There is no question about it -- responsible, loving parents want what's best for their children so they can live happy, healthy lives. Teaching them to live up to their potential without pushing them to live up to unrealistic expectations isn't always easy, mainly because it is sometimes difficult to know what children are capable of. By following a few guidelines, you can be instrumental in your children's journey to reaching their potential.
Accepting your child for who she is and honoring her interests and dreams helps her find her place in the world and strive to fulfill her potential. Initially this means listening to her thoughts and feelings without judging them as right or wrong. While she is expected to follow your rules and guidelines for behavior, she may not agree with your reasoning and has a right to express that. Accepting her beliefs, while gently correcting any factual errors she may express, doesn't mean you need to give her free reign to do as she pleases.
Sometimes children need your help and guidance in exploring options and ideas. If your child expresses interest in a topic, helping him by providing resources and opportunities to pursue the interest shows him that you care about his interests. Sometimes that means you will share interests with your child and can spend time learning or practicing a new skill together. Other times, that may mean your child wants to explore topics that do not interest you. Guard against discouraging interests that are different from your own. While you may love literature and poetry, your child may have a passion for mathematics and science. Honor his interests by helping him explore and expand his skills.
Encouraging your child to be creative and think for himself sends the message that you believe in him and support his efforts. Not only does it make him feel capable, it frees him up to explore interests and look at things in new ways. These skills will serve him for a lifetime in whatever field he chooses.
Unless your child is a prodigy, she is likely to stumble when learning new skills and talents. Whether she has just taken up a musical instrument or has decided to become part of a sports team, it is important that you reward her efforts with praise. Focusing on perfection sends the message that she is not good enough and may discourage her from pursuing interests that may serve her for a lifetime.
While encouraging your child to do her best helps her learn the value of hard work, expecting her to do more than she is capable of sets her up for feelings of failure and low self worth. Watch your child for signs of stress, such as changes in behavior or a sudden lack of interest in the activity, to determine if you are pushing her to do more than she is capable of.
Getting a good education is vital to success in adult life, but beware of putting more emphasis on attaining the almighty "A" than the learning your child experiences. While you naturally want you child to do well in school, test scores and report cards don't tell the whole story. Let your child know early on that you expect him to do his best, but also recognize that some subjects are harder than others and that you don't expect perfection.