How to develop ambition in children

Ambition can be found in virtually anyone who has become successful or done something noteworthy. These individuals imagined a better future for themselves or decided they wanted to achieve something and they worked to make that a reality. To this end, ambition is a key trait for a child who wants to lead an extraordinary life.

Developing ambition in children is an important part of their growth as a human being. Ambition is an important life skill that can help them set goals, stay motivated, and strive for success. This said, it’s not something that can be necessarily taught, but rather, it is something that must be nurtured and discovered from within.


What exactly is ambition?

Ambition is defined as the desire to accomplish something. That desire is usually accompanied by the drive and determination required to achieve that goal; a kind of intentionality about it. Ambition is often associated with having a positive attitude and a strong sense of self belief.

Parents play an important role in helping their children develop ambition. In a general sense, they should provide their children with a supportive and encouraging environment. This means showing respect, providing positive feedback and celebrating successes. They should also provide meaningful activities that challenge their children and allow them to hone their skills. Finally, they should model ambition and be a good role model for their children.


Why is it important to have ambition?

Ambition helps children think beyond their current circumstances and strive for something greater. It also helps them understand that hard work and dedication can lead to success.

Ambition is an essential part of personal development and can be a powerful tool in helping children reach their full potential.

It can also help to instil a sense of purpose and self-worth. Ambition can give children the confidence they need to reach their goals and be successful in life. It can help them to understand that hard work and dedication can lead to success and that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it.

If someone does not possess ambition, they may struggle to set goals, stay motivated and reach their potential. They may also lack the confidence and drive needed to reach success. Without ambition, a person may become complacent and struggle to move forward in life.


18 ways to develop ambition in children


1. Model ambition and be a good role model

The first and possibly most important way to develop ambition in your child is to model that behaviour yourself. This way, you can demonstrate what healthy ambition looks like and the kind of focus and effort that’s required to bring those dreams to life.


2. Dream big when creating goals

Goal-setting is hugely important in life but when we’re trying to develop ambition as a quality, we want kids to dream big. Help them set lofty goals by pushing them to think bigger and bigger every time they come up with a goal or idea. These don’t need to become actual goals for them to pursue right now, but using the creativity of a child to think bigger is incredibly powerful.


3. Set meaningful goals and establish a plan to reach them

Without a plan a goal is just a dream. If you’ve discovered some goals your child wants to work towards, do two things:

First, ask them why it matters to them. Goals should have meaning so the goal-setter has genuine purpose. If reaching that goal doesn’t feel like it’ll be special, there might not be the motivation there. If you’re not sure, talk with your child about the things that motivate them.

Second, create a plan for getting there. With bigger goals, break them down and create timescales for each step to be accomplished.

Keep your child’s goals in their mind. Write them down or create a vision board. Reminding them of why they’re working hard will keep them going. Successfully achieving their aims will fuel their ambition moving forwards.


4. Visualise yourself achieving your goals

Visualisation is a powerful tool in the quest to achieve one’s goals. Visualisation and actually feeling what it would feel like to achieve that thing helps you align with the goal and the person you need to be to get there. Combine this with developing an abundance mindset to make those giant goals feel more possible and provide extra drive to reach them.


5. Read inspiring stories about successful people

Children learn a lot from the books they read and the shows they watch. There aren’t loads of great outlets for kids to nurture their ambition but we can recommend a few. Of course, you can check out the Clever Tykes books and resources, perfect for kids ages 6-9.

Kids might also find inspiration from these books about Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk and Sara Blakely.

You can also share the stories of family members present and past. Knowing that you have individuals in your family who have succeeded in one way or another can give a child confidence to dream big and believe in themselves.


6. Spend time with people who are ambitious

Go one step further than reading about ambitious people and get to know some! The more exposure children have to ambitious individuals, the more they’ll think like them and the more opportunities they’ll seek. These people might be ambitious in different ways; in their careers, their business, sports or other hobbies.


7. Find mentors who can provide support and guidance

If you have a child old enough to have ambition around a hobby, sport, education or career, find someone that can help them progress. A mentor figure could be someone only a few years older than them; someone they can look up to and learn the next few steps in their journey from.


8. Learn to take risks and be willing to try new things

Anyone who’s accomplished something ambitious has taken risks. The risks involved are one of the things that makes something ambitious; there might be a high chance of failure or loss. Being able to asses risks and be calculated when taking them is a huge part of being successfully ambitious. Developing a good awareness around risk and understanding the difference between something low risk and something reckless is highly valuable.


9. Embrace failure and use it as a learning opportunity

No one who’s ever been successful in chasing their dream has done everything perfectly. Failures and mistakes are parts of the journey to greatness. What’s key is to ensure that failures don’t reduce or remove any of the ambition a child had before. Seeing failures and mistakes as things to learn from will greatly benefit your child and they’ll persevere in all life’s challenges.


10. Focus on effort, not outcomes

When we think about ambition, we think about grand goals and the results of our labour. In the end, this really matters, but as we’re learning the ropes, it’s putting in the effort that counts and this is what should be emphasised with kids. The biggest and most ambitious challenges require the more hard work and effort so praising your child’s input ensures they focus on this.


11. Don’t link love or pride with achievement

Following on from the above, it’s crucial that you don’t demonstrate that you love or care about your child more if they succeed in something. Of course you don’t but it’s easy for your disappointment to come across as disappointment in your child, not disappointment for them

Always reassure your children that you love them no matter what and they giving their everything is all they can ever do.


12. Embrace competition

We shouldn’t always seek comparison with others. In fact, we should generally avoid direct comparison because it’s rarely a healthy way to assess our abilities. However, life is competitive. We’ll encounter competition in schools, in sports and in our careers and business. Competition can be a powerful motivator for some people and their drive may come from the desire and ambition to win. Joining a sports team or doing a solo sport like martial arts is a perfect way to begin.


13. Recognise successes

Success breeds success. Winning can become addictive. To encourage ambition in kids, they need to see the value in winning and enjoy achievement. This doesn’t need to be a grand exercise; it doesn’t require lavish gifts or parties, but it should be recognised. Reflecting on the effort put in and seeing the effect shows the paths to even greater successes in the future.


14. Encourage independence

Independence is a characteristic closely linked with ambition. A child needs to have the belief that they can decide on a goal and set about creating a plan and put the work in. Where possible, empower your child to do more and more tasks on their own.


15. Develop a growth mindset 

People are broadly in two categories; those with a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that their capabilities are fixed; that no matter how hard they try to improve, they’ll more or less be of the same ability. Those with a growth mindset believe they can develop their knowledge, skills and abilities with the right work or practise. For someone ambitious, it’s always going to benefit them to have a growth mindset so they believe they can go on to bigger and better things. Read more about developing a growth mindset in kids.


16. See the world

A child can only aspire to what they know exists. We’ve already discussed providing kids role models, but seeing the world is another great way to see what’s possible. When we go to new places, our mind works differently. We’re less on auto-pilot and we’re actively assessing the world around us. Seeing new towns, new countries and new continents shows how different life can be if we can imagine it. Different architecture, different cuisines, different businesses and different lifestyles can open the eyes of a young person to new possibilities.


17. Watch documentaries about successful people

There are lots of documentaries available for slightly older children to watch. Successful people tend to be ambitious people and learning about their journeys can ignite the imagination and show a young person what’s possible. It’s not just the world of business, either, sportspeople who have reached the highest level had the ambition to get there. Check out Netflix for what’s currently available and show your child they are capable of the extraordinary.


18. Develop associated traits

A child is far more likely to remain ambitious into adulthood if they have a track record of dreaming big and achieving those goals. Two crucial traits are perseverance and resilience, which help children keep working towards their goals in the face of setbacks and challenges. You can also read our piece on developing a positive attitude in kids, which is another valuable attribute.


This is the perfect starting point to help your child develop the trait of ambition towards life, play, work and relationships. If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy how to nurture self-awareness in kids.