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Redefining Success

I feel burdened to write this article after recently watching a documentary titled “The Medicated Child” streaming on Netflix. I am so saddened by the stories in the documentary and how I know our society feels children should be dealt with if they don’t fit in the box created for them.

I am proposing that we redefine what success means for ourselves and our children. I am convinced that our society defines success in less than helpful terms. If someone says, “He has been really successful”, what do we think about? What is the first thing that comes to mind? Usually we think that the person is making quite a bit of money and made it high up in their industry. But is that the only component of success? How about whether they enjoy what they’re doing? What about their emotional health and happiness? How is their success influencing their physical health and stress levels? Are they true to their inner selves? I believe many don’t ask these questions, but just happily enter the rat race to the top of the corporate ladders by starting really early on pushing kids to achieve good grades in school at all cost.

I’m not proposing we discourage children from working hard, but I am proposing that we think more of the whole child when we start pushing them towards higher grades. Good grades are wonderful and can be very helpful for getting into a desired college or special programs, but is that A on a report card worth it if the child is suffering emotionally, is completely stressed out and/or have to be on medication to keep it up? What are the long-term effects of these medications? No-one really knows. Developing brains react differently to the medication as even the experts in the documentary agreed. How important is a lot of money? Well, I’m sure everyone will agree that it is nice to have enough, but we’ve all heard the very true saying, “Money can’t buy happiness”. That kind of success isn’t all there is to life!

I believe that many parents put their children on medication to get their grades up, get them to focus on their school grades better, but at what cost? We want our children to seem successful to other children, so they won’t lack self-confidence, but at what cost? Shouldn’t we look at the school systems instead and wonder why kids aren’t engaged enough to focus without medication? I’m not talking about the small percentage of children that might really need medication, but when such a large percentage of children are starting to have to take medication for ADHD and bipolar disease, there has to be something wrong!

I challenge all of us to rethink success. When did someone “make” it? I propose that someone made it when they have found something they love that creates happiness and fulfillment in their lives and have found a creative way to make that earn them enough money to stay alive. As the old saying goes, “Do what you love and it will take care of you.” Now, of course they still will have to do some things they don’t like, because that is life, but not all of life should be filled with that which we don’t enjoy! We only live once, so let’s make the best of it on every level.

I have been so thankful that I have had the opportunity to homeschool my 4 children. I currently would classify their schooling as hybrid schooling, because we don’t just do schooling at home, but also take some group classes with other homeschoolers. This is what I’m most happy about: I can choose which teachers work for my children to optimize their learning and which individuals I would like to influence their lives. I can let them discover who they really are early on, since there isn’t the pressure of getting A’s on a report card and there is the free time available to pursue that which engages their minds in depth.

So, next time you wonder if you are doing the right thing by not putting all your effort into good grades or state testing, remember that the whole person is what matters, not just their financial success later in life. It is hard to keep that focus when everyone else puts so much emphasis on it!