Kids don’t come with a manual, that’s for sure.
And when it comes to raising kids, there is no single recipe. But psychology recognizes a handful of factors that predict children’s future success.
Here are the things the parents have in common:
1. They let their kids do the chores
In the book How to Raise an Adult, author Julie Lythcott-Haims urges parents to foster hearty self-reliance instead of hollow self-esteem. She states that overparenting not only harms children but also their stressed-out parents and the whole society.
“If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so they’re absolved of not only the work but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute to the betterment of the whole,” she said.
Overparenting or “overhelping” the children means doing all the work for them and this spoils children and their future selves, according to this study. Lythcott-Haims argues that household chores help kids build responsibility, autonomy, and perseverance which traits are needed for them to become capable adults.
“By making them do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life,” she said.
Another study supports giving chores to kids. This research analyzed the data collected over a 20-year period and found that the best predictor of success in young adulthood, on measures related to getting a college degree, career path, and personal relationships, was whether they had begun doing chores at an early age — as young as 3 or 4.
If your kids are not doing any regular chores now, it’s not too late to get them started. The book How To Unspoil your Child Fast is written by Richard Bromfield, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. He describes helpful, pertinent, and loving ways to correct spoiled behavior before it becomes a serious problem.
“When kids are really young, they want to help you rake leaves or prepare dinner,” Bromfield said. “Take those opportunities to let kids help. Those moments are infused with love and connection. By the time they’re older and really able to do [those tasks] competently, they’ve lost interest,” he further explained.
2. They get along well with each other
According to a University of Illinois study, children in high-conflict families, whether intact or divorced, tend to fare worse than children of parents that get along.
Robert Hughes, Jr., Ph.D, author of the review, states that the conflict between parents prior to divorce also affects children negatively. On the other hand, a post-divorce conflict has a strong influence on children’s adjustment.
This study states that when a father has frequent contact with his kids after the divorce and there is minimal conflict, children fare better. But when there is conflict, the visits will lead to poorer adjustment of children.
Hughes argues that not all children in divorced families are worse off than all children in intact families. The results just mean that as a group of children from divorced families, they have more problems than children from intact families.
3. The mothers graduated from college
According to this study, the mother’s education has consequences for her children’s achievement. Sandra Tang, a University of Michigan psychologist, found that mothers who finished high school or college were more likely to raise kids that did the same.
The study’s results revealed that higher levels of maternal education predicted the children’s achievement at kindergarten and growth in achievement through eighth grade. In the study, the achievement of children with adolescent mothers never reached parity with the achievement of their peers with non-adolescent mothers.
This study is supported by another research which states that parents’ educational level when the child was 8 years old significantly predicted educational and occupational success for the child 40 years later.
4. They teach math early
This research states that early math skills are one of the best predictors of later success in both math and literacy.
Greg Duncan, co-author of the study said that:
“The paramount importance of early math skills — of beginning school with a knowledge of numbers, number order, and other rudimentary math concepts — is one of the puzzles coming out of the study.”
The research shows the links between school success and achievement in 5th grade and elementary math skills. On the other hand, literacy skills which include knowing letters and word sounds aren’t as important.
5. They have a relationship with their kids
According to a 2014 study of 243 people born into poverty, children who received “sensitive caregiving” in their first three years did better in academic tests in childhood. They also had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30s.
Sensitive caregiving is when parents respond to their child’s signals promptly and appropriately. When parents are sensitive caregivers, they provide a secure base for children to explore the world.
The study also suggests that investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals’ lives.
It will be difficult for the parent when the nest is empty later in life. But for now – it’s crucial to have a good relationship with your kids.
6. They believe their kids can develop their abilities
As a young researcher, Carol Dweck was fascinated by how some children faced challenges and failures with self-confidence while others shrunk back. Dweck, now a psychologist at Stanford University, was able to identify how children and adults think about success. She discovered two mindsets and wrote it in her book Mindset which reveals how success is influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
According to Dweck, people with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed.
“Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Every parent wants to raise children who are happy, successful and stay out of trouble. But the studies above show enough evidence that much of it comes down to the parents and their parenting styles.
So, take the tips on board and start implementing them. With love and care, you’re in the right direction.