I recently saw a quote: Don’t try make your kids have more than you; try to make them better than you. Good advice. Yet our grown children need to have enough money to live on and to raise their families. So we try to teach them about money and about treating others with respect. We live in changing times, so it’s a challenge to guide them toward “success.”
How Do You Define Success?
How do I define success? In our case, we just wanted our four kids to be able to support themselves and their families. We also wanted them to be happy with their lives, be caring individuals, and be of benefit to society. All four kids are grown and are successful in those ways. One is a researcher in biological sciences, one is a civil engineer, one works for an energy company, and one works in high tech electrical research. For a while one of them was an engineering professor at a well-known university and one does some teaching as part of their job. One is a part-time salesperson representing their company around the world. So yes, they can support themselves. They are building loving families of their own. Not everyone has to go to college, but in our situation, education was key. It was the path to making a good life.
What helped our kids get into college and complete their degrees? Several things.
1. We had a stable home life. My husband’s job was not completely secure, but he worked at the same company until he was forced to take early retirement. We did not have to worry about money, but we were very careful with our money.
2. We put our kids first in nearly everything. Everything was about giving them opportunities to learn something. We spent a lot of time with them and had many conversations about the things we valued. We didn’t spend much money on trips, but we did take in every free museum and free concert that we could. We did not “spoil” them by making them feel they were God’s gift to the world or anything. We just let them know that they were very important to us. We invested our time and plenty of love. They knew it and felt it. At least that’s what they tell us today.
3. We let our kids know that school was important. We’d go over their homework with them to be sure they understood everything. They did the work, but we were available to help. We did not allow tv until their homework was finished. No distractions! My being a former teacher did help of course, but I believe any parent can be involved in their child’s school work. If you don’t understand it, have the kid attempt to explain it to you. They will learn it better that way too!
Sometimes I see parents who put huge pressure on their kids to make good grades. That’s not a good idea in my opinion. When a kid gets tense and nervous about school, they actually do worse and often reject school work altogether. If you put the emphasis on understanding the material and learning how to learn you will get the best results. At least that’s my experience as a teacher and mom. I’d always tell them that the better they did in school, the more choices they’d have as adults. That seemed to sink in.
4. They always knew that they would go to college. It was a given. We didn’t preach it, we’d just mention, “and when you are in college . . . ”
5. We encouraged the kids to follow their interests and try new things as well. We did talk a lot about science and engineering because that’s what my husband was interested in. It was common to take a walk as a family in the evening and have the conversation turn to the planets, gravity, or cells. Road trips often involved similar conversations at various times. This is all my husband’s doing because he is obsessed with science and mechanical things. As it turned out, that influenced all four of our kids to go into engineering. Family conversations can have a big influence!
Bonus: 4 Scholarships
A bonus for our family finances was that all four kids got scholarships to college. Not all of them kept their scholarships (mainly due to girlfriends), but at least it saved us money for some of the years. And one of them got a full cost of attendance scholarship for 4 years that included room and board. That really helped our finances!
How Is Today’s Situation Different?
Not everyone can have a financially stable home, especially during the Great Recession. But we can work toward that as a goal and create a nurturing family atmosphere to compensate for financial ups and downs. College is not a guarantee of a job anymore. College debt is a huge problem that takes a lot of sacrifice to pay off. If my kids were in high school now, I’d advise them to research very carefully various careers. Find out what the average starting salary for a particular degree is and what the unemployment rate is for people coming out of college with that degree. Some kids will do this on their own, but many will need parents or other adults to help with this. Click here for my post: The Best College Majors to Pay Off College Loans.
What Still Works Today?
Some things that still hold true: taking a close interest in what you child is learning at school and knowing if they are really understanding it or not. Be supportive and not critical while helping them with school work. Make sure your child knows how much you love them. Plan lots of activities with the whole family if possible. Have fun together. Have lots of conversations. Know who their friends are and try to keep good influences in their lives. Read books to them and with them.
When should you start this? How about right now? I wouldn’t use flash cards with a baby as some do, but I would include age appropriate songs and books.
Watch your children grow and unfold into the fantastic adults they are capable of becoming. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Check out this list for more ideas: