aYou want your child to become an independent, happy, and well-rounded adult, but what exactly can you do as a parent to make that happen?
Science has delved into this parental dilemma for decades. Although none of the researchers has found a magic potion for making every child a massively successful adult, they have discovered factors that help make the transformation possible.
Read on to discover five ways that you can use to help your kids be successful in life.
1. Teach children social skills
Helping your kids develop social skills will give them a great headstart in life. That’s the finding of researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University in the US.
They tracked more than 700 American children from nursery school until the age of 25. The researchers found a significant correlation between kids’ nursery school social skills and adult success.
Socially competent, empathetic and helpful children who could cooperate with their peers without prompting and resolve problems on their own were far more likely than kids with limited social skills to earn a university degree and have a full-time job by the age of 25.
Meanwhile, the kids with limited social skills had a higher chance of being arrested, binge drinking, and applying for social housing.
Lead researcher, Damon Jones, told Business Insider the study alone doesn’t prove higher social competence can lead to better outcomes. But when it’s combined with other research, it’s clear that helping children develop socializing skills boosts their chances of success in school, work, and life.
Here’s a helpful exercise from our children’s magazine to help your child develop socializing skills :
2. Give kids jobs around the home
Allocate simple household jobs or chores to your children. It will help your kids develop into more empathetic and collaborative employees who can take on tasks independently.
So said Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of ‘How to Raise An Adult’ and former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University, in a TED Talks Live event. She based her conclusions on a Harvard Medical School 75-year longitudinal study that followed 268 Harvard male undergraduates.
Making kids do household chores, whether it’s washing the dishes, taking out the rubbish, or doing their own laundry, helps them realise they have to do the work of life to be part of life.
“If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them,” she told BusinessInsider. “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 for the betterment of the whole.”
3. Allow kids to do things themselves
It’s tempting to ‘help’ your kids accomplish tasks or to interrupt with questions or ideas, but you could be doing more harm than good.
A 2021 Stanford University study found that children whose parents often ask questions or offer instructions, corrections, or suggestions have more difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviours.
The study, led by Jelena Obradović, an associate professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, found that the same children performed worse on delayed gratification tasks.
They had less developed skills associated with impulse control and trouble moving between competing demands for their attention.
Parents have been conditioned to find ways to get involved themselves, even when children are actively playing or doing what they’ve been asked to do, she said.
“But too much direct engagement can come at a cost to kids’ abilities to control their own attention, behaviour and emotions.
“When parents let kids take the lead in their interactions, children practice self-regulation skills and build independence.”
Here’s another wellbeing exercise from our magazine for kids to help your children save up all those positive experiences: The Positive Feelings Memory Box – Brilliant Brainz
4. Apply behavioural, not psychological, control
Exerting too much psychological control over your kids could have a negative impact on their adult lives.
A longitudinal study from the University of Edinburgh found parents’ psychological control of their kids plays a significant role in their mental well-being and life satisfaction.
Being psychologically controlling means not allowing kids to make their own decisions, fostering their dependence on you, invading their privacy, and using guilt to make them do what you want.
Behavioural control, by comparison, includes things such as assigning household jobs or chores and expecting homework to be completed. It also involves putting limits on behaviour that may be harmful such as setting curfews.
Lead researcher Mai Stafford found that people who saw their parents as less psychologically controlling and more caring as they grew up were more likely to be happier and satisfied as adults.
Those who felt their parents applied psychological control as they grew up exhibited significantly lower mental well-being throughout their adult lives.
5. Place value on effort and failure
“If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try and try again,” Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, told his troops before the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. Inspired, his troops defeated Edward II’s English soldiers.
If you want your kids to become adults who thrive on challenges like those Scottish warriors, start by showing them that effort and failure are crucial parts of success.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has spent decades researching how our minds work. She discovered that both children and adults have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
The fixed mindset assumes intelligence, creative ability, and character are unchangeable. Those with a fixed mindset strive for success and try to avoid failure.
The growth mindset, in comparison, views intelligence, creativity, and character as changeable. That is, they can be improved upon.
Kids and adults with a growth mindset embrace challenges and view failures as mere springboards for more growth.
In an essay on fixed mindsets and growth mindsets, journalist and founder of the Marginalian website Maria Popova wrote that the growth mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.
“Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice.
“Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.”
Why not help your children value themselves by making a strengths and achievements list.