The first thing to consider when looking at this question surrounds the idea of the word ‘potential’ and what we actually mean by this. As a Headteacher for over 12 years it is a concept I have given much thought to; should we ever actually put a ceiling on any child’s capabilities in any field? The ‘potential’ for growth, development and improvement should always be there.
My focus as a father of two girls, as well as a Headteacher, therefore centres around them being happy and successful.
The first thing I would recommend to parents is to celebrate success as a family, as often as you can. When your child talks to you, give them your undivided attention. Communicating well with them is vital if you want them to be happy and successful. Put aside your business for a moment each day and really listen to what they have to say. You’ll respond more thoughtfully and positively, thus encouraging them to be more communicative and feel more valued.
Leading on from this, it’s also important that, as parents, we support our children in managing their emotions. Research has clearly shown that children who can regulate their own emotions are able to focus better, which is vital for long-term success. To encourage this, you need to model emotional self-management, empathise with your child and acknowledge their progress.
At Felsted Prep, like many schools, we believe wholeheartedly in the ‘Growth Mindset’ approach; the belief that improvement can be achieved through hard work. The key here for us as parents is to focus on the process and not the result. As the renowned pioneer of the Growth Mindset, Dr Carol Dweck, would say, children who concentrate on effort and attitude, not the desired result, end up achieving greater success in the long-run. Therefore, as parents, look out for opportunities to acknowledge your child’s good behaviour, attitude and effort. As time passes, they will naturally achieve better outcomes.
Finally, it is crucial that we teach our children to think positively. With this mindset, they will believe anything is possible. Research has found that children who are more optimistic tend to be happier as well as successful. So, how can we teach our children to think more positively?
One way that I have seen work is to keep a gratitude journal; to record daily two or three things that they’re thankful for - it encourages self-reflection, focuses on the process and will ultimately lead to greater success in whatever field.
The bottom line is that parenting is a noble calling, but it is never easy! We all want happy and successful children and to be there supporting them at each step along that wonderful journey. Take it gradually, allow them to make mistakes and to learn from them so that they will ultimately flourish in later life - the goal we all want as parents.