Success Comes in Many Forms
We all have our own ideas of what it means to be successful. We all set our own goals, follow our own dreams and assess our own progress. It is important to develop our own standards and not compare ourselves to others when trying to gauge our personal achievements (or those of our children). This is easier said than done.
She speaks to the notion that there are many kinds of success and questions the somewhat trite notion of “anyone can do anything they set their mind to.” While this may sound cold at first, it generally isn’t true to say that one can do anything they want. We are all unique and there is beauty in that uniqueness and power in discerning our own special talents.
As parents, our instinct may be to encourage our children to try and achieve our version of success. Zweibach makes the astute point that we run the risk of actually selling children short by not getting to know and play to their individual strengths.
She first writes of a young boy whose aptitude tests reflected a “good, solid intelligence” and who possessed a sense of ease and self awareness. She reflects that upon meeting the boy’s mother she was both surprised and impressed at the mother’s level of acceptance and support. The boy’s mother understood her son was not “academically inclined” and despite being from a well off, professional family, the son was not being pushed to fit the mold of his parents. The boy’s mother expressed an attitude that “her son would find his way as long as he could do what would make him happy.” This is a special and, above all, healthy approach.
Success is Achieved Many Ways
As a parent it may be natural to want to see children follow in our footsteps, or to find success and opportunity beyond what was afforded to the parent. The important thing is not to become set on a certain type of success for one’s child or to form a narrow definition of what it means to be successful. A child may choose a different field, may follow a different path or may work at a different pace than than the one “intended”or “selected” for them by their parents. Success needs to be determined by the child’s abilities and feelings rather than be imposed on them.
Zweibach shares frustrating stories of disappointed parents and teachers who failed to recognize students with exceptional abilities simply because these abilities did not fall within designated areas. She shares of a story about one girl in particular whom she is fairly certain was sold short “because the areas where it was desired she excel, but didn’t [caused] those other, shining, areas to become dim.” She also shares a similar story of a different girl has what Zweibach believed to be a brilliant, creative mind stagnated by a parent who preferred academic and rational pursuits to “flights of fancy.” This rigidity on the part of the girl’s parents ended up denying this child’s true talent and ability for it to develop.
One great thing a parent can do for a child is nurture their gifts and encourage their pursuits. Through conversation, parents have an opportunity to find what their children like and where they struggle. When parents and children work together instead of against one another, children will be better equipped for both happiness and success.
To quote Nancy Silverman Zweibach once more, “Among the greatest gifts parents can bestow on children is recognizing and affirming all the assets the children have while encouraging and supporting them whenever needed and letting them know that whatever they are is enough!”