How to develop your child’s full potential

Have you ever had the nagging sense that you were just floating through life? Stuck in a dead-end job, perhaps? Wasting your abilities, but unsure what to do about it?

Almost everyone I know has felt that way at least once. But let me ask you another question: Has that dissatisfaction caused you to spend too much money, as sort of a band-aid on a stagnant life?

I've been there, but I'm doing everything I can to prevent my children from ending up in the same place.

The Responsibility You Feel

Since my husband and I have had children, our lives are more complicated. Before kids, we considered the kind of retirement we wanted and saved accordingly. When we had spare time, we did what we felt like doing.

Now we wonder what's best for our extra cash since we have three little people that count on us. Our savings account for emergencies? Funding their college educations? Making sure our retirement accounts are as full as possible? (Now that we have more needs for our extra cash, we have less extra cash. It figures.)

But no matter how we spend our money or our time, we want our kids to be healthy adults.

How Do You Get There?

In my opinion, the happiest, most fulfilled adults are those who lead a life with a clear sense of purpose, using their full potential, but always having a thirst to improve, along with realistic expectations of themselves and others.

They know who they are.

Parenting is already daunting. I mean, you have to feed and clothe them; teach them how to cook, clean, and manage money; support their education; teach them kindness and manners; help them to serve and love their fellow human beings; and everything else. But that's not all.

Helping them reach their full potential could be the beginning of their long and successful life. Healthy (and by “healthy,” I mean healthy in all aspects of their lives — physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial) adults are more likely to have satisfying lives. And since dissatisfaction can cause people to spend more money than they should or to experience other financial difficulties, preventing it in the first place could have a significant impact on children.

I favor a holistic approach to developing a child's full potential. (And by the way, my kids are not teenagers yet, so I don't know much about parenting. Besides that, one child — just yesterday! — told me he was going to sue me when he becomes an adult for adopting him. So there's that.)

Notice Their Interests

Recently, I have been reading blog posts and books that focus on one thing: How can we accomplish anything if we are trying to do too many things? You don't have enough time in the day to become really great at a bunch of different things — and neither does your child.

So what to do?

Well, the longer you observe your children, the more you'll notice their natural abilities. Listen to what they talk about, and how much enthusiasm is displayed when they talk about different activities or school subjects. Watch what they do when they have free time. Then? Do more of that.

Balance Educational Pursuits

When I was a child in school, I pushed myself to excel at my classes. My grades were very important to me. That's why I am surprised that my children's grades are not — important to me, that is.

See, while they are both bright kids, English is their second language. I can't realistically expect a child who rather recently started learning this second language to spell well. At least, not right now.

As I get to know my children's academic abilities, I can see areas where they are doing their best and areas where they are not. Even if your child does not speak a different language, maybe they have other challenges that affect their academic progress. Some sort of learning disability? A medical condition?

As parents, we must walk the line between having high expectations and being realistic. While we should all do our best, not everyone can (or should) go to Harvard. Maybe our parenting energy should be focused on helping our children get the best education they possibly can, but to leave plenty of energy in reserve to spend time on pursuits outside of school.

And do you know who asks about my grades anymore? Nobody. Yes, they probably earned me a few scholarships, but I don't even care about them anymore. Maybe I should have focused some energy elsewhere a couple of decades ago.

Maintain Good Health

We all want the energy to do the things we want to do. Start with good nutrition. You know which foods are healthy and which are not.

I know as well as anyone how easily I fall into the processed food trap when I am tired, overwhelmed, and stressed. But if I consider how our food choices affect the family's overall energy levels, I am a little more likely to find a healthy, simple option.

Health is more than what we eat, though. Physical activity can release those feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. It improves morale, calms us, and relieves stress.

By eating healthy food as a family and making time to exercise, you can help your child cement good health habits that can help them develop their full potential.

Cognitive Development

Although cognitive development can be affected by other factors in this list, I wanted to consider it separately.

Helping your child reach his full potential starts early. Responding to his needs as an infant, continuing to interact with the child as he grows, singing and reading to him, and playing with him all help develop a healthy brain.

Exposing your child to music, taking music or second language lessons is also good for her brain.

Although it is best to do these things for your children when they are young, the brain isn't the completely static organ in adults it was once believed to be. Eating better, exercising, doing mental exercises, among other things, can actually improve cognitive function … even in adults. So, wherever you find yourself (and your children) today, start there.

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Following these tips will not guarantee financial success — not at all. And even if you do your best, life is unpredictable. Your child may develop a catastrophic illness. He or she may make really bad choices that affect his or her life forever. So much of their lives is out of our control.

But by giving them the best tools we possibly can, they may be able to build satisfying lives.

How do you develop your child's interests and support his or her education? What does a successful foundation look like and how does it help children reach their full potential?

More about...Education

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5 years ago

I think we all feel like that at some point and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Feeling “stuck” has motivated me to change, to try something new. I think this article has a lot of good information, but sometimes I think parenting advice focusses too much on avoiding problems and emotions and not enough time teaching kids how to deal with them. The former teacher in me knows you can’t create a cushiony little bubble for your kids — and you shouldn’t. We all fail at something. We make mistakes. If you want to set your kids up… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth


I always appreciate your thoughtful comments and this time is no exception. You share good points here.
I think failure is a good thing and (in my mind, at least) you can fail and still be satisfied with your life. It’s the despair of being stuck somewhere and feeling that you have no choice but to stay stuck that I want my children to avoid.

Sanjeev Shrestha
Sanjeev Shrestha
5 years ago

These are great tips. Along with these tips, I suggest taking kids to TRAVEL different parts of the world, both developed and developing countries, and within US. If possible live there for few months. This will open up World to them. They will appreciate what we have in US that we take for SO Granted. Like Electricity, Good Roads, Access to Education, fairly Stable Government and free enterprise. Also, as they grow older, they will value the good times they have with their parents.

5 years ago

(And by the way, my kids are not teenagers yet, so I don’t know much about parenting. Besides that, one child – just yesterday! – told me he was going to sue me when he becomes an adult for adopting him. So there’s that.)

Sounds like a teenager to me!

5 years ago

I think on top of all these great suggestions is to be their biggest cheerleader without giving them false praise. Let them know when they did great but (and we all hate to admit this) they aren’t going to be the best at everything. Other people will be better than them in many cases. Hug them and encourage them to try again!

Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
5 years ago

We have a poster of our fridge differentiating the good food from the bad foods. This poster has helped our son become health conscious and now he has started to make healthy choices ditching sugary drinks for milk etc. Thanks for sharing your insights, I’ve learnt a lot.

5 years ago

This falls under the heading for maintaining good health~

Make sure everyone sees the dentist and doctor for regular check ups! Especially teenagers, as it will hopefully become a habit they get used to doing.

Can be very costly and painful otherwise (mostly speaking about dental here, I have personal experience neglecting my teeth for awhile as a young adult).

5 years ago

Great read, I really appreciate what you are doing.