Parents want their children to succeed in life,
and, especially due to their education. What is success anyway? While many of
us have a strong inkling of what we mean by success, it is hard to pen down.
The question just got even more ambiguous as the very notion of success is
being questioned. And yet, we all educate for it.
Paul Tough wrote a whole
book about How Children Succeed. IQ does not determine success. Paul Tough names
Grit, Perseverance, Curiosity, Social Intelligence and other character traits
as part of the recipe for success. He emphasizes, based on well-founded
research that character traits, not cognitive skills measured by IQ tests, lead
to success. If the recipe for success is changing, steering away from cognitive
skill development alone to also emphatically include personality traits, is the
definition of success also changing?
A month has passed since
school started. For other families, this month marks the beginning of a six to
nine month long admissions process for elementary, middle, high school or
college enrollment next fall. In these early months of a new phase of your
child’s education ask yourself -- What is success in this new paradigm? What
does the combination of cognitive skills and character traits lead to? At the
start of my workshops, I ask parents what they most want for their children,
long term, as a result of the child’s education. Most parents want their
children to be happy, fulfilled, passionate, confident and contributing to
society. Their answers, all represent various definitions of success.
How do you define success?
Is success defined by --
Does it ensure a comfortable lifestyle? How do sustenance and survival feature
in what we mean by success?
It seems basic but also essential to consider mental, physical and emotional
- Relationships? Family and friends are critical to the emotional survival of a
person. What is the nature of relationships that show up in your definition of
- Career Achievement and Status? Fame is a glorified version of being acknowledged,
seen and accepted. Don’t we all want to be acknowledged? What parent’s chest is
not proud when she sees her child being applauded?
- Impact on the world? Measured by the changes you bring about to ‘make
the world a better place’? Is it about technological innovation? Is it about
justice? Fairness? A more peaceful world and your contribution towards that
Does following your passion, to a high level of excellence, for the sake of
pursuing it, represent success? Do creativity and innovation in the pursuit of
that passion define success? It is said that when you pursue your passion, that
sends out ripples of positive impact in the sphere around you. Is that success?
- Raising the Next Generation? Whether seen with humanistic eyes or
microscopically as the work of our genes, we are here to procreate. Do you
define the success of your life (and eventually your children’s) by how you
raise your children and the indirect long-term impact that comes from doing so?
- Being your True Self? Ancient traditions and new age thinking point us to
self-awareness, union with the oneness of the universe as the ultimate
self-actualization of a human being. Is that success? Can you even call that
All of the above? How do
you define success for yourself? How do you define it for your children? What
vision of success do you hope to share with them, through their education and
your family life?
Your answer to this
fundamental question, whether stated explicitly or held in the secret passages
of your mind and heart, lays the foundation for supporting your child’s
education. How you perceive success will define the kind of school you choose
for your child, the ways in which you will advocate for your child, the
resources of time, community goodwill and treasure you will being to bear for
her education. Your particular and specific definition of success will define
the battles you will pick and the ones you will encourage her to take on.
stating your ideas of success clearly, you empower yourself with a clear vision
of the ultimate goal of education, and of, dare I say, her life and your life.
This one question will color your parenting for a fulfilling education and your
child’s own educational goals.