Raising Children for Success

January 17, 2016
by Dr. Rebecca Kolesky

For those of you who don’t already know me, let me give you a quick introduction. I am a California transplant but have come to really love Decatur in the 10+ years that I have lived here!   My husband works long hours as an Anesthesiologist at Egleston Children’s Hospital and we have 3 active boys (ages 11, 8 and 5) in Decatur City schools.   As I am constantly trying to achieve balance in my work and home life, be a better parent to my own kids, and have more resources for my patients, my leisure reading includes a lot of parenting books.

One of our children has ADHD (more about this in future posts)   needs a lot of help sometimes with executive skills.   Because it is usually faster and we often don’t feel  like starting an argument, we sometimes fall into the trap of doing things for him that he should do for himself.   I am working hard to try and break out of this habit and help all of my boys develop more independence. I recently read How to Raise an Adult – Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims and wanted to share some ideas from the book:

Give your kids more unstructured time.  

My oldest son plays by himself with his Legos for hours on end.   He has about 20 projects going on at any one time and before I can take a picture of one of his creations, he has broken it down and started creating something else!   He is thinking, creating, and problem solving and will probably someday be an architect or an engineer. We have started to allow our middle son to explore the neighborhood on his and ride to other friends’ houses. He had such a big smile on his face when he came home from riding the half-mile to his elementary school and back all by himself!   On another ride, he had to problem solve and ask a neighbor for help when he fell. He was a little upset when he finally made it home but is probably more confident now knowing that he can handle minor setbacks.

Teach your kids how to think for themselves.

We all have hectic schedules but I can’t overstate the importance of having family dinners together. We use current events, books, movies, etc. to bring up topics of conversation (age-appropriate) and talk about the different perspectives.   Ask what they think and why, then play the devil’s advocate and challenge them to respond to your point of view.   Out in the world let them speak up for themselves (at the doctor’s office J, ordering in a restaurant, at a store, talking to a coach, teacher, etc.) Be there to back them up and add on when necessary, but give them the chance to do it first.

Teach life skills.

Check out this age-by-age life skills guide for a basic list of things that your child(ren) should be able to do by themselves at certain ages. To teach a new skill, follow the following strategy: 1) first do it for them, 2) then do it with them, 3) watch them do it, and 4) let them do it completely independently. In our house, Tuesday nights are now “kid chef night” for dinner. My boys are taking turns picking out a meal, planning the grocery list and doing most of the meal prep/cooking (hopefully with less and less parental involvement as they get better at it!) We are also trying to hand off more of the household chores that we do as parents.   My boys have certainly not done it willingly or perfectly the first time and probably won’t for at least another 10 times. They have also created more of a mess sometimes (broken dishes, garbage bag leaking, etc.), but I hope they will learn from the process and eventually come to feel a sense of accomplishment from having done their part.

Of course, no change happens overnight and I will continue to be working on all of these skills with my boys for many years to come. My hope is that when the time comes, they are ready to move out of our house and lead independent, successful lives!

Here are some additional books with similar themes in case you are interested in reading more. I would love to hear your recommendations as well!

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey

Your Child’s Strengths: Discover them, Develop them, Use Them by Jennifer Fox

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel

The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

RK Book for blog1









Back to Blog/News