Ideas and Encouragement to Help You And Your Children

Written and narrated by Doug Hall


Audio Workshop


Parent Quotes

I’m taking a parenting class and I’ve learned more with your one package [than] in the 6 week class time.
         — LeRonda Smith

I think the program is wonderful.  While many of the concepts are intuitive, a reminder to employ the concepts is always welcomed.  Thank you for your contribution to Mercer and, more importantly, to our childrens’ futures!
        –Kim Cummins

When Caroline finished “creating” her brownies, she beamed, “I did it all by myself” (and promptly told her friend’s mom, the reciever of the goodies, the same thing).  This was a great activity.  Keep it up!!
        –Sherri and Skip Margraf

We think the kid talk cards and wipe board are a ‘great idea’!  We are enjoying both with our daughter Katherine.  She too is excited about the program!
        –Dana and Jeff Fine

Our children and us thank you for helping us be better parents, happier parents with even more direction!  Do you know any Mormons?  Well, now you know a whole housefullll of them!!
        –Martha and Jan Van de Merwes

I like your positive approach — the I can vs. I can’t.  Your presentation contains new approaches and new tools.  Your positive attitude is great.
        – Ann Raub

Thank you for all of the good things in this months’ package.  The kids loved making the Brownies without me; it wasn’t easy to let them do it.  I have to admit–they did a good job.  The “Heroes” tape was my favorite so far.  It took me back to my own childhood and reminded me of my own heroes.  It also inspired me to be a hero to my own kids.
        –Patsy Smith

The December “Heroes” package was a winner.  It was like a Christmas present and a great idea.  Thanks for the ideas, and the emphasis on sharing is wonderful.
        –Jan Snell

Everything was super!  My daughter now eyes the mail for anything having to do with “Aspirations.”  The package arrived at 7 PM.  The brownies came out of the oven at 8 PM.         –Roz Resnik

Thank you very much!  I like how the program is organized into workable sections, with exercises to do.  There is no need for improvement–this program is great!  I like the specific suggestions regarding things to do with your kids to promote the [conditions] toward inspiring your kids.  I truly appreciate this incredible parental help!
        –Pam Hirte

Excellent!  Let me know how I can help with getting this project out to more people.  It has re-affirmed my two biggest beliefs:  having dinner together, and TV sucks!
        –Sandra Kurz

This is such an exciting and wonderful thing you are doing!  Thank you for helping us to think twice about how and what we say to our children.  Everything has been terrific.
        –Peri Barker

Thank you so much for your generosity! I have devoured everything you sent and tried harder with my girls.  I even got my husband to listen to the tapes on his way to work.  I salute your efforts  — please know that they are making a difference.  God surely is smiling down on Y-O-U!
      –Martha Vandemerwe

I think this is a terrific program.  Both my husband and I have listend to the Belonging tape and it has positively influenced both of our behaviors.
        — Dianne & Steve Cooper

4 Core Principles

The 4-Core Great Aspirations! Parenting Principles

Everyone has hopes,  dreams and aspirations.  This program is about GREAT Aspirations!  It’s about having the courage to realize your fullest, greatest potential  It’s about having the courage to do something great with your life, your family, your work, your community and the world.

Advanced statistical analysis of over 250,000 child motivation datapoints identified four core principles that when in place help children and adults have the foundation necessary to have Great Aspirations!   In short form they are are:

Belonging:  Belonging is about having a sense of community and a feeling of connection.  It’s created when kids know that they are really heard, feel that what they do matters, and believe that how they feel is recognized.

Excitement:  Excitement is about the joy of living.   It’s about fun, curiosity, creativity, and all the wonders of life.  Parents are the most important spark for igniting enduring, meaningful excitement in children’s lives.  

Accomplishment:  Accomplishment is about believing  “I can” rather than “I can’t”.  it’s fueled by a feeling of optimism, overt goal setting and healthy risk taking.

Leadership:  Leadership is about children with the courage to take charge of their own lives.  It’s fostered through responsible decision making, trust, and children taking on the responsibility of leading others through teaching, leading and/or mentoring.



Belonging is about having a sense of community and a feeling of connection.  It’s about kids who know that they are really heard, feel that what they do matters, and believe that how they feel is recognized.

Belonging Is Fostered By:

• A Sense Of Community – It’s important for children to feel that they are a part of a greater mission.  That there are other people on whom they can depend–and other people who depend on them.  Children with a strong sense of community feel more confident and secure.  First and foremost, community begins with family.  However, let’s not forget the other communities that can nurture belonging:  school, church, sports teams, neighborhood friends.

• Connections – Connections are the glue that holds together a community, without them, a sense of belonging withers.  And there’s no better way to create connections than through meaningful conversation.  Children need to have meaningful contact with other human beings.  Core to this is spending time in fully conscious conversation with your children each day.

• Celebrating each child’s individuality –  To feel a strong sense of belonging, children need to feel proud of their individuality.   We need to celebrate children for being themselves.  To not only allow, but also applaud, their unique strengths and interests.  That means supporting all aspects of their personality – from learning styles, to haircuts, to friends, to interests.


Three quick ideas for inspiring BELONGING

1. Oh, What a Great Day!:  At the 99% confidence level, research indicates that children who sit down together as a family for dinner, at home or at even a fast food restaurant, have significantly higher feelings of belonging.   To enhance the experience, go around the dinner table, wherever you are, and have each family report something good that happened to them that day.  Something they’re thankful for, something that made them happy.  Kids of all ages love it.  It gives them the chance to be on center stage – to have everyone listen to them and only them.  What a feeling of connectedness!

2. Let The Games Begin:  Research shows that families that play board games together have a significantly greater sense of belonging.  Turn off the television, pop some popcorn or make some brownies and play cards, board games or what ever is appropriate for your family.  Don’t know how to play family card games? Click here for free rules to family card games.    

3. Be Friendly To Their Friends:  Kids with a significantly greater sense of belonging say their parents encourage them to invite friends over more often.  Even more importantly, they agree that their parents respect and talk to their friends when they do come over.  If you want to know what’s going on in your children’s life, talk with their friends.  They’re a great gateway to your children’s lives.



Excitement is about the joy of living.   It’s about fun, curiosity, creativity, and all the wonders of life.  Parents are the most important spark for igniting enduring, meaningful excitement in children’s lives.    

Excitement is fostered by:

•  Curiosity & Creativity – Creativity is about stimulating your kids’ minds.  Stimulus for the mind is made up of sounds, tastes, textures, scents, or any combination thereof that provokes a response in the brain.   Taking your mind somewhere other than where it is right now.  It is about living a life of growth.  Curiosity is about asking “why,” and creativity is about asking “why not.” 

•  Joy –  Joy is what builds memories.  It comes from fun, from enthusiasm, from just plain being a part of a child’s life.  Joy is a universal rite of living.  Children with joy rarely feel tired or bored.  They’re quick to laugh, genuinely happy and full of boundless enthusiasm.  It doesn’t cost a lot of money to provide a joyful environment at home–just a little time and imagination.

•  Be A Hero Parent – There are a lot of ways to have fun as a kid, but none is more meaningful or has a deeper impact than spending time with Mom and/or Dad.  The data indicates the kids with the most joy are the ones who spend time with Mom and with Dad.  They also feel that their parents are more fun than most other parents.   It’s fun for kids to play with friends.  But it’s FUN with a capital F to spend real time with parents. 


Three Ideas For Inspiring Excitement

1. Don’t Act Your Age:  To quote the song by our friends Scott Johnson &  Rob Babcock: “The problem with grown ups is they act like their age.   The older they get the less likely they’ll play.  So serious, so busy, so this and so that.  They haven’t a time for a ball and a bat. But I’ve got a plan that’ll make some enraged.  It’s a big adult sign that says Don’t Act Your Age.”   To listen to the entire song click here.  To order a CD of their music click here.

2. Instigate Involvement In Extracurricular Activities:  The data is clear, children with the greatest feelings of excitement are involved in numerous outside activities.  It takes time, discipline and sometimes some money on the part of parents to get children involved in anything from Scouts, Sports Teams, Music Lessons, Church Groups to Dance or Karate Lessons.  Beyond these children’s classics, invite children to get involved in your hobbies.  Include them in your interests, be they photography, golf, cooking, restoring an old car or boat, growing a flower garden or furniture refinishing.

3. Develop A Discovery Habit:  Research indicates children with a greater sense of excitement ask significantly  more questions in school and are – by nature –  much more curious.  Open up yourself to curiosity and discovery.  Keep your eyes open to opportunities to learn.  Try everything from science museums, to the local zoo, to surfing the web for the answer to a question that that comes to you or your children.  Open your mind to discovery and your kids will too.  


Accomplishment is about believing  “I can” rather than “I can’t”.  Accomplishments are fueled by a feeling of optimism, overt goal setting and healthy risk taking.

Accomplishment Attitude Is Fostered By:

• Optimism: Building a positive mental attitude is critical. Research shows that children set their expectations at an early age.  There is a near perfect correlation between a child’s level of achievement in grade three and grade eleven.  It is critical that step-by-step, day-by-day we build positive mental attitudes within our children. 

• Goal Setting:  The research is clear that kids with an attitude of accomplishment have parents who set high standards for them.  (Note, the key word words are the last ones:  FOR THEM.)  Kids need goals that are set appropriately for their personal growth.  Set goals too low and no sense of accomplishment is developed.  Set goals too high and kids give up in frustration.

• Healthy Risk Taking – Kids with a sense of accomplishment are healthy  risk takers as exhibited in their spirit of adventure.  They are open to trying new things, to learning and to being adventurous.   Healthy risk taking comes from learning how to dust yourself off after a failure, standing up and trying again.


Three Ideas For Inspiring Accomplishment

1. Win don’t Whine:  The data is clear.  Kids with an attitude of accomplishment believe that “they will be the best at what they do someday.”  These are kids on fire with positive thinking.  Watch yourself in your language.  When something bad happens do you blame others.  Do you whine and whine and whine?  Or, do you take responsibility, look at the bright side, learn a lesson and take positive action?

2. Overtly Articulate Goals:   At a 99% confidence level, research indicates that children with an attitude of accomplishment set high goals and expectations for themselves in school.  To help your kids become great goal setters, model the power of goals as a family.  Have each family member overtly, publicly declare a goal to accomplish in the next month.  Keeping time short helps build momentum.  Track progress in some manner.  Moms and Dads aren’t exempt.  Parents should declare their self improvement goals, be they to lose weight, run in a 5K race, stop smoking, or learn how to use the family computer.

3. Go For It:   Research indicates children with an attitude of accomplishement love to learn new things and find out how they work.  As adults we have a tendency to get into ruts.  Reading the same magazines.  Eating the same foods.  Going to movies that are sequels, so to not be surprised by the story line.  This week open yourself up to new adventures.  Declare your desire to try something really new and go for it as an individual,  or – even better – as a family.  Try bowling, a cookout at the park, a local community theater or a Saturday morning hike.     



Leadership is about children with the courage to take charge of their own life.   Leadership is fostered through responsible decision making, trust, and children taking on the responsibility of leading others through teaching, leading and/ or mentoring. 

Leadership is Fostered By:

• Taking Responsibility For Decisions – Accepting the consequences of your actions is critical to nurturing a leadership skills.  All kids, even the youngest, have the ability to make responsible decisions.  To think before they act.  To be aware of the effect their actions will have on others.  But they can’t learn good decision making skills, the kinds that mark a true leader, unless you give them the opportunity to make decisions and then feel the pain & joy that result.  As parents we must be careful to not over-protect our kids from failure.     

• Courage – Children with courage have enough self-confidence and self-esteem to lead their own life and to lead others.  When kids have true courage they know that even if things turn out badly, their sense of self worth and their support structure will still stand by them.  A key way they gain courage is through the confidence and trust that parents place in them.  Recognize that trust cannot be given.  Rather it must be built, step by step in hundreds and thousands of small events. 

• Mentoring:  Kids with leadership have the courage to be mentors to others.  They have enough faith in themselves and their abilities to be able to teach others that which they know.  When children mentor other children, both sides gain from the experience. 

Three Quick Ideas For Inspiring Leadership:

1. Kids Rule — Research shows that kids with leadership have parents who encourage them to make choices and involve them in family decisions.  So give up some parental control and let kids rule in significant portions of their lives.   While you watch from the shadows if necessary, let kids make decisions. And, where appropriate, suffer consequences of their actions.  It can start with little stuff like letting them decide how late they’re staying up on a Friday night before a Saturday morning soccer game.  It can grow to giving them some money to independently purchase, cook and serve a family dinner.

2. Public Service — Data shows that children with leadership help other people even if they’re not asked.  Responsible leadership is about caring for others who may be less fortunate.  It’s about caring for those you lead.  It’s about caring about the consequences of your actions.  Encourage your kids to lead public service efforts from picking up trash at the playground to helping with the lawn of the senior citizen on the corner to volunteering time at the local homeless shelter or other public service cause. 

3. Plants Or Pets —  Mother nature provides lots of opportunities to learn responsibility.   Try giving your kids the long-term responsibility that comes from growing flowers, vegetables, or raising a puppy or kitten.  Growing plants and training pets are powerful as they provide direct feedback of the consequences of children’s actions.

© 1998-2005 Eureka! Institute, All Rights Reserved

The Problem with Grownups ©1998 Google Press – used with Permission

The training is based on over 15 years research by  the National Center for Student Aspirations at the University of Maine.   The Center’s efforts are grounded on academic research on Aspirations that goes back to 1903.  Great Aspirations!, translates the teacher focused work of the Center into parent educational programs.