Posts Tagged ‘ Success ’

Baby Sports Stars: Can A Toddler Be A Sports Prodigy?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

How early can you see extraordinary sports ability? Well, consider that, in Europe, toddlers are being signed to professional contracts as footballers (soccer players). For example, last fall a 20-month-old was scooped up after his father had posted a YouTube video showing his ball handling and kicking skills.

While sports signings have gotten younger and younger over the years, this story is intriguing to say the last because, well, it’s really hard to tell what toddlers are going to be like when they grow up. We could dig up examples of many athletes who showed promise at an early age, or advanced abilities. You can watch a clip of a toddler named Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball on national television when he was not yet three years old. And of course, the discussion doesn’t have to be limited to sports – similar stories could be found about musical prodigies.

We will have to wait more than a decade to find out how these toddlers fare as professional athletes. They may in fact turn out to become professionals and maybe even excel. But before we see a surge of YouTube videos of kids demonstrating their sports skills, let’s keep a few things in mind.

First, it’s really hard to figure out who’s going to be great even when athletes are turning professional at the normative ages. Think about the extraordinary time, effort and expertise that goes into drafting professional football players. Think about the careful decision making that results in a player being selected as a first round draft pick. The assumption would be that they all become stars. In fact, over the last decade or so, only about 30% of all the first round draft picks have been selected as Pro Bowl players.

Check out the list of Heisman Trophy winners (“the most prestigious award in college football”) and see how many have become stars. Think about who’s not on that list, players like Tom Brady. Consider his career trajectory. He was a backup quarterback for his first 2 years in college, and was drafted in the 6th round with the 199th pick. Yes, 198 players were drafted before the player who is frequently called the best football player ever. Have a look at the 6 quarterbacks drafted before Brady and see how their careers compare to his.

The point is that it’s hard for decision makers to look into that crystal ball even when athletes are of age and have gone through all the requisite training before turning professional. There are certainly objective benchmarks that are measured as they do in the NFL scouting combine. Interviewing is done to assess character and motivation. There is no shortage of performance data and video. Yet it’s still a probabilistic process at best.

All of this is offered because many of us want to put our children in a position to excel at earlier and earlier ages. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the problem becomes when the stakes get raised when kids should just be growing up and learning to love the things that they are doing. Excessive pressure to achieve is not to be confused with support and encouragement to do their best. There’s no need to document this pressure. You can see it at any age. Certainly not all parents, not even the majority of parents. But that feeling is palpable. Kids aren’t just playing a game. They are performing with a lot riding on it, well before an age where that should be a relevant concern. And that fact is kids are most likely to succeed when they invest their time in something that they like and learn to love.

Some “prodigies” do in fact go on to experience great success as professionals. Many don’t. We often hear about the “numerator” in that fraction – the number who achieve that level of success. We don’t typically hear as much about the “denominator” – those individuals plus all those who don’t reach that ultimate level of greatness.

So when you hear about prodigies, or see other kids who look like they are going to be stars, don’t up the pressure on your kid. Make sure they are getting the most out of their experiences – their successes and their failures. Encourage their effort and enthusiasm and determination and their growth. Let them find their passions over time, even if it takes some time. And in that process they will define their own success.

Also check out the following blog posts on “success”:

Success and Character

Authentic Success

The Triple Package

What career will your child have? Take our quiz to find out!

Hoop It Up Cake
Hoop It Up Cake
Hoop It Up Cake

Boy Kicking Ball in Field via Shutterstock.com

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Success and Character and Parenting

Monday, March 10th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent. 

In prior blog posts, I’ve discussed typical benchmarks of success that we may (or may not) prioritize for our children, including academic, professional, and financial achievement. I’ve also highlighted alternate perspectives that argue for more balance in our goals, in order to make sure our kids are also happy and lead psychological fulfilling lives.

What’s interesting is that these two orientations are not mutually exclusive and the idea of “balance” in fact supports success in the long run. It’s worth revisiting the premise of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. The book suggests that, if we take a long-term view on child development, character traits are often critically important factors for fueling the pursuit of achievement across developmental stages. So if we want to nurture “success,” we can’t just focus on skill development, but also the development of character.

There is a good deal of research on the importance of resilience, optimism, and the like in development. We could add to the list the downside of stress and depression and anxiety. From the perspective of parenting, pushing kids relentlessly to pursue success (e.g., extreme pressure to get good grades or achieve in a sport) can backfire. But this doesn’t mean you just let kids be and hope for the best. Focusing on fostering psychological investment in the process of working hard, having goals, and handling setbacks positions kids better for evolving the many skills they will need to chase after “success.”

What career is your child destined for? Take our quiz and find out.

Manners & Responsibility:  3 Manners Toddlers Should Know
Manners & Responsibility:  3 Manners Toddlers Should Know
Manners & Responsibility: 3 Manners Toddlers Should Know

Also in this series:

The Triple Package

Authentic Success

Little Girl in Roller Skates Getting Back Up via Shutterstock.com

 

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Recalibrating What We Mean By “Success” For Our Kids

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent.

We often measure success for our kids via static indicators – grades, getting into a “name” college, attaining a high status occupation, and large income. While all of these things are notable outcomes for individuals, they aren’t necessarily what everyone is shooting for. And as such they aren’t necessary to be assumed as the key indicators of success in life and hence the fundamental goals for our children as discussed in Amy Chua’s new book.

It’s worth revisiting Madeline Levine’s book “Teach Your Children Well.” The premise is straightforward. Levine, a clinical psychologist, has seen many a family in which parents and children get caught up in the competitive treadmill that can define the adolescent years in particular. It offers a more balanced viewpoint that encourages children pursuing achievement without getting too caught up in the trap of stacking up a list of accomplishments. It’s a long-term strategy that suggests how parents and children alike should strive for a more developmentally grounded view that supports and encourages healthy practices for the mind and body – which in fact lay a stronger platform for kids to eventually find successes in the personal and professional lives.

Even though we are long past the “Tiger Mom” debates, the reality is that the pressure on many kids – throughout childhood and adolescence – are many and can be intense. “Teach Your Children Well” remains highly relevant even if these topics aren’t as topical as they were a few years ago.

Also in this series:

“The Triple Package”

What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

Smiling Teen Reading via Shutterstock.com

 

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How Would You Define “Success” For Your Child?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent.

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Affect the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America” – “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua’s new book co-authored with her husband Jeb Rubenfeld – has promoted discussion because their thesis is that certain racial groups achieve more success than others because of three fundamental factors: high self-esteem, insecurity, and self-discipline. One could debate the assumptions drawn about race and success, or the choice of factors which purportedly promote success. But less attention has been given to the indicators of success.

While “The Triple Package” isn’t about parenting per se, it certainly embeds ideas about development and the factors that influence “successful” trajectories. Thus, through the lens of parenting, the question raised here is  if these are really the most important things we would want for our children.

Consider these benchmarks highlighted in the book:

  • Income
  • Occupational Status
  • Test Scores

These are certainly outcomes that matter to a degree for our kids. We certainly make parenting choices to positively influence how our kids perform on tests, what occupational status they eventually achieve, and the income level that they reach. But the fact that they are highlighted as the starting point of the thesis under study provides an assumption that these indicators are benchmarks of success.

They may be what defines success for some people, or in fact many people. But I think it’s important, when we think about parenting, to recalibrate our thinking. While these outcomes may be goals – and important ones – for some, they aren’t necessarily the measure of success for many others. And I suspect that carries through in terms of parenting style.

Grading Paper via Shutterstock.com

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