My son is an over-achiever. It was not something that I planned for, but rather a coincidental accomplishment. One that I am both proud of and willing to take complete credit for, if necessary. When reflecting upon the parenting style of myself, and those who have raised over-achievers, it appears that there are some consistencies in expectations and discipline. Consistencies being the operative word. Oh, and it helps if they are the first born. Here are five:
1. Use Positive Reinforcement. Many over-achieving children are smart and determined. However, they also tend to be sensitive, which means that want to excel in order to impress. They do not want to feel as if they have let you –or their teachers and coaches— down. This characteristic can work to your advantage as the parent, to help foster their achievements. By praising their efforts and showing your pride, you drive their passion to achieve.
2. Be Consistent. Children benefit from consistency and schedules. They excel when they know what to expect, and they happily keep their groove when they know the tune of the day. They should follow a routine that starts with waking up at the same time, everyday. From there, the day should follow a similar schedule as the day before. This will ensure they know what to do, and when to do it, which ultimately keeps them task oriented.
3. Reinforce Commitment. Demand that your children start what they finish. If they sign up for baseball and decide they do not like it halfway through the season, be sure that they finish it off with a smile. If they decide to paint a picture of the moon, and want to quit because they could not get the curve right, encourage them to try again. Explain to them that everything they decide to do is a commitment and should be treated the same as a promise; and we all know that promises should never be broken.
4. Explain the Many Faces of Success. Explain to your child that success does not look the same for everyone. For some, writing a sentence without spelling errors is an accomplishment. For others, adding a detailed picture with beautiful colors to accompany a sentence is an achievement. Remind your child to never compare themselves to others, but instead focus on doing their best, always. If they focus on their own capabilities, they will be in constant motion of improvement.
5. Find Positive Influences. Children should be surrounded by great influences, friends who have unique passions and talents, teachers who inspire them, and adults who foster their love of success. They should read the stories of great writers, listen to the songs of great musicians, and see the paintings of fantastic artists. They need to be surrounded by the potential to learn, and grow, and achieve. It starts with inspiration and ends with success.