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  • Nur Y. Smits

How does your child see success?

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Finding out what success means to your child.

There are many articles on the internet defining what successful children are and what parents do to ensure their “success”. But do children perceive success the same as adults? To help children succeed, we have to understand their perspective of success.

An adult might think it is a success that a child got an “A” for his test. However, the process to attain that “A” could have been an unpleasant one for the child with endless tuitions. Or could it be that success is feeling good about helping someone in class today? Helping others is a valuable social skill showing empathy. This skill helps the child have a good relationship with the people around him. Would an adult perceive “being helpful” as a child’s success?

So how do we find out what is success for the child? The best people to ask are the children themselves and “How was your day?” is a good question to start with.

The “How was your day?” family time.

To understand better my children's daily activity at school, it has become part of our family evening time to ask each other “How was your day?”. We would sit together on the couch and talk about the highs and lows of the day. The activity is made fun with a game of “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to choose the next person to talk about the day. Through these chats, I could find out what were my children’s “successes” and “challenges” of the day.

During these conversations, it is important to listen to the child and not jump in with our own solutions for them. After listening to the child talk, try to find out more by asking open questions.

For example, if the child said, “I didn’t enjoy gym today.” Try not to give fast solutions such as replying to the child, “Maybe you should practice more.” Instead, ask further to understand why the child was feeling that way such as, “What happened at gym and why didn’t you enjoy it?” The child might reply, “I didn’t run as fast as the other kids. I don’t like feeling left behind.”

Knowing this, we can then investigate why the child was not feeling “successful” during this activity. This example actually happened to my child. She is the youngest in the class and was not always the fastest in gym class. To help her cope with this feeling, we reassured her that she has tried her best as the youngest in gym class. We also looked at other forms of sports together that could help strengthen her body. Now, she does not feel left behind anymore and when she is not the fastest, she is able to cope by understanding that she has tried her best.

The importance of a successful learning process.

Another important point about success is the process undertaken to succeed. For example, on the child’s report card, we may see the grades of the tests. However did the child experience a positive or negative learning process to achieve those grades?

If the learning process was a negative experience, it could lead to problems such as a low self-esteem. To ensure that this learning process is a successful one, it is important to understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses. This understanding is a good guide on how to empower the child’s intrinsic motivation. This is the child’s inner drive to want to participate in an activity instead of feeling pressured to do so. Without intrinsic motivation, the child would just be “dragged” through his learning to attain that “A” grade. This is an unsuccessful learning process for both the child and the adult educating the child.

How do we find out what is a successful learning process?

Have children more say in their own learning! School surveys can be done to collect students' feedbacks. Research has found that students' feedbacks are important in optimising their learning experience. The feedbacks also help teachers to have more understanding of the challenges of the students. A school in the United States has taken a step further by having students lead the teacher-parent meeting conferences. Watch the video here.

Learn more about investigating the factors to the child's success in my next article here.

Some of the challenges that children encounter are not easily deciphered and you may need more help in understanding why your child is not feeling successful in certain tasks. Seeking professional help for further assessments may help to identify the factors that are contributing to these challenges. For more information about seeking further professional help and understanding the meaning behind the child’s challenges, read further in my article about the meaning behind a child’s behaviour.


Written by: Nur Yusoff Smits

Mother of 2 and an Occupational Therapist.

To know more about the author, click here.

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