My only hope for me teens  is that they are happy, and they never forget how to be kind. For me, that is the true measure of parenting success.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

The end of the year is approaching, and my kids are scrambling to get projects done in between lacrosse practice and social hours with their friends.

My teenagers aren't in love with this time of year. They have never liked school, and the pressure is on to get everything done and do well at it.

They are doing their best when it comes to English reports, math tests, and science projects, but they don't excel in any of these subjects and I am more than okay with that. I don’t look over their work and correct it for them.

On social media it's pretty typical to see an array of college acceptances, college-choice reveal parties, and proud parents posting pictures of newspaper articles which include their high-honor roll students.


While this is all fine, fun, and encouraging, I believe you can raise kids who have a strong work ethic and excel in academics AND kind kids at the same time. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive. My main goal has never been to raise children who can get into Harvard or Yale.

I know full well I could have pushed my three kids harder. I could have hired tutors to help them boost their Bs and Cs to As.

Perhaps I haven't encouraged them enough to go above and beyond and spend extra hours reading, writing or practicing their math facts.

I’ve watched them struggle and say they hate school over the years. For us, doing their best means they are finishing work, handing it in on time, and receiving average grades for their effort. And they know I am proud of them for that accomplishment—it’s enough.

I don't care where they go to college, and if they decide not to go at all and pursue a career, or travel when they graduate instead, that is going to be just fine with me, too.

I don't spend half as much time lecturing them about doing well in the spelling bee or on a paper than I do about why they were being mean to their sister.

If they turn in a late assignment their consequence is much smaller than if they are being disrespectful to me or anyone else for that matter.

When I had kids, my only goal was to raise them to be happy and kind. Now that they are teens there are days when I see a lot of my hard work coming through. Other times we need to regroup for another life lesson on how to treat people.

My kids don’t like this at all. They perhaps would rather have me harp on hem about doing more when it comes to their studies, but teaching them to be kind (without being a doormat), is too important.

I know there is only so much I can do, and after they leave home the way they interact with others will be up to them since I won't be standing over them with reminders or lectures. I won't be able to take their phones away or keep them from going out with their friends if they act up.

But for now, I can lead by example. I can make it clear that the way they make others feel and how they treat people is more important than their grades, what school they go to, or what they decide to be when they grow up.

My only hope for them is that they are happy, and they never forget how to be kind. For me, that is the true measure of parenting success.