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Dr. Gerald Brown
Nov 30, 2016

Fatherhood in the 21st Century: Instilling a growth and success mindset into your children

Improving your child’s chances of success in life is something that we as fathers have a tremendous amount of input on.   We can either teach them that their genetics and environment are as far as they can go or we can create the conditions for them to define what their success will be.  One of the compliments that creates a sense of entitlement in our children is “You are so ____________ (fill in the blank smart, athletic, gifted, etc.) and this type of compliment overused can lead to feelings of aspirational meritocracy as Chris Hayes points out in his book the Twilight of the Elites.  Conor Friedersdorf from the Atlantic journal alludes to a passage in the book about the "Cult of Smartness" that has taken hold in American life, a pathology characterized by the mistaken assumption that intelligence is an ordinal quality -- that it is possible for observers to accurately categorize intelligent people in order from most to least smart, and that the right person for a job is always the one deemed smartest. "While smartness is necessary for competent elites," Hayes retorts, "it is far from sufficient: wisdom, judgment, empathy, and ethical rigor are all as important, even if those traits are far less valued."  I argue that hard work and perseverance can be added to the aforementioned list and that if we create the conditions for our kids to appreciate the value of a dollar, the constant striving to improve, and trying their best even if they fail and not giving up on themselves well then these are the elements to produce a growth and success mindset.  One thing I can tell you about my parents is that they laid out all the options for me as if life was a roadmap with various directions without advocating too much for one direction over another.  It was up to me to choose which direction I wanted for my life.  Sometimes I failed but mostly I succeeded because I learned to listen to my inner compass and trust my instincts as I matured and experienced the world around me.

Here are some tips to help incite a growth and success mindset on a daily basis that Deepak Chopra recommends in his book the 7 spiritual laws of success:

  1. Tell your child each morning before they go to school, daycare, camp, etc. that they have a special purpose in this life and that they need to think about why they were put on this Earth each day.
  2. Tell your child each morning before they go to school, daycare, camp, etc. that they have a very special talent that no one else in the world has and it is their job to discover what this special talent is.
  3. Tell your child each day the importance of bringing value to themselves and others through giving compliments, hugs, hi fives, encouragement, drawings, gifts, letters, going to the store with your child and asking them to help you choose gifts for other children that may not have much this holiday season, volunteering etc. (they may also be encouraged to ask their teachers and other trusted adults on how to bring value to themselves and others by working for the needs of others).
  4. Ask your child to reflect on how they can continue to trust and believe in themselves each day.

These tips can start as young as age 4 according to Chopra.  I do it with my 5 year old daughter each day so I encourage fathers to begin doing this daily from the birth of their child on.  I hope these suggestions can help you become a father that inspires your children to become what they want to become and follow their dreams.  This is important because many times in my practice I hear fathers talk about what their dreams are for their children forgetting that ultimately their children will have to find that out for themselves no matter what that dream is and no matter if it is met with approval or disapproval from important people in their lives. 

See more at

Chopra, D. (1994).  The seven spiritual laws of success: A practical guide to the fulfillment of your dreams.  Novato, CA: New World.

If you would like to learn more about me or my practice Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting, PLLC and have questions feel free to visit my website

Dr. Gerald Brown (Doc Brown) is owner of Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting PLLC in Cornelius, NC and Statesville, NC.  He is passionate about fatherhood issues, immigrant concerns, and specializes in trauma work.  Doc Brown has presented at various conferences and has a multitude of experience training organizations and corporations in diversity and multicultural resilience.  He believes in helping individuals, couples, and families find meaning and integrate that meaning with various resiliencies in order to live purposefully and vibrantly.  He is married with two daughters ages 13 and 5.  

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