Working with adults (as well as children and teens) for the past 12 years, I have noticed that there are just a few primary struggles that most adults face. I also see how better training as a child and teen could have given them the skills and attitudes that would have prevented the problems that they now face.
The primary areas adults struggle with are
1. Money, primarily debt
2. Lack of disciple, or the inability to do what they want to do, be it weight, money, work, etc.
As I see it, much of the way we live our lives is groomed as we grow up. And while we can certainly change, it is harder to do the older we get. This can cut both ways: If we are taught correctly, we have a high chance of succeeding as adults and if we are taught poorly, there is a high chance that we will continue those poor habits into adulthood and face many difficulties.
The good news? We can put our kids on the fast track to success by diligently applying some basic success skills. To get you started, I've brainstormed some ways you can head off your children's problems years before they face them. Here we go!
To have successful relationships:
Show them unconditional love. No matter what, we are to welcome and love our children. This does not mean that we won't get mad at them from time to time or that we won't discipline them when they cross the line. It means that we will always accept them and treat them with the respect they deserve as human beings, no matter what they have done. It means we do not hold grudges against them. We can disagree or even verbally tangle, but then we bury the hatchet and accept one another.
Teach them manners. There are acceptable ways of behaving. Unfortunately, many people today do not know them! Teach your children how to behave so that others are treated well and do not have to put up with our misbehavior. Why? Because they won't put up with it anyway. Many people will simply write you off and never tell you why.
Help them learn to forgive. Most of the relationship problems I work with boil down to this: The people simply will not forgive one another and continue to hold past wrongs against the other person. Here is the fact, and you have to teach this to your kids: People will wrong you. It is what we do with that and how we react that will determine the health of the relationship in the future.
Help them to be able to focus on and serve others. Many parents make their kid feel like they are the center of the universe. One problem with this: They aren't! The world doesn't revolve around your kids and they can't get their way all of the time. What happens later on in life when little Johnny (who was the center of the universe growing up) marries little Suzie (the center of another universe growing up)? You got it, problems! Now they have to share a universe! Instead we should teach our children to help others. We should teach them to consider other people's interests as more important than our own.
To have successful finances:
Make them EARN money. Sure you can give your kids money - we do. But we should also teach them to earn money. We should give them opportunity to earn money. I don't think a kid should get an allowance for doing chores. Chores are the responsibility of being part of the family. But you can give them extra jobs so they can understand fully the hard work they put in and appreciate the value of the money they receive. This will cause them to handle it better.
Have them give money away. Greed works its wonders on some of the nicest people. That is what I have found. And the best way to break greed is to give money away. Our children give away 10% of every dollar they get. This builds generosity into their hearts. We have been doing it so long that it is just a part of them. How can you be greedy about something you are giving away? And when you give it away you can see the good that it does to the people and organizations you help. (One side story: When my son was younger and got one dollar a week in allowance he would give a dime away. He suggested it would be a good thing if he started getting two dollars - because then he would be able to give two dimes away. I don't know if he was being generous or shrewd!)
Teach them about investing. Yesterday I sat in the car explaining the law of supply and demand with my ten year old. Now he knows what something is "worth." Now he knows why Beanie Babies are so expensive, but a very efficient way of separating poor investors from their money. My kids hear about the old guns and butter theory. (Guns represent items that appreciate and butter represents the things that melt away. Invest in appreciating assets and you can have all the butter you want later on. Invest in butter and you won't ever have the guns.) These are basic principles that will allow your kids to be financially secure and not strapped later on. They will be the lender and not the borrower.
Teach them to delay self-gratification. I touched on this in the last point. If we teach our kids to delay gratification, they can put themselves into a financial position wherein they can actually afford the item they want rather than put themselves into debt or a precarious position to get it. Besides, half the time when they wait, they don't want it in three weeks!
Teach them to never have any debt! No debt. Never. Period. Nada. Never, ever, ever. Pay cash or wait. Okay, did I get that through? Now let me be a little more temperate. Debt has created more problems I have dealt with than just about any other issue. Marriage problems, emotional problems, work problems, spiritual problems, and physical problems. We should engrain it into our kid's heads that the only acceptable debt is a home mortgage and they should be conservative with that and even pay cash if they can! I hear you, "But I can't get the car I want!" Too bad! See the guns and butter theory above! Your kids will visit your grave every week with flowers after you are gone if you love them and teach them to avoid debt.
To help them be successful in discipline:
Have them do certain tasks/chores on a regularly scheduled basis. Discipline is, well, a discipline. Teach your kids to make their beds every morning. Or do wash every Monday. Or mow the lawn every Saturday morning. Building schedules builds disciplined people who do not procrastinate, who are methodical and who are diligent. These are the people who succeed.
Let them experience discipline and consequences. Consequences are the greatest teachers! Many people who I see fail are people who have never suffered consequences. I know a gentleman who couldn't hold a job. His employers were going to fire him. He was always late and couldn't be relied upon - even by his friends. You never knew if he was telling the truth. One day I was talking to him and he said that he had never been punished or disciplined! The light went on! I finally understood. You know the old saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child?" I say, spare the rod and you'll raise a criminal! You may not want to let little Johnny experience the pain of consequences, but his boss will let him feel it 20 years from now! Prepare him for success now by making him realize that if he doesn't do what is right, he will spend a lot of time in his room or he will miss out on special things. He will grow up to be the most relied upon person in his office and he'll be the boss one day.
Don't protect them from losing. I coached little league football one year. It just so happens we were the youngest team in the league and we were terrible. One game we were getting beat 55-0 with about five minutes to play, and I was getting screamed at by an irate parent. I turned to them and said, "You know. I learned some of my best lessons in 55-0 losses. I took a few of them in my athletic career, and I handed a few out too!" Sometimes we win in life, sometimes we lose. We need to learn what it feels like to lose and then get right back out there. It will prepare your kids much better to lose until they win legitimately than to win all the time. I remember one basketball game when I was on my way to about thirty points and a parent from the other team was screaming about it. My brother, who is 13 years older than me, told the guy to sit down because I had earned all those points because of how many basketball thrashings I had taken at his hands through the years. Losing made me better!
Teach them to eat right and exercise. Many people struggle with their weight and it is usually because we learned bad habits as kids. We weren't that overweight when we were younger, but as our metabolism slows it catches up with us. Teach your kids basic nutritional information. Teach them how candy bars plus milk shakes plus no exercise equals trouble! When we go to the health club, our kids can swim and play all they want in the pool - as soon as they finish their laps!
Teach them to make tough decisions and learn to say "no." The most powerful word in the world! We should teach our children to understand what is the most important - their priorities - and say "no" to everything else. So many people get themselves into trouble and overextended because they do not have the discipline to say "no." The reality is that you will act on an agenda - either yours or someone else's. Saying "no" enables you to stay on track. Teach them to make tough decisions because it is what is right or because it will be better in the long run, rather than on how it will make them feel.
Encourage them to risk failure and try new things. I have met so many people who were always taught to play it safe. And guess what? They are playing it safe, leading, as the quote says, "Lives of quiet desperation." Teach your kids to try new things and give them the opportunity to do so. Help them see the bigger picture when they fail, like what they can learn from the situation so they can win the next time. It is the people who risk failure and try new things who change the world and lead the lives they want to!Pitch the TV. Okay, my soapbox: Get rid of the television. If you have to have the one-eyed monster in the house, just get a monitor so you can watch videos from time to time. I haven't had a TV for 12 years - and I LOVE IT! My kids are healthy, sociable, well-adjusted, smart kids. They have creative imaginations because they have to picture everything themselves rather than rely on someone else's interpretation. They read many grade levels above where they are. They have time to do all sorts of things that they want to because they have an extra 20 hours a week (1040 hours a year) that other kids their age don't! Someday I am going to write a book on benefits and reasons to get rid of the TV because the fact is you will be much better off without it than you are with it! And so will your kids!
Chris Widener is a popular speaker and author as well as the President of Made for Success. Just give him a call at (425) 526-6480 to schedule. Be sure to visit www.madeforsuccess.com for more great stuff!!