We want our children to be successful, and we focus our
attention on what we believe they need most.
Education, grades, sports and other extracurricular activities
tend to be our primary focus, the things that take up most of our
time and thought.
This is understandable because these things are indeed
important. The ability to learn, think and process information is
essential for independence, and sports and activities provide
skills to enhance our ability to socialize and relate.
These things are important, but so are our interpersonal skills.
Skills that connect us and make us human, the ones we too often
take for granted.
To learn these skills, our children need to see them at work in
our society. But unfortunately, our society is failing at
demonstrating their importance.
For example, listening. Wouldn't it be great if our kids knew
how to be great listeners? Listening is such an invaluable skill, a
skill that connects us and demonstrates respect for others.
But instead, our children see a government that is challenged to
listen or compromise, and they are surrounded by people who need to
win an argument rather than be open to a new idea.
Or how about compassion? What if we helped our kids develop an
understanding of others and an ability to see from another's
perspective? If kids really understood what it felt like to walk in
another person's shoes, some of our social issues, like bullying,
would be minimized.
But instead, our kids watch as we rip apart celebrities and
criticize people who are different from us. They watch it in the
media, and unfortunately, sometimes even in their own homes.
What about self-understanding and respect? What if every kid
knew they were unique and special? What if they understood that
they had individual gifts and talents and whatever they felt
passionate about was moving them in the direction of their
Instead, we tell kids to be like us or be like others. Instead
of trusting their instincts or creative expression, we tell them
who to be, how to be and what to say, while simultaneously putting
down our own looks, our own decisions and our own choices.
These vital things have to be demonstrated and taught. If we
viewed them as more important than grades, teams and awards, then
many of our challenges would dissipate and we would see a
Not only would our children have more enjoyable youths, but they
also would grow up with skills to change the world, skills that
would lead to a creative and heart-centered investment in our
If we focused on role modeling and exposing our kids to more
listening, compassion and self-respect, a lot of our own stress and
anxiety surrounding parenting would probably fade away.
Because we would know, deep down, that these are the true keys
to success, the essential skills for a meaningful life and a
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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