It takes work on the part of parents and teachers to instill in children the drive and character necessary to translate their natural gifts into extraordinary results.
1. Our kids must understand the concept of time, and this begins with the importance of being on time. Being on time reflects an appreciation of others. Being on time reflects a belief that we can control our own destiny, and that we are responsible for our actions. A person who appreciates time will be able to do exceptional things with his life. Children need to be taught to be on time, but this message is just the beginning. Once a fundamental idea is introduced, its message is forever expanding. As children learn to be on time, they also have the opportunity to see how the concept of time, whether considered in a geographical or a historical context, plays a major part in their lives. Eventually an understanding of the relativity of time leads to the most important development of all—an interest in history, and in what it has to tell us about the present. Because they have developed a time-centered mentality, these young people grow to understand and respect other times. Kids who play music have a better understanding of time that those who do not. Einstein wrote about the connection between music and math, and students who perform brilliantly in music often develop a love of numbers.
2. Extraordinary students concentrate, and do so for very long periods of time. Students who reach great heights have learned how not to be easily distracted. It takes energy to learn new things. It takes concentration and desire. He talks about the importance of getting children playing board games and building models. These teach reading, following directions, and concentration.
Charles Dudley Warner, an American essayist and novelist wrote that “nothing is worth reading that does not require an alert mind.” Literature needs to be a joyous and daily part of a child's life. Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”
3. Screens have become the common denominator for a child's failure to reach his considerable potential. A child who chooses to limit his time in front of a screen enormously increases his chances of finding an avenue to greatness. Learning how to discriminate between what to watch and when to watch is an essential skill for a child to master, and it is a talent that can be learned. Television is best approached as a family activity. Watch something worthwhile together and discuss the program when it is over. Encourage kids to ask questions and draw conclusions about what they have seen and to evaluate its message.
4. It's not overly dramatic to use the word crucial in emphasizing the importance of teaching children about smart decision making. Children need to be aware that they see decisions being made every day—in literature, in movies, and most important, in real life. Successful kids identify and evaluate options. They weigh a set of facts carefully before choosing a direction. It is necessary for young people to examine decisions made by others that have led to awful results. The purpose of this is not to judge anyone, but they need to see that some choices affect us forever and have consequences that cannot be undone. For their difficult decisions, when the weight of the world seems too much to bear, please arm them with Atticus Finch's advice regarding the pressure to conform: “But before I live with other people I have to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.”
5. Ben Franklin wrote that “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
If it falls your lot to sweep streets,
Sweep them like Michelangelo painted pictures,
Like Shakespeare wrote poetry,
Like Beethoven composed music.
Children need to take pride in all they do. Children should learn that when they make a commitment they need to follow through. Quitting is a dangerous habit.
Young people who pursue excellence must learn to discriminate—the ability to make distinctions among various pieces of information. When your child is making choices, have him explain his reasoning to you.
The arts must be a part of every child's life. In order for children to reach further when it comes to developing musical or artistic talent, they need to be exposed to peers who are working to create similar magic. For children to be inspired to work hard and achieve greatness, they need to understand that their own world is a small one. Other kids are doing the same thing and achieving more.
Children should understand that others in their lives make sacrifices so that they might succeed. The hard work they undertake during their lives shows respect not only for their own time and effort but for those who have sacrificed to give them the opportunities that allowed them to reach for great heights.
A weekly allowance is a good thing. Children will learn to budget their allowance among spending, saving, and giving. The mistake many parents make is linking allowance to household chores. Household chores should be a gift one gives to the family. A job well done is the highest reward of all.
Children must learn that rejection and failure are parts of life, providing a chance to either try again or quit. Return assignments to children when they are not up to snuff. Mediocrity has no place in life. Have them redo chores if the work was slipshod or incomplete. Children will learn that the pursuit of happiness requires sacrifice and effort.
6. Children do not simply outgrow selfishness. Altruism is an important trait that must be taught, the earlier the better. Teach them to root for their peers and embrace the progress of others. There are no one-man shows. Power presents the opportunity to be either benevolent or selfish. A sad truth is that selfish people often get what they want. Have children help prepare dinner, have them write thank-you cards, tackle community projects as a whole family.
7. Humility is even more difficult to teach than selflessness for 2 reasons. All of us need and enjoy a pat on the back occasionally, and humility is generally looked down upon socially speaking. Young people who pursue their dreams passionately with diligence and honor soar. Once in the clouds, it is essential for kids to realize they are very small, part of a much larger universe where their achievements need to be understood in the context of all who made their success possible.
8. A final gift to give a child is an understanding of delayed gratification. Producing good things requires time and patience. Kids need to learn to finish what they start. They need to learn that life is a marathon and not a sprint. It's healthy for children to be involved in long-term projects (jigsaw puzzles, latch hook, gardens, participate in a play).