8 Words Dads Can Say Daily To Help Their Kids Succeed

Tor Constantino shares a simple 8-word affirmation that could make all the difference for you, your kids, and your family.

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Photo Credit: Heather Williams/Flickr

By Tor Constantino

My wife and I have always been believers in the idea that your reach should exceed your grasp — biting off more than you can comfortably chew.

We believe in setting reasonable expectations and stretch goals for ourselves and for our two preteen daughters — and for our toddler son when he gets older.

While there are those who frown on setting any type of expectations for kids, we want our daughters to be fully equipped and prepared to handle anything that comes their way. We want them to be strong and independent women who can make a difference in society and the broader world.

We feed their dreams and interests, providing consistent discipline while pouring buckets of unconditional love on a daily basis. We also have expectations for our daughters — expectations that we hope will positively shape their character and values as they mature.

Every day before we part ways to go to school and work respectively, we challenge them to do the following for the day.

“Be a genius. Make good decisions. Be responsible.”

These are eight simple words but they are packed with potential.

Over the years, my wife and I have honed this mantra down to the core expectations encapsulated within each phrase.


Be a Genius

This phrase comprises more than mental brainpower and their IQ. While they may never display an Albert Einstein intellect, it is possible that they may and we don’t want to limit them in that regard. We want them to expand their thinking and creativity beyond the mundane to the genius level.

We also want our kids to be the best they can be — mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Challenging them to be a “genius” for the day in all of those areas is more likely to draw out their best effort, fostering a lifelong habit of excellence.

Make Good Decisions

Personally, I believe this is the single most important skill children need to develop. Sometime in the future, our girls are going to be on their own and will have to make decisions that affect their lives or the lives of others.

Whether it's accepting a job, blowing off a test, getting in a car with drunk teenagers, or being pressured to sleep with someone in their college dorm — we want them to be able to make the right decisions in all instances.

If they practice making the correct decisions now with the little things of life, they will be better prepared to decide wisely regarding the big things as well.

Be Responsible

This expectation naturally follows the decisions they make. Regardless of the decisions and outcomes, we want our children to “own” those results. That’s a large part of growing up and maturity.

Too often in this day and age, politicians and business executives resort to the blame game of shifting responsibility from themselves onto others for the bad decisions they themselves make. That’s wrong and it stinks.

Accountability is critical to my wife and me — and we want it to be critical to our children too.

These eight words “Be a Genius. Make Good Decisions. Be Responsible.” — are more than just words — they are encouragement, affirmations, and a fundamental commitment to our daughters that we believe in them.


What parent doesn’t want their children to be independent thinkers, to solve problems and make the best decisions possible, or to grow into responsible adults? The individuals I admire in my life exhibit those traits, and those are traits I want to be instilled in my children — especially our girls.

Before the girls leave every day for school, my wife or I remind them of these expectations by saying, “Be a….” to which our girls reply the fully eight-word mantra.

During dinner, we’ll periodically ask them to talk about how they were a “genius” that week or about a good decision they made or how they demonstrated responsibility. The discussions are always enlightening and the girls frequently counter seeking similar responses from my wife and me.

Those eight words are common currency within our household for all of us to follow.

We want those words to become thoughts that direct their daily actions that then become the habits and decisions that add up to a fulfilling life.

These may not be perfect or even applicable to the sensibilities of some parents, but we believe that expecting more from our kids is better than expecting less.

Questions: What types of things do you say to your kids?

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

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