Well-Being//

4 Things You Can Stop Worrying About If You Want Your Kids to Be Successful

And what to focus on instead.

LightFieldStudios/Getty Images
LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

It’s no secret that parents want their children to be successful. They’ve raised them and want to make sure they have the best opportunities in life.

Different parents take this idea to different extremes, though. In fact, some parents have cared so much about their child’s “success” that it drove them to criminality, as in the case of the recent college admissions scandal, where some paid millions of dollars to get their kids into the country’s most elite universities.

But with all of the stressful parts of parenting, there are some things that, according to experts, parents actually don’t need to worry about if they want their kids to be successful. Here are four:

Where your child goes to college

Of course you want what’s best for your kid, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sending them to a big name or Ivy league school.

“Their degree of success in the future depends on their skills and character, not on the brand name of their college,” Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult, tells Thrive. “Harvard Law School routinely takes applicants from over 150 different colleges. If those 150 colleges are good enough for Harvard Law School, can’t they be good enough for you?”

Not only that, but at a certain point in life, people do not care about where you went to college, especially if you are good at what you do, Jennifer L. Hartstein, PsyD, a psychologist based in New York City and author of Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters tells Thrive.

If your kid wants to quit their sport or activity

One thing we tend to forget in the panic over adding as many extra-curriculars to kids’ schedules as possible is that not everyone is going to enjoy every activity. Sometimes it takes a while for kids to shop around to find the sport or art form or hobby that’s the best fit for them. And yes, sometimes that means quitting.

“If your child chooses to quit soccer because they really do not enjoy it, even if it’s in junior year of high school, that’s okay,” Hartstein explains. “Encourage them to get involved in something else, not because it’s a good resume builder, but because it’s good to be engaged with others doing things that feel positive and good.”

Working through difficult emotions in front of — or with — your kid

Parents have so much power when it comes to helping their children understand that hard emotions are natural and inevitable, Laura C. Kauffman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in work with children and adolescents tells Thrive Global. Though it may be tempting to hide difficult emotions from your kids, think of it as a learning opportunity for them.

“How parents react to negative situations and emotions is very important for how children learn and understand their own relationship with tough feelings,” she explains. “It is important to show children that we don’t need to hide or avoid negative emotions.”

The next step, Kauffman says, is for parents to model healthy ways of coping with the emotions. Rather than running for junk food or a drink, she suggests showing your children different coping techniques, like listening to soothing and pleasant music, coloring in a coloring book, or calling a friend.

Being perceived as a successful parent based on your child’s accomplishments

As a parent, it makes sense that you want to share in your child’s highs and lows, but Hartstein points out that it’s important that parents remember that something like where their child attends college is not an automatic reflection on them.

“Parents did all of this already in their own lives. Let your child take the lead and, as long as it isn’t too dangerous, support them as they learn who they are and embark on the journey to being a confident adult,” she explains.

Rather than these superficial elements, parents should focus on what does matter for their child, which Hartstein says includes emotional awareness and stability, the ability to create and maintain positive relationships, and the ability to really know and engage in a topic as you build mastery of it.

Lythcott-Haims says it’s important that kids grow up with a work ethic. “They can develop it by doing chores around the house, and also by having a job in high school,” she explains. “If they never have to lift a finger, they’re not going to know how to behave properly in the workplace.”

It also matters that kids learn failure is inevitable and teaches valuable lessons. “Instead of micro-managing everything for them and ‘fixing’ them, we need to largely let things play out and ask the kid what they’ll do differently next time,” Lythcott-Haims says. “That’s the only way they learn.”

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