A Pattern for Raising Up Little Peak Performers

“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” - Magic Johnson

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People often come up to me after hearing the keynote version of this book and ask, “How can I help my kids get this information now, so they don’t have to wait until they’re 30 or 40 to have the tools for success?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where all adults, regardless of whether or not they had kids of their own, shared the responsibility to raise up peak performers? How would our society and economy change if the generations after us were driven, positive, and success minded?

Before I continue, I can’t help but mention that no goal, no amount of preparation, and no tradition will do more to help raise good kids than huge doses of love and presence. It’s a good reminder to us all, myself included, that you can try and force goals on kids, but if they don’t know they are loved, peak performance won’t matter or be a priority for them. If nothing else, show an abundance of love to all the kids in your life. Be present when you’re with them by putting away your phone and technology and actually talking about what they want to talk about. Listen. Share. Keep your commitments.

I’m no parenting expert, and I fully acknowledge that my children are young and I still have a lot to learn about raising them. That being said, I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate my childhood, and chat with friends about how to raise good kids. I’ve certainly tried some things that have failed, but I have found some effective practices parents and humans alike can implement as we take on the important responsibility of building up the world’s youth.

I call these practices “anchor points.” In nautical terms, anchors are used to connect boats and vessels of any size with the land beneath a body of water. Anchors provide stability and keep vessels from moving with the wind or current. Similarly, these practices I’m sharing will help our youth find stability by anchoring them to the things that matter most. In the midst of the storms of life and winds of the world, these practices provide a much needed foundation that children and teenagers crave in their lives.

If you picture a boat anchor, you’ll realize that each one typically has a minimum of two stabilizing points. For the anchor to be effective, at least one of these points must be positioned correctly and make a deep connection to land. With that in mind, I’m sharing more than one practice with you. I believe each one is effective in teaching the practices of peak performance, but some may be more suited than others to connect with your children, or the children in your life. And if you try several anchor points, at least one of them is bound to stick, right?

POSITIVITY
As a parent, a teacher, or an influencer, changing the future starts with YOU being a happy and positive person. Nobody likes a “Debbie Downer,” and children pick up on negative tones and attitudes, even when they aren’t directed at them. Avoid conversations at the dinner table and around little ears about your distaste for current politicians, or the frustrations of dismal pocketbooks. Watch what you say about how much you hate your work, or the problems you’re having with the neighbors. I don’t discredit the very real frustrations of these issues, but consider the consequences of all the negative talk around impressionable children and teenagers. Do you want them to be doom and gloom all the time? Do you want them looking for the worst in others or themselves? Create conversations that are inspiring and uplifting and help them look for the good around them.

Though some might argue we’re not doing kids any favors by giving them rose colored glasses, I say negativity abounds, and they look to parents and influencers to see how we respond to these circumstances. You can share facts and you can share truth, but you can also powerfully share that despite the challenges of life, happiness and positive thinking is a great way to weather the storms. Love life and they will want to do the same.

If you want your kids to be happy, successful, and performance driven adults, teach them how to respond so they can find joy in the everyday. Ask them at the end of the day, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” Create a practice around acknowledging the good. This question works well at the dinner table or when you’re tucking them into bed at night. At the beginning they may have a hard time pinpointing something, but as time goes by they’ll be trained to LOOK for the good throughout day, and will often beat you to the question when they have great things to share.

Don’t forget to share your wins from the day, too! Let them see you putting positivity in action.

If you’re going for a gold medal in raising peak performers (and I hope you are!), ask a powerful follow up question, “What did you do to make someone else happy today?” This helps them become more aware of others. Start now to instill in your children that they have the ability to influence the happiness of others. Teaching them to be service minded will also make huge deposits in their own success bank.

When children approach you with negative commentary, help them reframe their thoughts. Use this approach with negative body image and self-esteem issues as well. They may not always love your help reframing, but in time, they will do it for themselves and will naturally look on the positive side of life.

Having a special family word, phrase, or activity will help provide an anchor point to remind your kids to reframe and practice positivity. This could be as simple as saying “reframe” or some other trigger word to help them get back on a positive note, or it could be a more interactive activity. I took a class where the teacher required us to say ten positive things about ourselves (or others) for every negative thing we verbalized. This not only helped eliminate negative talk and stress the importance of speaking positively, but it also gave an opportunity to seek the positive. Kids will find great things about themselves and others if they are encouraged to look for them.
Finally, help children choose happiness. I remember sitting down with my very young children and talking about how happiness is a choice. Now when they are being ornery, talking back, or are upset about something I said “No” to, I simply say, “Choose to be happy.” It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it does remind them that their negativity is a choice.

GRATITUDE
Take it one step further and help your kids express gratitude for their blessings on a regular basis. Ask them to tell you two things for which they are grateful. Help them find a simple notebook to keep every night. If your kids are too little to write (like mine are) have them draw pictures of the things they appreciate.

My children are growing up with more than I had when I was their age. Though I have a great deal of gratitude for our current circumstances, I want my children to know and understand that other kids don’t have the same things. I don’t want them to take the things they think are normal for granted. We have real conversations about kids who don’t have beds, or heat, or even a home. We ask our kids every night for two things they are thankful for. They express them to us, and also express them in their prayers. It’s been a huge blessing for my kids.

On a humorous side note, my husband told my kids about cultures and history where the bathrooms are outside and people had to bundle up in the winter to go use an outhouse that didn’t flush. Of all the things we’ve told our kids, this one seems to have staying power. My son thanks God in his prayers every night for an indoor toilet!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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