Allow for Authentic Success

Welcome back to our series on CALM Parenting.


CALM’s goal is to increase calm and connection for kids and families in a stressed-out overwhelming world.


What is CALM and what does it stand for? Each letter describes an important piece of the model:


C- Create peace inside and out

A – Allow for Authentic Success

L – Let go of “shoulds” and shame

M – Make strides toward independence


The CALM Child Development Model brings less stress and more peace at home, in school and in the community.


Our last article focused on “C” Creating Peace Inside and Out. Today’s article will address “A” Allow for Authentic Success.


What is Authentic Success?


Authentic Success is an achievement that is based on a person’s inborn strengths, interests, and passions. Authentic Success does not always follow the expected definition of “success,” in terms of high academic achievement and compliant behavior. As parents and teachers, we often focus on remediating our children’s areas of weakness, leaving little time or energy for them to improve in areas of strength. This can lead to much frustration, conflict and missed opportunities for success and recognition for our children.


Here is an example:

Toby is 13 years old with a diagnosis of ADHD. Even with medication he can be a “live wire,” movement driven and impulsive. He struggles with reading because his brain moves so fast it’s hard for him to focus on the words and comprehend what he reads. Toby loves to skateboard and ride his dirt bike. He can spend hours outside boarding and biking. He takes risks by using jumps and ramps. His parents are always reminding him to wear a helmet and protective pads.

Toby has real athletic talent and has entered several competitions with his skateboarding skills with success. He is interested in participating in the X Games and there have been a few businesses that have expressed interest in sponsoring him.

Toby’s parents want him to focus on school and improving his grades. They don’t see any reason for him to pursue skating and biking. They don’t see any future in it. They hired a tutor to help Toby with reading and they spend a great deal of time trying to help him with homework which results in a great deal of conflict at home.


Toby’s parents are very loving and well meaning, but can’t see how Toby can achieve authentic success. His brain isn’t wired to be a top notch academic student. However, he excels at skateboarding and biking and has the potential for success in that niche. By minimizing his talents to focus on his weaker skills, both his parents and Toby are frustrated and in conflict.

While a young career in the X Games is “outside the box,” Toby could pursue authentic success and the conflict at home will be minimized. Chances are if he is allowed to pursue his areas of strength he will be more available to work on reading and school as well.


How to Support Your Child with Authentic Success


Encouraging our children to pursue their inborn talents can initially be anxiety provoking. When we shift our focus to what they CAN excel at, rather than try to “fix” what they can’t do, we worry that we are setting them up to fail.


Supporting authentic success requires faith that our kids can succeed on their own terms. We need to comprehend a bigger picture beyond traditional benchmarks of “success.” When you begin to pursue authentic success, you need to define success on personal terms.


For some young adults, success is attending college. For others, it’s a job at a grocery store. Our kids who may not get great academic grades could be amazing artists, athletes, musicians, stand up comics, YouTube stars. You won’t know until you let them pursue the things they are good at, rather than focus all your energy and resources to fix their struggles.


If you read the biographies of great innovators, most didn’t go to or finish college. This list includes Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Airlines). Many entrepreneurs and world changers have traits of ADHD, learning disabilities or autism that allows them to think outside the box and do things that require some risk and faith in an unknown outcome. When they found that traditional paths to success didn’t work for them, they blazed their own path. Let your child do the same.


Authentic success is empowering and leads our children to feel confident, competent and increases self-esteem. Imagine being told all day that you can’t do things? That your academic abilities are weak, you need tutors and counselors to fix you.Your time revolves around being caught up to speed in the face of mounting frustration and annoyance.


Now imagine you are aware that you have struggles, but you spend part of your days doing things you are good at. You’re like Toby on his skateboard, totally in the groove, feeling accomplished and happy.


In imaging those scenarios, which one do you think will have a better long term outcome? Is beating down our children’s natural talents at the expense of trying to get them to fit into other people’s definitions of success worthwhile? Will the tutoring and pressure to get better lead to a much-improved outcome years down the line? No one has the definitive answer to those questions, but as a parent, I err on the side of encouraging authentic success for my son and can see him enjoying the sports he is good at while doing his best at school. What more can we ask for?