Stop Making Failures of Your Children

by Napoleon Hill

Do you realize that your child’s success or failure depends on you? The schooling and the religious training your children receive will play an important part in their lives, of course, but the influence they will pick up from living close to you can be and should be one that puts them on the success beam.

There are three important principles you can teach your children which will go a long way toward bringing them success and happiness throughout their lives. The first of these is Definiteness of Purpose. This habit should start when the child is very young so that it will become a fixed part of his character.

Not too long ago I was visiting friends whose little boy was playing with tinker toys. He was trying to build a helter-skelter design that soon crumbled to the floor. He began to cry when his understanding mother came to his rescue and asked him what he wanted to build.

“I dunno,” he sobbed, “just something that will stand up.”

“Before you start building,” his mother counseled, “you must know what you want, and you must have a plan to go by. Now, let’s see what you’d like to make.”

After the mother had mentioned several things that could be made from the tinker toys, the youngster decided upon a small house and set to work with great enthusiasm to build it.

“This will take more time and work,” cautioned the boy’s father. “but when you are finished it will stand up, and you will be very proud of what you have done.”

As I was getting ready to leave, the boy jubilantly grabbed me by the hand and asked me to come and look at his house “that wouldn’t fall down.”

“This is so much better than putting something together every which way,” he exclaimed triumphantly.

On my way out to my car, the boy’s father accompanied me. He was an executive in a large national chain store organization, who began as a stock clerk in one of the smaller stores, less than ten years previously. He advanced himself to a vice-presidency by following the habit of definiteness of purpose. “You understand now,” he exclaimed with pride, “why we are leaving no stone unturned in seeing that our boy grows up with a full appreciation of the value of knowing what he wants.”

All though your child’s “when I grow up” years of wanting to be a railroad engineer, a space cadet, or a movie star, inspire in him the faith that he can be a success in whatever he chooses, but tactfully influence him to make a definite decision to work toward some specific definite major purpose in life.

The second success principle you should teach your children is the Habit of Going the Extra Mile — the rendering of useful service beyond the scope of duty. This is a “must” habit without which no one has ever been known to rise to great heights of success in any undertaking. In addition to creating favorable opportunities financially for those who follow this principle, it adds great strength to character and gives on the ability to make friends easily.

Joe and Pete were next-door neighbor sons of unskilled laborers. Neither of their parents was well schooled, but Joe’s folks were wise enough to recognize the value of the habit of Going the Extra Mile, and they taught this to him from early childhood.

Pete’s parents, on the other hand, impressed on him the idea of taking everything he could get without lifting a finger, and he lost no time in making this idea his own.

While his son was growing up, Joe’s father was able to promote himself to a position as foreman, then department manager at his plant by following the habit of rendering more service and better service than he was actually paid for. He instilled this habit in his son.

Throughout grade school and high school Joe was a giving person — sharing generously his time in extra-curricular activities and his possessions. He was constantly going out of his way to make himself liked by both his teachers and his schoolmates. Moreover, his habit of thus Going the Extra Mile gave him great pleasure for he did it in a most pleasing mental attitude.

Meanwhile Pete did as little work as he possibly could to get by. Results, poor grades in school, difficulties with the teachers and his schoolmates, and no participation in athletics because, as he remarked, “There’s no pay in it.” Where did he learn this attitude? From his father who constantly griped about “slave drivers” down at the plant, in the school system, and about everywhere else.

Joe got a scholarship which paid his way through a fine college because of the excellent record he made in high school, and he went on to win high honors in college by continuing to follow the habit of Going the Extra Mile. He never asked, “What do I get out of this?” but, “What can I contribute to help someone out?”

Pete scornfully referred to Joe as “that eager beaver who tries to kill himself doing something for somebody.” But the “eager beaver” did all right for himself. As the result of his college record, he wound up with the offer of a job with a wonderful company right after graduation. He still has the habit of Going the Extra Mile. It has brought him two promotions with increased pay over a number of other young men who began work with the same company when he started. The other young men had as much education was Joe, and they had as much intelligence.

What about Pete? He got a menial job right after he left high school. He moans constantly about Joe’s getting all the breaks. To this day he doesn’t see that Joe promoted himself into the better things of life by GIVING before trying to GET and thereby starting the great law of increasing returns to move in his favor. And Pete’s parents haven’t the slightest ideas that they failed in preparing him for success in life.

The third success principle you should teach your child is the habit of a positive mental attitude. The habit of thinking in terms of things he can do and not in terms of things he cannot do. Henry Ford once said that what he needed most in his business organization were more men who didn’t know anything about the words “it cannot be done.”

Two teen-age girl friends decided to try out for the freshman class play together.

When Nancy told her parents about it, they were very enthusiastic and encouraged her to go right ahead with it.

However, when Joanne told her folks, all she got was negative comments – “Why do you want to waste your time with that? Besides, your voice is too squeaky. And you’ll spend too much time and catch cold in that chilly auditorium. You’ll never learn all those lines, they you’ll make a mistake and be embarrassed forever.”

The poor girl had failed even before she started. Failed because her own parents had sold her a negative “no-can-do” mental attitude.

Nancy tried out for the play. She didn’t get a part, but her positive-minded parents immediately helped her find the seed of an equivalent benefit in her temporary defeat. “Why, this will allow you to spend more time on your sewing for your 4H contest,” soothed her mother. Nancy went on to win second place in the 4H contest, and she grew up to be a poised, serene wife and mother who now has two beautiful children of her own to whom she is teaching the habit of a positive mental attitude.

Joanne didn’t get a part in the play either – but she didn’t even try. Once she did take courage enough to overcome her parents’ wails of doom and try out for the swimming team. When she didn’t make the team all she got from her parents was “I told you so.” Joanne today is a self-centered, withdrawn woman who spends her time and money trying all sorts of medicines to relieve her “aches and pains.” Her negative mental attitude has made of her a confirmed hypochondriac.

If parents think and talk in terms of sickness and poverty and failure, they will pass these states of mind on to their children who, in turn will use them as stumbling blocks to failure throughout life. Think, act and speak in terms of health, affluence, achievement — and give your children steppingstones to success.

Source: Success Unlimited. November 1956, Vol. III, No. XI. Pgs. 36-40.

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11 Responses to “Stop Making Failures of Your Children”

  1. February 21, 2023 at 8:57 am #

    Wow, this is a really great article!! I really liked the part:

    ““Before you start building,” his mother counseled, “you must know what you want, and you must have a plan to go by. Now, let’s see what you’d like to make.””

    As the parent of 4 kids, I see quite often my youngest trying to do what the eldest does…and getting unhappy because he doesn’t yet have the skills. So I’ll always redirect him to something juuuust a little bit above his usual ideas…and he’ll master that very well indeed. End result? One self-confident child.

    Thank you for the ideas, Barbara

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s last blog post..RANT - When bloggers are PAINFULLY clueless

  2. February 25, 2023 at 9:52 am #

    Absolutely insightful, I have three children and I’m extremely pleased to know that my wife and I have been on the right track. This life changing way of parenting and thinking was presented to me in Brian Maxwell’s “How to
    Overcome Fear and Create Fortune”

    e-book it’s free for download. Follow the link because between this post and Brian’s amazing way of applying 19th century philosophy to 21st century circumstances.

    I’ve seen this e-book called the handbook for success in the 21st century. Thank you very much for you contribution to the personal development of our world!

  3. March 14, 2023 at 1:04 am #

    Thanks, good lessons. Reminds me of a positive event from the 3rd grade that has shaped my life. We had a class pet, Squeeky, a mouse. At the end of the year the teacher offered to give the mouse to a student, and every child wanted it. She told us to bring a note from our parents that allowed us to keep the mouse, and she would have a drawing to select the winner. My parents didn’t want me to have the mouse, but with the odds of 1 in 30 they concluded I didn’t have a chance of winning, so they wrote the note for me to keep the mouse. Turns out everyone else thought they didn’t have a chance of winning so they didn’t bother to even get a note. When it came time for the drawing, I won because I was the only kid to have faith in the long shot! I had gone the extra mile and gotten the note, and it paid off! I took Squeeky home, and it’s been an experience I’ve remembered for 40+ years! I always work hard and believe in the possibilities, not the impossibilities!

    PennyGo @ online community college courses’s last blog post..How To Determine Which Online College Courses to Enroll In

  4. Leila
    March 14, 2023 at 7:38 pm #

    This was great! I immediately shared with my mom, who by the way did an excellent job as a working mom - but she appreciates this kind of insight. I have no children of my own yet, but this is a great lesson to remember.

  5. kamjah
    March 18, 2023 at 10:27 pm #

    “The first of these is Definiteness of Purpose. This habit should start when the child is very young so that it will become a fixed part of his character”
    Exactly, it’s the start . Best to learn.

  6. Steve
    March 20, 2023 at 8:06 am #

    Great article! I like Napoleon Hill’s own example on how he instilled such confidence in his own son, who was born without ears. Mr. Hill never gave up on the belief that his own son would one day hear. Over time, his son developed into a successful young man, who ended up being hired as a chief salesperson for the same device that helped him hear!

    Steve’s last blog post..Who Else Wants to Find the Formula For Success?

  7. April 5, 2023 at 9:15 am #

    I really like this article. Very inspiring that I am even thinking of applying the principles mentioned here to raising my son. I prefer my son to be more with good values than with more intellect. But you’re right, making him go an extra mile will really help him be successful someday. I will tell him to persevere to achieve his goals in life, but not to the point of being too pushy.

    Reiselaender’s last blog post..Südafrika

  8. teys Income Builder
    April 15, 2023 at 2:27 pm #

    Nice I wish more parents would read this article! So many parents are too busy to be a positive influence on ther childeren. Maybe they think showing them they can be gone working 70 hours a week is being a positive influence.

  9. April 17, 2023 at 6:57 am #

    As long as Joe’s parents only encouraged and didn’t push then this post is spot on. Being pushed too hard can be worse than not being pushed at all.

  10. May 5, 2023 at 4:35 am #

    Thank you for the great information that can help many people who really need help. I think i had a good info, and explained what i’ve done with children so far.

  11. May 6, 2023 at 10:03 pm #

    we teach fear to our children by give a lot of rules, then they learn to be afraid of everything. Not even brave to try something good

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