From successful nurture to successful children

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1 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 1 From successful nurture to successful children How to make your child successful? Dico van Dissel WORD COUNT: 1642

2 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 2 From successful nurture to successful children Stephen King once spoke the legendary words: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. So, this would suggest that in order to become successful one should work hard But what if parents want their children to become successful? To become the next world-class marathon runner for example? How should that influence nurture? Then parents should somehow ensure that their children work hard. I am strongly convinced that parents can contribute to a successful child by providing the child with external stimuli to accomplish its goals. In addition, parents should eventually aim to get the child internally motivated with as little parental influence as possible. Define successful First of all, it is necessary to clearly define what we mean by successful. The golden medal of success has two sides. One side sticks to the breast. This side reflects how you feel about your own success. That is measured by the ability to accomplish goals. The other side indicates what the spectators of your life think. This group consists of both intimate people such as friends and family and other people who solely know you for being successful. They judge you by considering whether the way you accomplished your goals appeals to them. Following this definition, it is possible that you consider yourself utterly successful, whereas the rest of the world thinks the complete opposite and vice versa. Every human being has their own goal(s) that represents success. This variable could be filled in, for example, by a certain amount of money, wisdom, knowledge, power, influence, status, a certain achievement, as well as a certain state of mind. Apart from these two relatively subjective sides, the scientist could utilise a more objective definition. This definition for success is: the child has success when it achieves

3 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 3 more than the parents did regarding a certain variable. This essay treats the subjective side of the parents combined with scientific measurement. Therefore, we will elaborate on the second side of the medal, whilst conserving our scientific definition. Ingredients of success But how could parents influence their children s level of success? The recipe of success has three ingredients (Peters, O'Connor, & Rudolf, 1980): firstly, the skills and intelligence of a person, labelled as ability. It is estimated that this ability is 60-80% hereditary (Bouchard & McGue, 1981). Hence, parental influence could assist with the remaining 20-40%. Secondly, motivation accounts for how hard a person tries to achieve a goal. That is called intensity. Motivation also includes how long a person can maintain this intensity without surrendering. In other words, this is the persistence to attain goals. The third ingredient is mainly determined by coincidence. This factor involves the opportunity to perform. The importance of the latter can be easily demonstrated. An Ethiopian athlete named Haile may have the ability and motivation to become a world-class sprinter, but lacks running shoes and a good trainer. The lack of opportunity to perform withholds him from his target: a medal at the Olympic Games. Who decides that a German athlete does have this opportunity and the Ethiopian does not? Of course, sometimes parents could bring in more money to facilitate their children s goals, but generally we can conclude that the environmental factors form a set of given circumstances that are difficult to change or improve. For improvement we take a closer look at the motivation ingredient. The problem for today s youth Today s society faces one seemingly small irregularity: its children are less self-corrected and self-directed and herewith less self-determined than ever before (Mithaug, 1991). However,

4 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 4 tomorrow s society faces one major issue: its top scientists, political leaders and CEOs will be less self-corrected and self-directed and herewith less self-determined than ever before. Today s youth grows up in a fata morgana, in which the parental influence has skyrocketed to unprecedented heights. Their life is free from difficult decisions, fierce setbacks and responsibilities. Their parents arrange everything for them in detail. Youth lives in the shortterm and does not care about the long-run. These overprotected children will be shocked by reality once they leave college or university. Up until that point they have grown up in luxury, but then they are encountered by one of the most complicated questions in life. This is not a multiple choice question as on exams, nor a Phone-a-Friend or Ask-the Audience question. It is the one-million-dollar question: what does it take to be successful in life? How parents should externally stimulate After this rather comprehensive description of the problem, I would like to draw your attention to the solution. Of course I do not suggest that parents abandon their children, to passively watch how your child stands up after a 2-meter fall. Parental love really is about providing a place where you feel secure and at home. These closest relatives should provide an environment that stimulates trust and growth. However, I do not assert that parents should carefully supervise their children s lives, including, but not limited to, the sports they play, the friends they make, the colleges they attend and eventually the goals they should attain. To me, these parents create the impression that they are control freaks, afraid to let their children learn from their own mistakes and instead pointing at every little danger that could possibly harm their lovely child. The Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner s notion of operant conditioning could help these parents He stated that rewards encourage desired behaviour, whereas punishment prevents undesired behaviour. Skinner indirectly explains to parents in the 21 st century that a

5 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 5 child is capable of learning from its own mistakes. The correction principles of reward and punishment lead the youth along the right path to a bright future. Apart from government bodies, regulation boards at university, and rules at the local sports club, parents most likely play a crucial role. This is not a contradiction to close parental influence. The main difference is that the close parental influence is much like a driver who holds the steering wheel in the car that represents the child s life. The father and mother control the direction of the car. With operant conditioning, however, the parent becomes the instructor who teaches the child how to drive. How the child becomes internally motivated The goal for parents should be to, in due course, shift these external stimuli of operant conditioning to the internal motivation of the child. Ideally, the parents become role models that may be admired by the child. By demonstrating the rewards you can achieve success; the child will follow without any external stimuli in terms of reward and punishment. In Albert Bandura s self-efficacy theory, an individual s conviction that they are able to perform a task, this is called vicarious modelling (1997). The child becomes more confident because it sees how the parent achieves a goal. Another source that causes increased self-efficacy involves verbal persuasion. When someone convinces you that you possess the necessary skills to reach certain goals, you become more confident. This verbal support of parents works as a self-fulfilling prophecy that gives a child courage to come outside of its comfort zone. All in all, another step is taken towards internal motivation of the child.

6 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 6 Final destination: internalisation From my own experiences, I have noticed that every child has a turning point. This point, which actually is a moment of truth, marks the shift from a world in which you behave politely to others because your parents want you to and you do your homework because your teacher punishes you if you do not, to a world in which you act upon your own principles. That takes no egoistic proportions. Rather it features an insight that all you execute in this short life, you do for yourself. Psychologists call this internalisation. Some people are born this way. Others find out sooner or later, and some never will. This is what makes selfdetermined children, as earlier mentioned (Mithaug, 1991). Victor Vroom (1964) connected this moment of truth with the concept of motivation in his expectancy theory. His widely accepted explanation of motivation asserts that children are willing to exert a high level of effort when they expect that their effort will result in their desired outcome. Firstly, children should understand that a certain effort leads to a certain performance. This performance produces a certain reward. Eventually, that reward brings you closer to your goal. I will clarify this with the example of the Ethiopian athlete, Haile. Haile is still aiming at an Olympic medal. His effort will be to train intensively in the mountains every day for at least two hours. This effort leads to better results at local events, which are attended by scouts. In other words, his performance gets better. As a consequence, one scout offers him a contract to join an athletic college, which facilitates his path to becoming a world class runner. His performance is rewarded. This step to the athletic college brings him closer to his final goal, namely an Olympic medal. Once Haile understands this concept and acts upon it, he is internally motivated.

7 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 7 I hope that I have been successful in presenting a persuasive account of my viewpoint. Parents can assist their children in becoming successful by letting them try and fail in the playground of life, while keeping an eye on the child in order to be able to intervene when things get dangerous. And what about Haile? He is still training every day. He enjoys every minute that he puts effort into his sport. His parents have always actively supported him. I forgot to tell you one thing: his last name is Gebrselassie. Perhaps that rings a bell.

8 Van Dissel From successful nurture to successful children 8 Bibliography Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: Freeman. Bouchard, T., & McGue, M. (1981). Familial studies of intelligence: A review. Science (212), Mithaug, D. E. (1991). Self-determined kids: Raising satisfied and successful children. Lexington Books. Peters, L., O'Connor, E., & Rudolf, C. (1980, February). The behavioral and affective consequences of performance-relevant situational variables. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Vroom, V. (1964). Work and Motivation. New York: Wiley.

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