How to Help Kids Become More Ambitious

Some children have a seemingly innate drive for achievement. Ambitious kids are often naturally competitive, typically at the top of their classes and often won't settle for less than perfection. However, other children take a much more lackadaisical approach to life. They're happy to pick flowers and scribble with sidewalk chalk while their classmates run races and shoot hoops at recess. While it's important to respect your mellow child's laid-back personality, it's also essential to motivate him to succeed academically and socially 3.

Discover your child's interests 3. Most children are passionate about something -- whether it's horses or baseball -- and use that subject as a stepping stone to achievement. For instance, if your child is constantly falling behind in English class, help him to find books at the library that relate to his interests. By doing this, you'll help him develop reading skills while showing him that you value his unique personality.

Show enthusiasm for your own interests. Don't keep your Civil War trivia to yourself. If that's your passion, draw your child maps of battles or tell him a story of a brave soldier. If you're an athlete, invite your child to join you at the gym. Demonstrate that, while achievements and reaching goals require hard work, ambition makes the process exciting.

Experiment with different learning styles. What looks like a lack of ambition in the classroom might simply be boredom or confusion. If your child's teacher primarily lectures her students, ask her for ways to the translate material into visual and tactile lessons at home. Your child might show more enthusiasm if she can take a hands-on approach to learning.

Celebrate even the smallest accomplishment. In an attempt to motivate, parents often make the mistake of endlessly nagging and criticizing their children. Positive reinforcement is often a more effective way to promote ambition. The next time your child brings home a good grade or hits a home run at baseball practice, praise his success and let him know that you think he's a winner.

Establish clear rules and reinforce the consequences. It can be tempting to nag, cajole or beg your child to put some effort into his schoolwork, but ultimately he has to be responsible for his actions. Let your child know in advance what the consequence will be for poor grades and offer assistance with homework. Then, let him make his own choices.

Ask your child to express his emotions and opinions concerning current events and social issues that are age-appropriate. By listening attentively to his thoughts, you'll encourage your child to develop a worldview and make informed decisions.


Discuss significant changes in your child's behavior with his pediatrician.