Want to raise successful kids? Teach them optimism, set them up to fail, says expert.

How to raise successful children
(Image credit: The Wall Street Journal/YouTube)

If you are a parent, you want your kids to be successful — whatever that means to you. There are libraries full of books on how to help steer your children toward a happy life, and one of those authors, Jennifer Prosek, sat down with The Wall Street Journal's Tanya Rivero to discuss some strategies in her book, Raising Can-Do Kids. The first tip: Teach optimism. "Framing the day as an adventure, being an optimist, rubs off on your children," Prosek said. "And if you want them to embrace failure, for instance, as entrepreneurs do, you have to have a certain level of optimism."

You have probably heard some of her other tips — encourage unstructured free-play time, creativity, and participation in the arts — but when it came back to failure, Rivero had a question: "Should we actively take the opportunity to set them up in ways that they will fail?" Prosek said yes, "we should look for, sort of, safety zones to take a risk. Let's not hurt our children," she added, "but, you know, if there's an opportunity to take a small risk, that is relatively low-risk, it's worthwhile." One strategy is to stop doing everything for your children — including small things like tying their shoes. "Listen, whether you're an adult or a child, that feeling of, 'I didn't think I could do it, and then I did it!' is a huge experience," she said, "and we take it out of our child's life every day." You can watch her ladle out her advice in the video below. Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.