10 Ways to Raise an Outlier

When it comes to parenting our kids, my husband and I take two different approaches. While my husband is definitely more strict with my kids, I’m the one who typically gives in because I just want to make sure that they’re happy. Over the years, my husband and I have made a formidable pair. He keeps them on track with their grades and I’m the cheerleader on the sidelines encouraging them to try their best and not be afraid to fail.

Honestly, I think that’s the only way to raise a successful kid. They need to have someone in their life who is strict because they care about them and know they are capable of achieving great things while the other parent is there to provide them with the tools, advice and guidance to get there.

I started to become fascinated with the concept of raising Outlier kids after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Outliers. The premise behind Gladwell’s Outlier theory is that it takes at least 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. Once you have logged those 10,000 hours, then you too can effortlessly achieve success in your chosen passion or profession. When my kids were little and starting to share the things they enjoyed, I became attune not only to doing the things they loved, but finding ways to cultivate their talent and their enthusiasm for it. Over the years, my daughter enrolled in high school fashion classes at FIT while my son took magic lessons with a professional magician. To me, fueling their passion was a no brainer and over the years, my daughter’s hard work paid off when she was accepted into a university with a prestigious art program. Nothing comes easy, but here are a 10 tips to raising an Outlier kid:

  1. Find their Passion. When your child is around five years old, start signing them up for 1-2 things that they might enjoy – whether it’s sports, performance or art.
  2. Watch for the Signs. Within 2-3 years you will start to see what your child is starting to excel in.  If they love what they are doing, foster that love. Sign up for classes, clinics or just spend time with them doing the things they love.
  3. Let your child quit. If they complain of a stomach ache every single week that they are supposed to attend swim practice they probably don’t want to do it. The kid who races to their favorite class or sport is doing what they love. The kid who feigns a tummy ache needs to find a new passion.
  4. Encourage your kids to volunteer. It’s important to raise a child who is respectful, humble and grateful. You may be giving them everything they have ever asked for but they need to know that there are people who are less fortunate than them and as a result, they should share what they love with others. Whether it’s working at an animal shelter, volunteering at a nursing home (my son will be performing magic there), or participating in a school initiative like Habitat for Humanity, kids should learn the importance of volunteering and the impact it can make on the lives of other.
  5. Get a job. Do not let your child have everything they want. They need to learn that they have to earn things in life too. By the time they turn 15, it’s time to go to work. Sure you can get a job doing what you love – whether it’s working at a retail job, lifeguarding in the summer or being a hostess at a restaurant, kids today need to know that nothing is free and getting a job is the way to start building a successful future.
  6. Travel Every Single Year. My father-in-law always says, “You can’t put a price on a good time,” and he’s absolutely right. There is nothing better than making priceless memories every single year with your kids when you take a family vacation. It could be a quick road trip, a daycation, a cruise, a theme park visit or a beach adventure, no matter what, expose your kids to all kinds of experiences and cultures. The more you do, the more they will thank you for it when they’re older.
  7. Let them fail. As much as we hate to see our kids get rejected, you have to let it happen. And once they do fail, make sure they get back up, dust themselves off and continue if they want to. Sometimes when you fail a lot at the same thing, it’s a sign you may need to change course, but if you fail the first time, you just need to be there for your child and encourage them to try again, chart a new course and learn from their experiences so the next time around, they can be successful.
  8. Be there to Listen. Sometimes they just want to tell you how they feel if they are struggling academically or socially. Don’t lecture, listen.
  9. Ask Questions. They may not tell you how they feel and you’re going to have to act like an investigative journalist to find out what’s going on in their head. And don’t give up when they give you one word answers. You can sometimes get them to talk while they are doing the things they love.
  10. Tell them You Love Them. Every single day. Without fail. Even if you’ve had a fight. Say I love you, hug them and make sure that no matter what, you will always be there for them.