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Challenge Success



The mission of Challenge Success is to inform, inspire and equip youth, parents and schools to adopt practices that expand options for youth success.  Challenge Success believes that real success results from attention to the basic developmental needs of children and a valuing of different types of skills and abilities.  The project specifically endorses a vision of success that encompasses: character, health, independence, connection, creativity enthusiasm and achievement. Please visit the Challenge Success website at to learn more. 


The Stanley Challenge Success Team consists of teachers, administrators and parents that work to address achievement pressures at Stanley. They also collect and share information about ways we view and define success and how together we can build resilience in our students.


Here are tips on how you and your family can support a healthier approach to navigating today's fast-paced high-pressure culture:

Define success on your terms:

The prevailing culture focuses on measurable achievement (GPA, SAT scores, college admissions, sports and extracurricular accomplishment, on and so on) in defining success.  Be clear what success looks like for your family, and make sure your kids understand that.

Create a family plan:  

Determine the level of extracurricular activity and academic load that works for your family, and don’t overdue it.  For example, if your high school kid wants to play a demanding sport, consider dropping an honors or AP class to balance it out.  With younger kids, set limits on how many after-school activities they can do so you have down-time and dinner time regularly.

Insist on food and sleep: 

Kids need to eat nutritious meals, not fast-food and on-the-fly fillers like Power Bars.  A leading determinant on youth wellness and achievement is regular family dinners, so make those a priority.  And insist that your kids get adequate sleep (5-12 year olds=10-11 hours; teens=9.5hours), which may mean cutting back on excessive after-school activities.

Allow for play time, down time and family time:

Control the family schedule so that kids have play time, down time and family time.  Kids and parents alike need time just to play, unwind, relax, and “do nothing.”  Similarly, families need time to connect and have fun together.  If finding time for this is challenging, start by “scheduling” down time and family time first and then work activities around that, rather than vice versa.

Ease excessive performance pressure: 

Examine the subtle messages you give your kids.  For example, if the first thing you ask your kids when they come home from school is “How did you do on the test?”  or “Have you done your homework?”, the implicit message is school performance is the most important thing to you.

End the homework wars:

If homework is a power struggle, then it’s likely that you are too invested in it.  Consider your role with your child’s homework analogous to a parent’s role with a child who plays soccer:  support the child and cheer for her (e.g., get her supplies and a space to work and encourage her), but don’t go onto the field to coach her or tell her what to do (e.g., micro-managing homework and getting overly invested in the result) or kick the ball for her (e.g., doing the work for her).  Let kids make mistakes and fail, especially when the stakes are relatively low like with homework.  Life’s best lessons and “teachable moments” come from mistakes and failures.  When we rescue our children, we deny them the opportunity to develop resilience and fortitude as they struggle with challenges.

Debunk the college myths:

Focus your message to your kids on finding the right fit for them, not simply getting into “brand name” colleges.  Research shows that it’s the individual, not the institution, that ultimately determines success.  (See the study highlighted in the October 2004 Atlantic Monthly article “Who Needs Harvard?”)  its better for kids to seek a college whose culture and characteristics match what’s important to them rather than just pursuing admission to prestigious colleges.

Listen to your gut and your child:

The prevailing culture often suggests that you have to push your kids and involve them in lots of activities or “they’ll fall behind.”  Fear of having a child “fall behind” is a prevalent parental anxiety, and there’s a lot of pressure among parents to keep up with the Joneses.  Instead, trust your instincts and set a pace for your kids that works for them and your family.  Keep an eye on how your kids are doing, talk to them about how they are feeling, and calibrate activities accordingly.

Develop a community of like-minded parents:  

Parent peer pressure is sometimes hard to buck, so find like-minded parents who can provide support as you define success on your own terms.  Seek mentors-parents of older kids whom you respect-who can provide insight and guidance as you approach new development stages with your own kids.