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The Ten Things That Successful Parents Do

By Dr. Tom Olson

1. They are leaders as well as parents. They don’t rely on the schools, the government, television, the movies or music to teach their children values and the difference between right and wrong. They do it themselves.

2. They have a vision for their family and its future, one that is discussed and shared often. And they support the vision with clearly articulated, clarified and communicated values and beliefs. Every action, behavior, and decision is taken with those values and beliefs firmly in mind. They constantly emphasize the relationship between family successes and acting in accordance with the values and beliefs. They make a clear distinction between right and wrong. Everybody is clear on how things are to be done and why.

3. They are behavioral models for their children. Their behaviors reflect those that they want the kids to emulate. They are honest because they value honesty; open because they value openness; forgiving because they value forgiveness. They make tough decisions when necessary and they take responsibility for the results. They don’t just tell their children what to value and believe; they show them through words and deeds.

4. They enable their children. They communicate high, but achievable behavioral and performance expectations and provide the spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual and financial resources the children need to successfully achieve them. They know that self-esteem is a function of achievement.

5. They talk with their kids, not at them. They develop feedback loops so the children can come to understand the impact of their behavior on others. They make sure the kids understand the relationship behavior and consequences. And they distinguish between the child and his or her behavior so, when there are problems, they unconditionally love the child while looking for a solution to the problem.

6. They take pains to understand how children develop. As the children are finding their way in the world these parents use a combination of maturity and skill to firmly direct when direction is needed; discuss when the circumstances merit; push the kids away when they are ready to make provisional tries when they are ready to and, finally; they set them free altogether. Through it all, the door is left open for the kids to come back if they needed to.

7. They take an active role in their children’s education, both formal and informal. They are active contributors to both the schools and communities. They enrich the home environment in every way they can. They go to concerts, games, on camping trips and, unfailingly, to the ceremonies that mark the graduations from one stage to the next.

8. Although their children are outstanding in any number of ways, these parents freely admit their kids were anything but perfect. They accept and openly talk about the fact that, while good kids, their children are just as prone as others to the vicissitudes of growing up and, on occasion, their behavior reflects that fact.

9. When the time comes, they discuss the future and provide appropriate advice and guidance regarding career and other life choices that children must eventually make.

10. Through it all they encourage independent, critical thinking so, in the final analysis, each child becomes his or her own person.

© Dr. Tom Olson 2004, all rights reserved Permission to reprint article granted as long as this signature remains intact.

About the Author
Dr. Tom Olson is the author of Don’t Die With Your Helmet On. Visit for more information about Dr. Tom, the book and his work. Contact Dr. Tom at

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