I've been thinking a lot lately about how we can maximize children's potential. I was recently meeting with a group of parents and one mentioned that they were struggling with how to teach them about how to reach their potential. "Potential" is a powerful word- it's defined as having power or abilities that can lead to future success or usefulness. I hear parents and educators use the word a lot- unfortunately too many of us view "potential" as an end goal. I have to tell people that we can't teach people to reach potential. We have to think about ways to teach young people to keep moving the mental barriers in their minds about what they can achieve. Here are some ways you can help children chart a course for the future that will enhance their abilities and help them reach new heights:
Support and guide, don't assume. I wish there were a clear formula, checklist and roadmap to success and happiness. If they did exist, our world would be a different and wonderful place! There are so many things out of our control that determines success- many of them out of anyone's control. That's why when it comes to very young children, we shouldn't make assumptions about potential. Our roles as leaders is to listen, support and offer advice to them about their experiences and share the lessons we've learned. You can try to explain the different choices they have at a given moment and offer your counsel and see how they navigate challenges and offer that feedback. We have to acknowledge the challenges and opportunities right in front of our children and not confuse them with confusing statements about long-term goals that they might not understand.
Believe! We have no idea who will turn out to be future presidents, CEOs, community leaders or innovators. A supportive home environment and solid schooling are among the most important things we can do to help children realize that there's greatness on the inside, but they're not the only things. Our time on this planet involves a lot of twists and turns outside of our control so we also have to tell children that we believe in them and that they should always aspire and try hard in all areas of their lives. If they believe in themselves and we in them, the sky is the limit. Part of this, of course, is that we have to let children make mistakes and show them how to learn from those mistakes- just be sure to never doubt their abilities. Everyone is endowed with the ability to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones and obstacles into opportunities but the power of belief is critical to the nurturing of full potential.
Broaden the skills your children are acquiring. This is a big challenge for many of us: but we have to think outside of our own comfort zones to help children realize that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. It's easy to think that learning is all about the three Rs, the ABCs and other memorable learning devices. But it's also about showing children new experiences, getting them to think wider than themselves, their communities, their country. Creating well-rounded children able to take on many different challenges will help them learn more, dream more and hopefully achieve more.
Every child's journey to success is unique and they have to find their way through life on their own. It's important that we let all young people pursue their passions and dreams and the best thing we can do is encourage them to go after their dreams, put wind in their sails, encouraging and supporting them along the way. We can't force children down paths but we can allow them to make mistakes and show them how to learn from them and re-chart new paths that will lead to solid achievement. If the mid can conceive it and the heart can believe it, then the hands can achieve it- and it's up to all of us to help children achieve.