For parents: Put efforts before outcomes

Parents, if colleges made their decisions based purely on your kids’ effort rather than on outcomes like grades, test scores and achievements, what would you change about the things you are recognizing and rewarding at home?

And more importantly, how much less stressful and more enjoyable would your college admissions planning be?

My guess is that you’d worry a lot less about the grade in biology, the SAT scores, the total number of community service hours completed, the expensive summer program, and whether or not the dream college will say yes.

Effort doesn’t discriminate on the basis of grades and test scores. It’s available to—and beneficial for—all kids. And even if you insist that outcomes are important, effort is the only way to get those outcomes you want.

Kids may dismiss what Mom and Dad say is important, but they’re secretly paying attention to what you acknowledge and praise. When you see your kids putting forth the effort, whether it’s all day every day or just sporadically in the one class your kid seems to like, praise it. Let your student know that his or her effort is much more important to you than the specific outcome it produces.

For overworked kids, praising their effort will take some pressure off. And for those students who could stand to work harder, well, praising their effort might just get you more of it.