I was so excited when I received the email. There it was… an invitation for my kid to join an elite scholars program. What an opportunity! In this program, he would get the chance to be academically challenged and earn high school credits. I was so honored that he was being considered.
His amazing teacher also informed me that this program would help him get into some of the best high schools and even colleges, which would ensure his future success — ironically, that’s the statement that caused me to have concerns.
You see, I know my kid is going to be successful regardless of what program or school he chooses to attend. I want to teach him early that he does not need to rely on an external source (such as a college) to dictate whether or not he is worthy of success.
I read books about successful entrepreneurs regularly. I find it so fascinating that many, now accomplished and wealthy leaders, actually started out with very little money or education. Some of them even dropped out of higher education!
I want my son to make his decision based on whether or not he feels that this program will add value to his life later… and now. I want him to choose this program if he really wants the academic challenge or if he is really interested in the subjects that will be taught to him. I do not want him to choose opportunities that he is disinterested in because he thinks that elite programs, competitions, or schools are the only path to achieving his goals.
So, should our gifted, creative, and high-performing kids take advantage of every opportunity for success?
The obvious answer to this question may be, “Yes, of course, our kids should participate in every event that can set them up for a spectacular future.”
However, we must remember that our kids are bright, witty, charismatic, determined, and overachieving. This means that they are going to attract an endless number of opportunities.
Our kids may sometimes feel that they need to enroll, compete, or participate in everything that comes their way due to fear of missing out, status, or the feeling of just not being enough. This is what can cause them to become overwhelmed and extremely anxious.
It may make sense: Put the hard work in now to enjoy the benefits later.
However, it is so easy for us to become trapped in a “cycle of sacrifice mentality” which means that we are constantly engaging in present-day activities that do not fulfill us in hopes that these activities will one day bring us the joy that we seek in the future.
I want to be very clear that words cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for my son’s teacher who pushes him to do more and believes in him enough to take time out of her day to present opportunities to him. My heart swells knowing that he has such an amazing educator advocating for him! It is educators like her who inspire our next great leaders. But I know that this decision needs to be my son’s decision so that he can truly take ownership of the ups and downs to come.
I hope that we can all do our best to help our kids navigate through these types of decisions so that they can discover experiences that are truly meaningful for them in the present and for their futures.
About the Author
Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.