What creates a successful human being? What kind of parenting does a human being need to become truly successful in his or her life? We all want wealth, health,happiness, a loving family life, and self-fulfillment for our children. Some may focus on one aspect more than others, but deep inside, they all want their children to have truly authentic happiness.
I met a Korean-American business man on the flight home from El Paso. He was soft spoken, highly intelligent, and seemed acutely self-aware. Michael, like me, had come to America in his early teens, and was thoroughly Americanized. He straddles the fence of the two cultures that he has grown up in, understanding and seeing things in both ways.
He and I spoke about the level of ambition many of us parents have for our children, especially Korean parents, not only in this country, but also in Korea. We talked about the great push that exists in Korea to educate their children in extreme. The children in Korea are in school from 6 am to 12 am, six days a week. This has created, in Michaels’s opinion, a country of people who are extremely driven to succeed. It is a stressful life to say the least.
At the same time, it is a great accomplishment for a nation to bring themselves out of third world status in only thirty short years. Korea is an economically thriving nation. Even during this economically stressed time, many Koreans that I know are doing very well, financially. My own extended family members, who experienced their own parents having difficulty putting food on their tables, are now themselves wealthy and living lives of affluence. I realize that pressure and stress put on Korean children are not the healthiest things, but I also cannot help but be impressed with what my culture has accomplished for itself in just three decades.
In America, we have a different condition. Our schools, especially the ones in rural areas, lack the accountability that Korean schools have. Nobody is held accountable for what they need to do, not parents, teachers, or school administrators. Not many are courageous enough to really make a difference. It is a culmination of relationships both of people and organizations who have simply given up on seeing greatness nurtured in children regardless of what economic and educational background the children are from.
America is a culture of independence and I love that, but perhaps a real level of group care and a desire to help and serve others in our community is just the medicine that we need.
I suppose I am one of those Korean parents who believes that education is the way to a good life, to a successful meaningful life. I do not believe education ends with learning math and language. Gaining the liberal arts education is a solid start. Knowledge gives our minds a database from which we can then categorize falsehoods from truths. Our minds can only critically think if we have information to rifle through to compare and contrast with what we are fed. Critical thinking is what we need to be fully capable humans in any society. In addition, knowledge in things helps us to learn and grow a taste for further knowledge because knowing things is fulfilling. We need to expose our children to that pleasure causing activity so that they learn that for themselves.
Education, as we all know, is an instrument in the toolkit of success. So we get our children to love learning, and then what? What do we do to help our children succeed in life? There certainly are educated bums, if you wish to call them bums. So while we educate our children, we must also expose them to the practice of mental and physical discipline. We must also help them gain a taste for personal accomplishments and personal success. We must do this so that they can gain self-efficacy about their own abilities to succeed.
Our goal is to nurture healthy success, a success that includes a solid foundation of good healthy relationships (love, family, healthy friendships, connection to community, etc), a success that includes a sense of voice, personal power, a sense of security, a sense of freedom, a sense of creativity, and the feeling of making a positive difference. We want them to have success that includes the ability to take good care of themselves with self-love and self-value.
What do you think a truly successful life look like and how do you think we can guide our children to become successful?