Why “good” children fail as adults

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As parents, we usually want our children to be polite and well-behaved. We teach them to listen, to wait, to tidy up after themselves, to be helpful, polite and nice. We’re proud if they do what we told them to do.

Then, when they grow up, we want them to be successful. We expect that they find a good job, find the right partner, and in general, be responsible for themselves. We aren’t as proud as before if their decisions don’t appeal to us.

How do we expect a polite child to become a responsible adult? It is as if by teaching them to listen to others, we wanted them to learn to make decisions on their own.

Why do we want children to be “good”?

Having good, well-behaved children at home means fewer problems for the parent. We grow used to our own ways in our own homes and the arrival of a baby turns our lives upside-down. It is natural that many parents try to get back to the peaceful state from before the stork’s visit. They may feel so tired or overwhelmed that they don’t pause to think about their child’s emotional needs. Since we all learn from examples and through modeling, the parents may simply copy the type of parenting they experienced at home.

They may also believe that young children or even teens don’t have the knowledge or life experience to take their opinions into account. There are parents who think that they know better and don’t allow other family members to speak their minds.

While children may not have a lot of life knowledge or experience, they have their own emotions and definitely their own opinions about things around them. If we disregard their feelings when they’re young, we teach them that they don’t matter. This, in turn, may cause them to feel less self-confident, more anxious and even lead to neurosis.

As children grow up, they begin to act more and more independently, especially during their teenage years. Nowadays, they have constant access to virtually all of the knowledge of the world. During this period it is vital that they learn how to pursue their own goals and express their own opinions in an assertive, non-aggressive way. If we only get them to do what we want, they will learn how to follow orders, not their own dreams.

What is your parenting goal?

Who do you want your child to become? A perfect corporate worker? A creative individual, who follows their dreams and sets their own goals? Do you want your child to stand in line and fit into the system? Or to make a difference in the world to come?

The world is changing so fast, that we cannot be sure which jobs of today will survive and what new professions people will come up with. The educational system changes very slowly and hardly adapts to the needs of the modern world. What we need to teach our children is how to be creative and flexible.

We also need to remember that every child is different. Everyone has different strengths. This is what makes each person even more valuable. We may either kill these strengths in our children or allow them to thrive. It depends on whether we allow the child to express themselves, to find out what their assets are and to help them develop.

How to help your child succeed

Success in the future world will probably mean two things: assessing the needs and catering for them. In order for our children to be able to do that, they need to be observant, able to assess their own assets, find their opportunities, and to act faster than others.

To teach them these skills, we need to also focus on their strengths and help them develop in this direction. We might also find out what motivates our child, what makes them excited and show them how to use this excitement to achieve their own goals. 

Politeness and empathy

Maybe I should have distinguished between these groups before. This post is about children, who are good and nice because they were taught to listen, to be quiet, and not to cause trouble.

Polite and well-behaved children may as well be those who don’t feel the need to misbehave because their basic needs are met. Such needs as being supported emotionally by parents, being heard and listened to, being understood and able to trust. These children tend to develop harmoniously and, if supported by their families, learn how to achieve their own goals.

There is also nothing bad in teaching kids to follow general, socially-accepted rules and guidelines for behavior provided it is not at the cost of the child’s inner peace. There is a difference between telling them not to speak with their mouths full, “because I say so” and by explaining that this is unpleasant for others when you spit out your food. Being polite may be a result of fear or empathy. It is always extremely valuable to teach our children empathy.

To sum up…

Parenting is a difficult task. It consists of making decisions that may make our life more difficult so that it gets easier for our children in the long run. Getting to know our child, finding out what their assets are, creating an emotional bond through genuine communication may lead to great achievements in their future.

As a teacher, I’ve always preferred to work with the “naughty” classes. I noticed that quiet classes usually didn’t give me much feedback whether they understood me or not. They also weren’t very active when it came to organizing school ceremonies or festivals. On the other hand, in a noisy class, I knew exactly when I was doing something wrong and tried to take their needs into account while planning my teaching. They also just waited to be asked to do something extra. Working with them gave me much more satisfaction and I believe also better results.

18 thoughts on “Why “good” children fail as adults

  1. Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I once had someone say to me something along the lines of „You’re not trying to raise a „good child” you’re trying to raise a personality”, (not very eloquently reproduced by me here!!) which totally fits in to your discussion above 🙂

    1. Thanks. I believe raising a child is much more about constant negotiating rather than having power or control. Children aren’t our subordinates to push around. And if you have the real authority, the authority of character and good leadership, they will listen to you anyway.

  2. Very good points. I often think of my parenting in terms of how my kids will fare in the future, facing changing careers and financial situations. I worry that they’re growing up in a world that’s moving faster everyday and that they need to be more adaptive and less concerned with fitting into a mold. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very interesting post. As a child that was always taught to be good at all costs, I think you are right on. It’s not that I didn’t succeed (I’m a retired teacher), it’s that I always feel guilty and unworthy.

    1. Thank you. The feelings you mentioned are statistically very common among women, simply because we are conditioned by society to be “good” (it’s not only a matter of family and parenting). They can’t stop all of us from achieving our goals, but at what cost? Wouldn’t it be much easier if we didn’t have to struggle with our own internal boundaries? This is also one of the reasons for gender inequality in the workplace.

  4. This is very true; however, I’ve witnessed some of the best parents end up with criminal children too. Ted Bundy, for instance, came from a relatively decent household. Luckily most children will never end up like him as an adult. I think it’s crucial to teach children the repercussions of what can and will happen if they grow up bad. Great blog post.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. You can never be sure how parents act behind closed doors. What, from the outside, looks like a perfect family, may not be that great if we looked closer. There are also such things as genetics or mental illness which untreated may lead to tragedies.
      When it comes to Ted Bundy, according to the information that I gathered, he was a child of a single mother, who in turn was abused by her father. This is not what I call a relatively decent household. What is more, in the 1940s and 50s parenting was in general much more strict than now. What they called “a good family” then might now well be called too strict to allow children to fully develop.
      What is more, teaching children about the socially accepted rules isn’t a bad thing by itself. In fact, it is vital for the child, as they will have to coexist with other people outside of their home: at school, at the playground, at work, etc. It is HOW we teach them that has the greatest effect.

  5. „The educational system changes very slowly and hardly adapts to the needs of the modern world. What we need to teach our children is how to be creative and flexible.” Yes! Yes! Yes!! I am highly considering homeschool for this reason. Each child learns differently and my toddler is not a ‚polite’ kid. She behaves, but she’s wild. We want her to learn to channel that into being a leader wherever and whatever she decides to do in life (unless its a prison gang lol).

    1. Thank you. My toddler is exactly the same! From my experience, what helps children best in developing leadership skills is scouting. I’ve been a scouting instructor for 16 years and I’ve seen young leaders emerging naturally, directed towards best individual development, and then conquering the world as young adults.

  6. Great post. I like the issue about parenting goals. Too often this comes down to careers. But really a parent should have ONE goal only – that the child be happy with his life choices. So if he chooses not to go to college and be ab artist instead, we should accept and support his choices.

  7. Yes we should try to understand each and every sign of our kid and not force naything on them. They will get moulded as and how we behave in front of them so always be the best and let them do what ever they want…

    1. That’s true. It is not so easy to be at your best at all times, though. In such a case, it is equally important to show them how we deal with difficulties. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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