Raising a child is probably one of the toughest things you can do. After all, there’s so much that can go wrong, and so much that’s based on factors that are out of your control. But there is actually a lot of science that shows what parents are doing right, and wrong, when it comes to raising successful kids – and here’s a handy list of 19 things that these moms and dads all have in common.
19. They have loftier expectations than other parents
Your kids are likely to live up to your expectations, however high those expectations are. In fact, Doctor Neal Halfton of the University of California at Los Angeles analyzed data from a survey of more than 6,000 children born in 2001, and he found that 96 percent of the kids who did the best in standardized tests had parents who expected them to go to college.
18. They spoil their children when they’re babies
Professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez of the University of Notre Dame has shown that children whose parents lavish positive affection on them in their early years tend to be more intelligent than others. They’ll also be kinder and more likely to care about other people. Actions as simple as hugging a child quicker when it was crying, for instance, have been shown to lead to far more empathic kids.
17. They teach them how to interact with others
Social skills form an integral part of a child’s life, and the best parents will teach such skills to their kids from an early age. Penn State and Duke University researchers found that children who were helpful, conversational and could solve problems in their social group on their own at kindergarten, were far more likely to end up in college.
16. They value quality over quantity when it comes to spending time with their kids
It’s not necessarily important to spend every second of every day with your children, but what is important is the quality of time that you spend with them. If you’re stressed, for instance, then spending time with your children can actually be detrimental to them. Make sure, then, that the time you do spend with your kids is positive, such as reading books, sharing meals and conversing about their day.
15. They make sure that their kids are resilient
This one is more about letting them make their own mistakes and letting them learn from their setbacks. Psychologist Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has found that children that try again after a failure rather than giving up tend to be more creative, think more flexibly and stave off depression and anxiety.
14. They make sure that their kids are doing their fair share of chores
Teaching children to do things for themselves is helping them understand part of being an adult. And, according to author Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University, making sure that your kids are doing their chores means that they’ll grow up to be more likely to cooperate with their co-workers, take on tasks of their own volition and have a better understanding of what it means to struggle.
13. They let them get messy when they’re eating
So when your toddler is tossing food around, don’t despair; a study conducted at the University of Iowa has shown that muckier children are actually quicker learners. This is because non-solids are usually only experienced at meal time, so using this setting actually helps them to make connections between words and objects much quicker.
12. They spend time reading to them
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education show that children whose parents read to them get a learning boost. Indeed, reading to kids just three or four times a week resulted in 26 percent of those children recognizing all the letters of the alphabet, compared to 14 percent of the kids who were read to less often. Those extra story-times also resulted in children more likely to count higher, write their own names and read on their own as well.
11. They have strong relationships with one another
Psychologist Robert Hughes, Jr., of the University of Illinois has found that children living with parents who are in constant conflict with each other are less likely to do well than kids in single-parent households or in families where the parents, whether divorced or not, get along well with each other. Regardless of the living situation, then, a conflict-free environment leads to children with a better chance in life.
10. They make sure that their kids understand math early on in life
Making sure that your kids understand mathematical concepts before they start school can help them advance not only in math, but in reading as well. Indeed, after analyzing data from a study of 35,000 pre-schoolers from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, Greg Duncan of Northwestern University in Illinois found that children who started school with a better grasp of number order and rudimentary math skills made advances in math and reading much quicker than their peers.
9. They value trying rather than condemning failure
According to Carol Dweck from Stanford University, there are two ways to think about success. Either you think that it comes from your innate gifts, or you think that it stems from trying hard. Teaching your kids the second way of looking at their achievements changes failure from a lack of talent to a step in a learning process, in turn giving them much more space for personal growth.
8. They’ve got a solid educational background themselves
In 2014 University of Michigan’s Sandra Tang substantiated a relationship between the educational achievements of mothers and their children. With a sample size of 14,000, Tang found that mothers who had finished high school or college were much more likely to have children who did the same. The children of teen moms who under 18 when their kids were born, however, were less likely to achieve the same level of educational success.
7. They make sure that they have a strong relationship with their kids
It’s important to cement this as early as possible. In 2014, for example, psychologist Lee Raby of the University of Minnesota conducted a study of 243 children who were born into poverty and found that those who had supportive and caring parents not only did better academically, but they also continued that success into their 30s.
6. Moms work outside of the home
Organizational behaviorist Kathleen L. McGinn of Harvard Business School has shown that children, both male and female, benefit from having working moms as role models. Such is the effect of having a strong role model, in fact, that daughters are more likely to stay in school and earn more money, while sons are more likely to help out around the house.
5. They fit into a higher socioeconomic bracket
Even if you do everything else right, there is a financial hurdle that is difficult for many parents and their kids to overcome. Certainly, the education gap between students from rich and poor families “is roughly 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born 25 years earlier,” says professor Sean Reardon of Stanford. Growing up poor is therefore tragically limiting the educational achievement of some kids.
4. They’re much less stressed when dealing with their kids
In their formative years, children are very susceptible to what’s known as emotional contagion. This essentially means that they’re likely to take on the dominant disposition of their parents, catching emotional cues like you might catch a virus. So it follows that parents with happy dispositions tend to raise happy kids.
3. They teach their children “grit”
Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania won a grant in 2013 for uncovering a new personality trait she called grit. Essentially, it’s the drive to chase long-term goals, and the more you have the more likely you’re going to sustain your interest in reaching those far-off achievements. Teach your kids to strive for the future they want, then, and they’re far more likely to attain it.
2. They have a very specific way of parenting
Developmental psychologist Diana Baumride of the University of California at Berkeley, posited a theory in the 1960s that there are three styles of parenting: permissive, authoritarian and authoritative. The parents of successful children usually use the third style, which involves directing the child’s actions in a rational way. This teaches them to respect authority but also doesn’t stifle them.
1. They understand that raising a child isn’t a competition
British psychologist Joan Freeman has found that children don’t develop at the same rate, so comparing them in how they are accelerating in their studies is an inaccurate gauge of their future success. Therefore, creative, motivated children who take initiative with projects are as likely as their peers at the top of the class to have bright futures ahead of them.