"American Idol" Taught 7 Key Life Lessons to Kids

Farewell, “American Idol.”
Thanks for helping me raise great kids.

“American Idol” was ‘appointment television’ for my family, on and off, for the last 15 years. I’m really going to miss that show.

It’s been a delightful experience getting together with my family, year after year, to watch, and listen, and sing, and swoon, and be blown away — and vote for some incredibly talented young singers. We’ve laughed and cried and screamed at the TV set. Truly, it’s been a terrific source of entertainment for the whole family.

Like “Sesame Street” for Older Kids

More than pure enjoyment, “American Idol” helped me teach my kids some incredibly valuable lessons. In all honesty, it was like “Sesame Street” for school-aged children and teens.

You think that sounds like an overstatement? Not so much! Following are 7 Key Lessons “American Idol” Taught My Kids. There are more, but these hit the highlights:

7 Life Lessons from “American Idol”

1. Follow your dreams. Every year we watched thousands of young people stream into auditions and sing their hearts out. Some of them were extraordinarily talented. Some of them were not. All of them were pursuing something important to them, putting serious effort into turning their dreams into reality. Isn’t that what we want for our kids? To set goals, and work toward achieving them?

2. Play to your strengths. We all have gifts and talents (although sometimes it takes a while to figure out what they are). When we discover them, life tends to be fulfilling and rewarding. We want THAT for our kids, too. To feel successful in life! When kids who struggle with some of the fundamental issues of life and school learn to play to their strengths, those successes breed more success. When they focus on what they do well, they achieve. Every contestant on “Idol” has a back story, usually with some challenge or hardship. Universally, they soared when they focused on their gifts.

3. Practice actually does improve performance (and hard work pays off). There’s no arguing it – each week, we watch these young performers work their tails off, and they get better and better. Even when they are voted off the show, which is inevitable for the vast majority of them, we’ve watched them work incredibly hard, put everything they’ve got into it – and improve significantly. Their progress is a major reminder to our kids that improvement comes with focused effort (and a little nose to the grindstone).

4. Stretch and try new things (and keep the creative juices flowing). Just as its important to play to your strengths, it’s equally important to stretch and reach – to explore your creativity, and see what else you can do. Success is not just about playing it safe – it’s about taking the time to evaluate what works, and what doesn’t, and be willing to move in new and different directions (see #5). This is a particularly important lesson for kids who think outside of the box – because that is where their creativity and innovation will help them thrive.

5. Be open to constructive criticism and suggestions. “American Idol” made it “okay to make mistakes.” Contestants wouldn’t make it very long if they were defensive. They had to be open to input, suggestions, corrections and advice — to be willing to accept help and guidance. It takes strength of character to publicly ask for, receive, and then actually apply advice on self-improvement. Watching artists take and use constructive feedback, week after week, sent a solid message that it’s actually valuable to get input from others. In fact, sometimes adults might actually have a thing or two to share that could be helpful!

6. You can make mistakes without being wrong for them. When you stretch and try new things – and respond to input and suggestions from others – sometimes it’s going to really fly. But sometimes, it’s not going to land well. That’s part of the learning process. There were times that mistakes had consequences, and contestants ended up getting cut from the show. But they weren’t “blamed” for trying something new, even if it didn’t work. There was a sense that making mistakes is a natural part of the process of creativity and self-improvement.

7. Motivation Matters. This ties in to #2 above, because playing to your strengths can be a great motivator. But it’s incomplete – external motivators are key to success. When you know what you want – what you’re working toward – what motivates you – then you can make it through grueling weeks of hard work with a smile on your face. Having a larger goal or reason for doing anything is particularly helpful for kids who struggle with challenges of Executive Function.

So I want to say “Thank you, “American Idol.” Thanks for helping me teach my children some of the most critical lessons of life.

With all the creativity my complex kids bring to this wild world, Idol’s lessons helped them focus and target their efforts. So far, the results have been pretty extraordinary!

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