The three As of successful parenting

Every parent has dreams and aspirations for their children’s future. Regardless of what those dreams are or what your children actually become when they grow up, there are some basic developmental skills that will have long-term benefits into adulthood. Here are some skills you can start to instill in childhood that could prepare your child/adolescent/teen for college success and beyond.

1.  Attitude.

Attitude is communicated in many ways other than just the words we say.  Our body language and actions speak so loudly sometimes that the people around us rarely hear what we are saying. Furthermore, people portray an attitude in more ways than just being cheerful or sarcastic.  They portray an attitude by the way they sit, their timeliness, and the way they look.  When a student or employee habitually arrives late, sits slouched down in the seat, has a look like they could care less about the class, and generally engages in texting or withdrawal behaviors, they communicate “I don’t care.” We can debate endlessly about who’s responsible: the student for looking engaged, or the professor for being engaging, but honestly in the workplace your boss doesn’t care if you find him or her engaging or not…he or she cares about your attitude in general.

Teaching our children to portray a positive attitude can go a long way when they reach the classroom and beyond.  Children should learn early on to: Arrive like you care. Sit like you care. Look like you care. Demonstrating a positive attitude (and, more importantly, NOT demonstrating a negative or uncaring attitude) can earn points when grades are being distributed, or at least when the benefit of the doubt is needed when they sit on the edge between letter grades.

2.  Acknowledgement.

Imagine a boardroom. The CEO walks into a room full of highly paid cherry-picked executives. She is about to deliver a new vision about which she is excited. She walks in and says “Good morning!” and is met with everyone staring at the floor, and a very muffled murmur from one person that sounds faintly like a “walker” from the Walking Dead. Here’s what will happen next:  a new cherry-picked executive team is about to be installed.

We live in an era where the bulk of our communication has gone digital. This form of communication limits the tone that can be communicated. As a result, many teenagers no longer know how to acknowledge someone with enthusiasm. It would be nice if we could just hold up an emoticon sign at meetings that conveys how we’re feeling, so maybe a smiley-on-a-stick could communicate “Good Morning!” back…but that is not the case (yet!).

Teach your child to acknowledge people who address them, and do so with strength and enthusiasm. Teach them how to shake hands firmly while looking into the other person’s eye with a smile and say, “Hello,” or “Good morning,” or “Good to see/meet you.” For typically a student who greets a professor with acknowledgement already has an “A” for participation and engagement.

Along those lines, teach your child how to acknowledge other forms of communication. Send a thank-you note to Aunt Jane if she sends a gift for an occasion. Help them write a thank-you email to a favorite teacher who really made an impact (yes, even in elementary school!). Then one day when a professor bothers to send out an assignment by email, or a change of date for an exam, send a quick, “Thanks! Got it.” First, it lets the professor know that her email works (trust me…it happens so scarcely that a student responds, we wonder if the Internet works). Secondly, it says, “I acknowledge that you cared enough to let me know…so I do too.” Again, if a student is a couple points away from an A, this is going to matter. It’s easier to give a couple extra points to a student who cares than to those who do not. Also, it’s easier to remember that kind of employee when merit bonuses are distributed, or promotions are awarded, or even when positions are cut.

3.  Attentiveness.

Attentiveness is the art of paying attention to small things. In college, this takes the form of reading the syllabus before asking a question about something that has already been clearly explained. In the workplace, it takes the form of paying attention to, writing down, and reading instructions that are already given, rather than asking a manager for valuable time for something unnecessary. Too often, students ask for directions that have already been given and for and explanation that is already clear (and sometimes written on the front board!). And too often, teachers and parents acquiesce.

Teach your child how to pay attention to, record, read, and follow directions. Ask them to recall what they remember hearing. Ask them to look for instructions already given and read them. Yes, of course, it takes more time! It’s certainly easier just to ask someone else to give us or tell us something for the second time, rather than go looking for and reading something ourselves! But in the workplace, a lack of attentiveness labels employees as incompetent, lazy, and risky…none of which are qualities most employers are willing to pay for very long.

It is better to teach these skills early on than to remediate later in life when we hit struggles. If attitude, acknowledgement, and attentiveness are developed in their early years, they will be natural responses and effortless into their schooling and one day careers. These skills help develop a courteous, caring, and conscientious individual. What teacher and boss wouldn’t reward such effort?

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About Dr. Raquel Anderson, Bundoo Behavioral Health Specialist

Raquel Anderson has 14 years of experience as a mental health provider in institutional and private practice. Aside from her private practice, she is an advisory board member for the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County’s Be Merge Initiative and is a contributing author to Raising Boys with ADHD.


  1. Number 3 is my favorite! Being a teacher, I see so many kids that lack attentiveness. They ask questions that have already been answered or that are clearly stated in the directions. It definitely tests my patience. 🙂


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