I had a kid graduate from high school this spring and I am having all of the feelings that go with it. He worked hard for where he is and I love that it’s paying off. He will go far in life I am sure, but I’m not talking about where his future career will take him. No, what I am talking about is what I consider to be success in life.

There is but one simple rule that I have in raising my kids. One measurement for success for he and his siblings:

Don’t be a Jerk.

Yep. That’s it.

Their grades may be perfect and they may have just won the winning goal at a soccer game, but if they are incapable of empathy we have some serious work to do. Because in my house, I’m much more concerned about raising good humans than producing adults that will put worldly accomplishments above human decency.

It’s easy to learn to love others when you have this cutie as your little sister.

I have two reasons for this philosophy. The first is obvious to me. I believe that it is important in life to learn how to love, how to be kind and how to watch out for one another. If we can’t do that, what are we doing here on this Earth?

The second reason is a little more complicated.

Our kids are under a lot of pressure. The expectations they face in sports, activities, grades, exams, and college applications, it’s all too much. It’s even harder if you know your parents are putting expectations on your performance (real or imagined). The world we live in tells us that our kids are successful if they get good grades, are good at sports and are popular at school. When they hit adulthood we expect that they will earn six figures, get married, have a nice house and have two to three brag-worthy children. And yet, we know that this method of measurement is unrealistic and often unattainable.  

So why are we tempted to support these unrealistic expectations as parents?

What if your kid isn’t getting good grades but is trying their best? What if they are one of the slowest kids on the cross country team? What if your kid is motivated only by making you proud instead of following their heart? If you take all of the worldly accomplishments away, what is left? 

Society tells our kids that we should be proud of and love them for what they do. I want my kids to know that I love them and am proud of them for WHO THEY ARE.

This way of parenting has been refined even more this last year since we brought home our girl. If you have a child with special needs you cannot measure her worth or level of success in her ability to write her name like the other four year olds. While we have goals for her, we are not wrapping up those goals in her value as a human being. She has value (as do all of our children) no matter what.

It isn’t that I don’t have expectations for them to work hard in their endeavors, it’s just that I don’t want it to define who they are. It’s exciting to watch one of my kids get a PR at his latest cross country meet (because I know he worked for it). But I’m more interested in watching him turn around at the finish to cheer on his teammates that are behind him. I am happy that my graduating senior is going on to the college of his choice, but I’m more interested in how he will use his time there to grow further into living his best life. My oldest is in the military serving his country. I am grateful for people like him who choose to sacrifice their life in order to keep us all safe. But I really appreciate how he has grown into an adult that I want to be friends with from what he is learning from his experiences.

I’m not talking about raising perfect people here. My kids have faults. I have faults (LOTS of them). But, I try over and over again to be the kind of human being that my kids will learn from. With a larger than average family we get plenty of opportunities to practice what I’m preaching here.

Don’t be a Jerk.

That’s it.

The rest, I hope, will fall into place. 

Julie is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie is starting a new adventure going back to school to get her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy at Edgewood College.


    • I’ve come to the realization that everything I write is mostly a reminder to my own self. I just hope it resonates with other people. Glad it did! 🙂

  1. This is spot on! Thank you for sharing this very necessary reminder! Will be sharing with my husband, as a nudge for him to read as well!


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