• We all have things we’d like to see our children improve at – academics and school grades; behavior; sports ability; social skills.  But underlying all of those achievements is the core to success—Effort!  You know– The section of our child’s report card that sometimes goes overlooked. Academically, it’s great to have them come home with straight A’s. But are they performing at their potential? I find it easier to accept and deal with a hard working child who gets poor grades than a lazy or arrogant child who gets good ones. Don’t get me wrong- of course, I like when my kids come home with good grades but it’s also important for me to know that they are putting in the effort and pushing themselves to see how far they can go.

    Will they be content with mediocrity or strive for more to unleash their true potential?

    It is great to do well, but the work ethic our children display when they are young will often translate into how they are willing to work as adults. And though, unfortunately, financial success is not always directly linked to effort, personal success and happiness often are.  Will they be content with mediocrity or strive for more to unleash their true potential?

    School has its own set of challenges.  Our children cannot choose their core classes so they spend some (or most, depending upon the child) of their time learning things about which they have no personal interest.  The trick is to make it fun and motivate them to put in the effort to make it more meaningful.  That means using whatever resources are available to strive for improvement. Whether its sports, calculus, auto mechanics or a cooking class, they have to put their best foot forward.  That’s really what most parents want from their children.  Easier said than done but here are some tips to help your children put in that extra effort.

    • Model – My kids see me putting in the extra time, about 20-30 minutes a day, after my regular work to try to further my goals and interests. Whether it’s working on Playdate or another idea I might have, I involve them by asking their opinions on some of the topics. You can’t ask them to do what they don’t see in you. Modeling is the best way to show them what level of effort you expect from them.
    • Challenge Them – When my seven year old, who’s learning Spanish in school, comes home with his vocabulary list, I always ask him to use the words in a sentence. He usually gets worked up and says, “We don’t have to do that, we only need to know the meaning.” To which I respond, “I know!” At this point he gets it after I’ve explained my intentions to him. I don’t just teach them to study for testing purposes. Otherwise, I will have trained a very talented parrot. I take their studies and day-to-day experiences a step further to make it more challenging (not overwhelming) and memorable for them.
    • Learn with them – I actually enjoy going over their science homework with them.  I’m always amazed how many new facts I learn. That way, when they see how learning is still fun and exciting for me, at my age, then that attitude hopefully becomes contagious.
    • Applied Learning – When doing math problems, I always connect it to their allowance or savings toward a special gift to grab their attention. It makes more sense to them and shows them how it fits into their world. It creates motivation and helps with learning the subject matter since not every child learns in the same way.
    • You Never Know When You Will Need It – I have my kids go through First Aid and Basic Life Saving classes as young as possible. It’s a skill that they will hopefully never have to use but is there in case they need it. Sometimes children don’t take certain studies seriously because they think they will never need it. This teaches them that even though some subjects might not appear to be all that important at the time, they may become useful for them later on in life.
    • Show Them the Bigger Picture – I talk to them about role models I admire in the community and explain to them that generally there is no easy ticket in life. Kids often like to dream about being successful. I explain to them how working to the best of their ability is what gets recognition, appreciation and rewards. This will give them the best chance of being successful in achieving their goals.
    • Nurture and Reward – I give them my time and provide the tools to allow their efforts to flourish. If they need certain supplies to build or try out their experiments, I get it for them. Completed projects and the feeling of achievement are the direct rewards that come from their efforts.  This then translates to more freedom, at home and school, as a result of their demonstrated responsibility.

    Regardless of what profession or interests your child chooses to pursue or whether you’re dealing with a “lazy genius” or “lazy average to struggling” individual, the importance of determination and effort cannot be overemphasized. It draws respect, appreciation and admiration from those around you.  So let your children dream big and then help them build the habits most likely to help them succeed beyond their wildest dreams. The sky’s the limit!