of Martin Luthor King Jr, the creativity of Leonardo da Vinci. Able to handle any emergency, fearing nothing, responsible, punctual, well groomed, polite, and chivalrous. Can we produce one? No? Even with the hundreds of books in the bookstore and millions of tips littering the Internet?
Why are kids immune to our parental efforts? Why are there no perfect kids out there?
The Answer Is Parents ...
Not that parents don't try, it's that parents aren't. You see, in order to teach those things parents have the be those things. Fuzzy personality traits are acquired through watching and experiencing. Kids need a model; a person to show them the way, the results of all these great traits.
Unfortunately, parents need to fix themselves before they can teach their kids. Can you imagine a nasty person enlightening someone on how to be nice? A TV addict professing the virtues of books and outdoor activity? A terminally timid person coaching another on being a hard negotiator or a successful networker? It would never work because it's not believable. Children see right through that, wondering,
"Hey, if what they're saying is so right then why aren't they DOING it?"
A very legitimate question. Read on.
So How Should Parents Teach These Things?
If You Know It, Model It In Front Of Your Kids
Some parents actually have many of these wonderful traits, they just don't display them in front of their kids.
- Successful business people may be too busy, or may restrict the demonstration of their skills to the office. They need to bring that game home or the kid will be raised to the standard of the nanny, the daycare worker, or the other spouse (who is certainly wonderful, but may have different skills). Go shopping with the kids and negotiate in front of them. Talk with them about what particular businesses are doing right or wrong as you see them. Take them to work with you from time to time, to see your leadership and the respect you command.
- Some parents protect their children from the tough life they had. Maybe their own parents pushed school and extra-curricular activities too hard, so now they don't push at all, leaving the path entirely up to grasshopper. Children need to see. If this is you then at least demonstrate the skills you learned. If you know how to play music then make your house musical. If you know how to swim then take your kids swimming and have a blast being a human-dolphin. Don't want them to get a job at 14 like you did even though it made you the responsible and hardworking person you are today? Why not? Maybe it doesn't have to be as bad as yours. Maybe you can volunteer somewhere with them or run your house like a business.
If You Don't Know It But It's Important To You, Learn It With Your Kids
Some parents recognize their own weaknesses. I know I do. I wish I'd learned languages better, wish I was less shy, wish I procrastinated less, and a thousand other things. What better time to learn now that the stakes are doubled (both the parent and the kids benefit)?
If you are a parent with traits that you want to sharpen or learn then you have three valuable assets that will help you:
- Significant Emotional Events are happenings that can cause change at the core. People who cheat death instantly recognize the meaning and fleeting nature of life. People who get divorced suddenly realize the defects in their personality. People who witness an accident suddenly lost their appetite for risk. And people who become parents may instantly see their own shortcomings in light of the blank slate that is their child, becoming highly motivated to provide the best legacy they can. Let these motivations drive you to improve all the areas of your life.
- There is no better way to learn than by teaching. When we teach, we contemplate, trying to understand and master the skill. Knowing that you have to teach someone else is highly motivating to learn yourself. Keep in mind that your kids are watching so every second is a teaching opportunity for them, and an opportunity for you to hone your skills.
- You are smarter than your kids because you are an adult. Anything they can learn in an hour, you can learn in ten minutes due mostly to your vast experience. Everyone says that kids learn so much more quickly than adults: That's wrong. Kids spend all day learning so of course they will accumulate more, compared to an adult who spends no time. Adults are defeated by the brute effort that kids put in. Just believe that you can learn much more quickly than a young child.
Unleash these three assets to learn those skills. Wish you had a better numerical mind? Keep a year or two ahead in the textbooks of your child. Wish you were more organized? Read "Getting Things Done" the best productivity and organization book I've ever read, and put it in play; even as you're learning your child will see you as one of the most organized people on the planet. Think swimming is important, martial arts, fitness, etc? Join a course along with your child.
If You Want Your Kids To Know It, But You Are Too Far Gone To Learn It Or Teach It
Some parents are too far gone. They are unwilling or unable to change their own lives, believing that they are permanently and helplessly stuck. It may be true, such as parents deep in poverty whose time is spent courageously struggling for survival. Or it may false, such as parents who know they have a far from perfect life, but have no knowledge of how to change it. Regardless, as parents we all hope that our children can achieve anything: lead countries, make great discoveries, create wonderful things. That is not going to happen if all they see are underachieving parents. You have two choices:
- Seek other role models: Find some successful people for your children to hang around with. Make them join the science fair at school, junior achievement, scouts, big brothers and sisters, or anything to get them out and seeing role models who may rub off.
- Fail spectacularly: I think most of us parents changed our personality compared to our parents because we saw something that could obviously be improved. My father was very financially irresponsible while my mother was exceedinglylow risk and frugal. I took what I think are the best traits of both and recognized the failings of both, sought to improve, and now I am conscientious and analytical with money wasting neither the money directly nor opportunities for intelligent growth. I think that if my parents were just "normal" with they money then I would also be normal. So, if you are bad at something and cannot improve to become a mentor to your child, at least immerse yourself in the failure so that your child can plainly see the results and what caused them. The point is, don't pretend. If you want to change then change, otherwise, let your kids see the failure. Kids see through pretending and what they learn is that it's possible to get by with a weakness by hiding it.
Your Kids Will End Up Like You Or The Opposite Of You
In the end, no matter how many parenting tips you read and employ, the fate of your child is sealed. They have your genes, you can't change that. For the first 10 years or so you will influence them greatly, but you will not influence them as much as you think by what you try to install into their brains. Your primary influence will be how you behave for you will be their main role model for almost 90,000 hours. They will either decide that what they see is good and they will keep it, or it is bad and they will do the opposite. You have to live what you want them to become.