Raising successful children is not easy! I am not a child psychologist, child psychiatrist or an expert in early childhood development nor do I play one on TV. I am an educator, but I started that career after my children graduated college. I won’t even take all the credit; my wife had a part in my children’s success too. What did we do that helped them succeed?
If you are expecting that my wife and I read a bunch of books or took classes, you will be disappointed. We were no different than anybody else, although we did wait five (5) years to have children. There were little things that got in the way! I was drafted into the army, graduate school and starting my career to name just a few. Our careers were pretty well set and we bought our first home. Our first child came along (7 weeks) early. There were some really scary moments in the first thirty (30) days with a premature baby. It helped that I had a nursery RN (my wife) on staff!
It was touch and go in the beginning! She only weighed 3 lbs 12 oz and a lot can go wrong. Her education started from day one. My wife played various kinds of music in her room. We talked to her all the time. She also heard us talk all the time she was awake. We read to her often too. It is important for children to hear language. She heard (classical, jazz and rock n roll) music, spoken word and written word of all kinds. This is how children develop language skills.
Reading was always an important part of her day. My wife and I always read to her every night before she went to sleep. More importantly, she saw us reading. Children learn from what they see you do than what you say to do. My son came along about three and a half years later. We did the same things with him. When our children show a curiosity in reading when they were between three (3) and four (4) years old, we taught them how to read. It is no secret that reading and learning is the beginning of the journey to success.
The Early Years
As a financial blogger and former CFO, you think I will talk about early money education. I did not teach my children about money until they received their first allowance which was much later, although they probably saw a great deal. My wife was a stay at home mom and a part time RN. She worked approximately twenty (20) hours a week, but only one of us was absent for two (2) hours a week. She worked one or two evenings and a Saturday. Weekends were my time to entertain the children with museums, live theater, concerts, library, games, books, playing with friends and occasionally I would take them to work. I put them in the conference room adjoining my office or at a table with paper and materials.
My children were voracious readers; my daughter read a book in two (2) days and my son would read my Wall Street Journal! Although it was a children’s book (100-125 pages), she went through a hundred (100) books pretty quickly. Luckily she did not mind rereading the books. My son would read everything he could get his hands on including my Wall Street Journal. He would read late into the night, we had to put the lights out at 10 PM. My children were part of our adult world, when friends came over. They interacted with adults at work very easily. Their lives were filled with activities that ranged from sports (gymnastics & swimming) to learning magic. Their English teacher was a professional magician who taught magic.
Activities are an important part of development; it is not just a way to keep your children busy. They learned a lot from these activities such as self esteem, physical movement, physical activity, social skills, competition and teamwork. School was a very important component too. Although our children went to private school, we were very involved in their education. High expectations and monitoring their progress is important in their development. We did all the typical parent things like helping with homework and attending open house at school.
Our children were exposed to everything my wife and I did in life. My wife and I took our children to work before it was fashionable! When my children went to work with me, they met business people. When they went to work with my wife, they met doctors, nurses and medical people. They were curious and asked questions or just talked to the various people. They learned a lot through these experiences. My son played a lot of sports such as baseball, soccer, football and wrestling in high school. My daughter was in girl scouts and swimming.
My son was young for his grade level because he skipped a grade. In his senior year in high school, he was the starting center for their championship football team. He was a scholar athlete with a 3.6 GPA and eighteen AP credits. He also won the public speaking award. His sister had a 3.8 GPA and achieved the Gold Award n Girl Scouts. The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting similar to the Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts. My children went on to UC Santa Barbara with partial or full merit scholarships.
Personal Finance Education
Although I exposed my children to every aspect of personal finance, it was never a sit down kind of instruction. As I said, I would take my children to work employee and employer. When I owned my businesses, I would take them to work on vacations or weekends. They loved to come to the restaurant for the food, but they worked for it. My daughter would draw drinks during lunch and both f them cleared tables and stacked trays. It was a great learning experience for them. They attended meetings with apartment managers, real estate brokers and were involved with the day to day running of the business.
During these teenage years, they received an allowance and were required to save fifty percent (50%). I helped them invest their money in the stock market and they saw how they could make money in a variety of ways. When they turned sixteen (16) years old, they wanted to buy their first car. To motivate them to save, I matched their money earned or saved so they could buy a car. Although we did not let them work during high school, they did have summer jobs. My daughter worked retail and my son gravitated to food. I think they learned a lot from the experience. They were required to pay for their own gas and maintenance of their car.
Sometimes education occurs when you are not looking! I asked my children when they were adults what if anything we did to help them be successful. Much to my surprise, they told me it was what we did in our daily lives that influenced them most of all. You mean it was’t the expensive private school or all the time we spent together? No, it was my wife and I as role models! They saw how we handled our money, investments, business, social issues etc. I know that this is what it should be, but I was surprised!
Bringing up successful children is not easy! To summarize what I think is important starts with spending a lot of time with my children. They may have taken lessons, participated in sports or scouting, but we were always there. We were at the events, games and my wife was an assistant Girl Scout leader. Why does this matter? Children want your time and it is the most precious thing you can give your children. It builds that important relationship that allows you to influence your children. Who knows, they may have turned out just fine without it, but who wants to experiment? Raising successful children takes a lot of time!
Photo by: jonny hunter
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Raising successful children takes a lot of time!