Raising children who grow up to be high-achieving individuals takes work, strategic thinking and discipline on the part of parents. It involves thinking carefully about what can be done to mold them into people who contribute to society and then doing what it takes--every single day--to hold them responsible for certain behaviors. Here are a few things parents of exceptional kids do differently.
1. They teach them to cook and expect them to do it.
Same thing with laundry and picking up after themselves. There's nothing worse than a 22-year-old who lives like a pig, doesn't know how to wash his own things and still asks his mom to make him a sandwich when he's famished. When it comes to cooking, just make sure your kid understands the difference between chopping, dicing and mincing, can crack an egg and knows how to use a garlic press. Then make it easy on yourself by ordering a meal delivery service such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Plated, Sun Basket or one of the other many others available. Nobody has to do any shopping and all the instructions are there so your junior chef can figure out how to do it. In my house I just supervise the searing of meats by my teenagers which can be an expensive disaster if mucked up.
2. They instill the principle of respecting elders.
It means sitting around the dinner table with grandparents and listening attentively to adult stories and contributing meaningfully to the conversation without a device in-hand. They should also know to hold the door or give up their seat for elderly people. With social media encouraging narcissism at every turn, it's easy for young people to have a me-first orientation and not even notice the needs of the older people in the room.
3. They make their kids work.
Either by doing chores at home, or getting a real job once they're able to get there on their own. An understanding of a dollar's value is a good thing to have. Spending $20 means nothing if gotten from mom or dad. It's an entirely different matter to know exactly how many hours, minutes and grueling tasks it took to earn that money.
4. They show them that reading is a pleasurable activity.
The Guardian recently published "an essay in pictures" co-created by author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell titled "Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading and Daydreaming." In it, Gaiman writes about his experience as an unaccompanied eight-year-old in a local library seeking books on ghosts, magic, rockets and the like. He says the librarians liked books being read, didn't judge him for what he read and talked to him about the books he was reading. "Books are the way that the dead communicate with us," he writes. "The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, the way that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over."