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Top Ten Rules for Back-to-School Success

By Gary Ryan Blair

Summertime is winding down, and summer vacations are coming to an end. It's back-to-school time! Parents will spend an estimated $14 billion on new clothes and school supplies to get their children ready for the new school year. But, what happens after the new school clothes are dirty, the book bag is torn, and the pens are lost?

What specifically have you done as a parent, teacher, or coach, to best prepare your kids for success in the new school year? Besides the new clothes and notebooks, what have you done to teach your kids about values, character building, and goal setting? It is the purpose of this lesson to help you in that cause.

The following is a list of rules to promote success in the new school year. These are lessons for parents, teachers and coaches to share with their children and students. I use them with my own children and I'm confident that they will work for you as well. By the way, these rules apply to children just entering grade school all the way to those entering their senior year in college.

  1. Accept Your Power of Choice
    Success in school, as in life, is the intentional use of choice and decision. Unless your child chooses–with certainty–what it is they want, from life, friends, and their education, they accept table scraps by default.

    Your child must understand that every choice counts. That there are no insignificant choices, no neutral actions. Even the smallest decision has a bottom line consequence, leading your child in a positive or negative direction.

    The quality of your child's life is a direct reflection of the quality of the choices they have made and will make throughout their life and if they repeatedly make bad choices, their life will follow an undesirable path.

    Task: Look back over your life, identify three decisions you made around your child's age and share the + / - consequences of those decisions. Share your experiences with them and the lessons you learned about making better, more informed decisions.

  2. Tell The Truth and Respect Reality
    All progress, growth and maturity in your child's life is dependent upon a warm relationship with the truth. They must embrace the fact that the truth is always available, functions as a guide and helps them to maintain peace of mind. Which of course is priceless.

    It's imperative that your child know that true and accurate information is and will always be essential to success. They must respect reality as it is, not as they want it to be - as reality is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Your child must never lie to themselves, nor to others, as it negatively impacts the quality of their life and cheapens every relationship.

    Task: Look back over your life, identify a specific time that you were less than honest with yourself or someone else. Explain to your child what you learned from that experience and why truthful living is the only way to live.

  3. Take Responsibility – Make No Excuses
    Your child has the responsibility to be everything that they can be. They are responsible for setting and maintaining high standards, for honoring each promise and following through on every commitment they make to themselves and others.

    Explain to your child that excuses are convenient; temporary scapegoats which undermine their character and which contaminate future opportunities. Share with them that sometime, somewhere and somehow, excuses will come back and make things very uncomfortable. Your child must learn that taking responsibility for their actions is the only way to achieve their full potential. Talk about the importance of making a no excuses policy and sticking to it!

    Task: Identify three areas where you feel your child should demonstrate greater responsibility. Decide the best way and time to approach the subject and be responsible in enforcing and holding your child accountable for their new behaviors.

  4. Protect Your Character
    There is no more essential or defining aspect of your child's potential than their character. From the moment they open their eyes each morning until they close again for sleep each night, their character is either complemented or compromised.

    When it comes to practicing good character, saying no to vices is not good enough. A quality life is never achieved by focusing on the elimination of what is wrong. True success requires you and your child to focus mental, emotional, and spiritual energies on pursuing that which is right and good.

    You child must ALWAYS do the right thing, because having character is much more important than "being a character." When all is said and done, all your child has is his or her character and integrity - nothing else really matters.

    Task: The greatest gift you can give your child is the practice of good character. Identify someone you respect, someone with superb character and explain to your child why that person is deserving of your admiration. Share with your child the character traits you admire in them and ask them to explain their thoughts on this important subject.

  5. Demonstrate Moral Courage
    One of the most virtuous aspects of moral courage is that it can be practiced by anyone regardless of age, gender, physical ability, or surroundings. It is for that precise reason that your child needs to see you demonstrate moral courage so that they will do so in return.

    When moral courage is tested in your child, it manifests itself in the form of character, honesty, respect, responsible behavior, and compassion.

    Your child either habitually practices moral courage, or moral cowardice. And when moral cowardice is tested, it presents itself in opposite forms to include bad character, dishonesty, disrespect, irresponsible behavior, and lack of compassion.

    No gray matter exists when it comes to moral courage, therefore demonstrate for them so that they will demonstrate it for themselves.

    Task: Explain to your child that the true heroes in our families, neighborhoods, schools, boardrooms and elected offices are those who habitually practice acts of moral courage. Let them know that when we do that, when we uphold and celebrate that which is right and virtuous, we are truly living a good life.

  6. Practice Self-Discipline
    There will never be a day in your child's life that will not require self-discipline and self-control. Success in any endeavor consists of a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of your child's self-discipline and judgment that leads them to either excellence or mediocrity.

    Your child needs to know that their life will serve as a prophesy of excellence or excuses of what could have been. Their life can be seen as the sad consequence of neglect, self-pity, poor character, lack of direction and ambition, or it can be an example of talent put to use, of a disciplined life spent in the intense pursuit of clearly perceived objectives. It's all a matter of self-discipline.

    Task: Talk to your child about the importance of self-discipline and delaid gratification. Share with them a personal experience on self-disipline and how it has positively affected your life. Passionately explain that self-disipline is the path less traveled, but also the most prosperous path they can choose.

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