Naturally parents want to protect their children, but some of the ways they go about it can lead to problems and actually make their children’s journey to adulthood harder.

It is not easy to sit by and watch your toddler fall repeatedly, yet that is the way they learn to walk. Good parenting means protecting your children from harm. It also means encouraging them to stretch, try new approaches and take reasonable and healthy risks as they learn to master their world.

Here are 9 safe and sane things you can do NOW with your children that can make a significant difference LATER.

1      Skip the lecture. Give a hint instead.

It can be difficult to pass up those perfect teaching moments when you have so much you want to say, yet often shorter is better. John Wooden, perhaps the greatest basketball coach of all time, was famous for giving his players short crisp nuggets of guidance. A full lecture from him was five words or less, and studies bear him out: Information delivered in small chunks generally has greater impact. We all remember when a parent gave us that “look” that said everything that needed to be said.

2      Transform arguments into debates

Arguments between parents and children often deteriorate rather than stimulate. This is the perfect moment to give your children a hint about how they might win the debate. After all, that is what it is … a debate, which has two sides, and with logic, negotiation and compromise there is usually a middle ground where both of you can win.

3      Let them make a mess

It sounds crazy, but how else can children learn the consequences of chaos and have a chance to develop their own sense of order. As a child my daughter was always organizing her messes, but never quite finishing before the next wave of turmoil arrived. Now as an accountant she is an expert at creating order out of other people’s messes.

4      Play chess with your kids

For more than six hundred years chess has helped both adults and children learn the crucial skills of planning, strategy and problem solving. With more literature related to the theory and playing of chess than all other games combined plus numerous clubs and competitions, there are vast resources for you and your children to grow your skills together.

5      Give them a nudge occasionally

Research has shown that ten years of hard work is the most common path to becoming an expert yet children’s passions can wane in days when they see little progress. Often, it takes only a slight push to keep them going and avoid a regret they may not realize until years later. My daughter laments her career in music was lost because I did not encourage her to continue flute lessons when she was ten.

6      Visit your neighbors together

With the constant stories of predators and violence, it is no wonder we tend to keep our children away from strangers yet people skills are one of our most prized abilities. When you consider that today people generally fear public speaking more than death itself, it is also an area where there is considerable room for improvement. Giving your children some practice meeting and talking with people in your neighborhood is an excellent way to give them experience honing their interpersonal skills.

7      Acknowledge your shortcomings

As a parent you want the respect of your children, so it is natural to avoid highlighting your faults. The downside is this can leave your children with the impression that mistakes are bad when in truth, it is mistakes that teach your children life’s lessons. We call it experience. Treating mistakes with honesty and humility is not only a good thing; it makes people more attractive and likeable.

8      Encourage their interests

Parents are sometimes frustrated by their children’s passion for things that seem unimportant and trivial, but often there is more going on than meets the eye. Nathan Myhrvold, who has found more tyrannosaurus rex skeletons than everyone else in the world combined, notes he never met an expert paleontologist who was not consumed by dinosaurs as a child.

9      Give them a fair trial

Disciplining children can be a tricky business because parents are both the judge and jury. Sometimes when the situation is clear, parents are tempted to exact swift justice, but it may be prudent to give them a chance to voice their side anyway. It is not only fair; it builds respect for authority and reinforces the idea that there are always two sides.


The skills children acquire when they are young stay with them their entire lives. If they are incorrectly or poorly learned in childhood, they become bad habits that weigh them down later. It does not have to be this way. As a parent, you can make a difference now by taking actions that will make a dramatic difference later in your children’s life.

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My focus is to help parents develop their children’s abilities NOW so these skills become the tools for building the successful life they want LATER. If you want to learn more about how my programs and materials can help your children, call me at 650-654-1710 for a complimentary consultation.



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