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Excerpt from the Seminar:  How to Raise Academically Focused Children

Parenting is tough!  You are learning with the kids, and by the time you know all the tricks to being a parent, you have no more kids.  You get one chance to navigate your child through the turmoil of academics and growing up proper.  It’s a journey through a one-way tunnel.  Grade 2, soon becomes grade 3…which soon becomes grade 9.  There is no time for second-guessing, “could of”, “would of”, or “should of”.

This is where I come in.  I have not only brought up my two sons, through public and private schools, through gifted to Ivy League, but I have conversed with thousands of parents and children.  Most of it was through tutoring classes and summer camps.  I used to offer a free seminar for parents to listen to me self-indulge in my child-rearing experiences and give them my top ten observations on how to bring up academically focused and successful children.  It was sparsely attended…oh well. 

I now entertain my summer camp students with daily rants that end with a message. Usually the message is based on one of the ten observations.

From the seminar, How to Raise Academically Focused Children, here is my number one observation.
It is a mantra that I repeat daily to my students.

 Be Fearless!

I have taught for over 25 years and I can see even in grade 2 who is going to be successful.  It is not the child who is the smartest or hardest working.  It is the child who is willing to ask questions, show their work, stand up and read, volunteer to help, try new things, have a sense of humour and mischievousness about them, and is willing to fail.  It is the child who has a learning mindset and a willingness to learn, to try, and to be fearless!

I know it is cliché to say, you learn by your mistakes.  Edison made 1000 attempts before he invented the light bulb. Some say he failed 1000 times, but Edison said it was 1000 steps along the way.

The great one, hockey’s greatest player of all time, Wayne Gretzky aptly said, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  This means there is no learning or success without taking chances.

As US president, Roosevelt said during WWII, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself!”.

Fear of failure is even worse than failure itself.   Fear prevents you from trying. Trying prevents you from learning. And learning allows you to make a proper analysis and intelligent decisions that will improve your chances of success.


Examples of Being Fearless or Not

Be fearless!  This summer in another teacher’s public speaking class, the teacher was having difficulty getting the kids to just read something they wrote about an item in the room.  Some stood up and some refused to read their story.  I just happened to be in the room.  When this one girl who I knew was a great writer refused to read, I had to step in.

I told the class that, I know that it is hard, it is a major fear for many, but speaking out loud is important, as important as writing.  No one knows who you are or how you think unless you express yourself.  And, this camp is the best place to start.  You just met the other students, your parents aren’t here, there are no grades or marks, and your teachers aren’t real teachers.  This is the best opportunity to try and even if you fail, who cares.  You are at a camp.  Everyone is supportive and wants to have fun.  Each person here has public speaking fears.  I get it.  It’s scary, but at some point, that fear will go away. I want everyone to take little baby steps right now.

After my rant, everyone took turns and did well, except for one person.  A friendly shy guy who looked confident.  But, after his opening sentence, he epically struggled, then he froze for a painfully long time.  I was about to intervene, when a student at the back of the class, another quiet guy, started clapping.  Then the whole class slowly joined in and started clapping.  No comments, just clapping.  The student started reading again, even looking up.  When he did another awkward pause, everyone started clapping again.  It was touching, yet comical and everyone felt it.  I give fearless-credit to the student for making it through his writeup, but I give more fearless-credit to the boy who started the clapping.  Be fearless!

Be fearless!   I was doing my pre-camp marketing by dropping off flyers in the neighbourhood surrounding Beckett Farm Public School.  My son, in grade 8 at the time, was with me.   After a few hours and just before school was let out, it started to drizzle.  He asked, “Why do you do this, does this work, are you doing this for the exercise?” Then he took a stack of flyers and went right into the school’s lobby and started handing them out to parents and kids.  He got kicked out.  He continued outside the front doors. He got kicked out again.  He went to the bus lineups, then he went to the parents standing under umbrellas, and then to the cars lined up along the sidewalks.   Wow! From my parked car across from the school, I was embarrassed and yet, I was in awe.   He said, “Hey, they don’t know me, I’m just a hip young guy doing a job.  They should be pleased to get good information.”  He was right. Be fearless!

Be fearless!  A few years ago,  there was a student in camp who wanted to get into Unionville’s prestigious art program.  He prepared his portfolio, wrote a letter, and had references, but he never handed it in.  Although some of his less artistic friends got in, fear of failure got to him and he did not submit his application.  He showed me his digital artwork.  It was beautiful.  I was saddened by this lost opportunity.  Somewhere along the way, no one instilled in him that if you do not try, you will not succeed.  He wasn’t fearless.

He did not try, so he failed.  He knew it, I knew it.  I let him know that there is virtue in failing. Learn from it.


Failure builds character.  You self-reflect and analyze what you have to do to prevent repeating the mistakes.

Failure builds compassion.  You can understand and learn from those who have failed.  It makes you a better leader.

Failure builds resilience.  It makes you tough and ready to bounce back from any setbacks.  You will persevere.

Failure builds creativity.   You look for alternative solutions.  You think out of the box. Evolve your approach to reaching your goals.

 “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself!”

Be Fearless!

As parents, you have to develop a nurturing environment of praise, encouragement, positivity, self-determination, comfort, progress, and a willingness to try. And oh ya, have fun and laughter along the way.    

Thanks for reading.