Parents of the Most Successful Kids do These (Somewhat Counter-Intuitive) Things
1. Don’t complain.
Instead, model the ability to pick yourself up in the face of setbacks. According to Stephanie Marston, psychotherapist, consultant and co-author of Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World, children learn resilience when they see their parents being agents of change instead of passive complainers.
2. Let kids climb trees and handle sharp objects.
According to a study published in Evolutionary Psychology, risky play–the kind where someone actually could get hurt–is good for kids. Researchers suggest that the fear kids experience when climbing at great heights, being near a cliff or handling a knife keeps them alert and careful and teaches them how to cope with potentially dangerous situations. And over time, mastering such scary situations has an “anti-phobic” effect which results in lower levels of anxiety overall.
3. Limit the use of electronic media, especially in the evening.
Researchers analyzed the sleep quality of 530 German three-year-olds and found that the kids who consumed higher amounts of electronic media had more problems with sleep, including resistance going to sleep, sleep anxiety and sleepiness during the day. Plus, other researchers have found that the brains of little kids can be permanently altered when they spend too much time using tablets and smartphones. Specifically, the development of certain abilities is impeded, including focus and attention, vocabulary, and social skills.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all, other than video-chatting. For kids ages two to five, it recommends limiting screen time to one hour a day. For older kids, it’s a matter of making sure media doesn’t take the place of adequate sleep, exercise, and social interaction. The AAP also says parents should make the dinner table, the car, and bedrooms media-free zones.
4. Read to them.
Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine have found that babies whose parents read to them have better language, literacy, and early reading skills four years later before starting elementary school. And kids who like books when they’re little grow into people who read for fun later on, which has its own set of benefits. That’s according to Dr. Alice Sullivan, who uses the British Cohort Study to track various aspects of 17,000 people in the U.K. “We compared children from the same social backgrounds who achieved similar tested abilities at ages five and 10, and discovered that those who frequently read books at age 10 and more than once a week when they were 16 had higher test results than those who read less,” she writes for The Guardian. “In other words, reading for pleasure was linked to greater intellectual progress, in vocabulary, spelling, and mathematics.”
5. Make them work.
In a 2015 TED Talk, Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult and the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, cites the Harvard Grant Study, which found that the participants who achieved the greatest professional success did chores as a child.
6. Let them fail.
According to Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, a clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology and author of Parenting in the Real World: The Rules Have Changed, failure is good for kids on several levels. First, experiencing failure helps your kids learn to cope, a valuable life skill. It also provides them with the experience which helps them to relate to peers in a genuine way. Being challenged also instills the need for hard work and sustained efforts, and also demonstrates that these traits are valuable even without the blue ribbon, gold star, or top score. Over time, children who have experienced defeat build resilience and are more willing to attempt difficult tasks and activities because they are not afraid to fail. And, rescuing children sends the message that you don’t trust them. “Your willingness to see your child struggle communicates that you believe they are capable and that they can handle any outcome, even a negative one,” she says.
7. Be a role model for fitness.
High achieving adults consistently make exercise a priority and if you want your children to grow up fit and active, you need to practice doing it yourself. Researchers at the University of California conducted a study which found that girls who perceived their parents exercised at least three times a week were about 50 percent more active than girls with sedentary parents.
8. Don’t tell them they can grow up to be anything they want.
According a survey of 400 teenagers, conducted by market research agency C+R Research, young Americans aren’t interested in doing the work that will need to be done in the years to come. Instead, they aspire to be musicians, athletes, or video game designers, even though these kinds of jobs only comprise 1 percent of American occupations. In reality, jobs in health care or in construction trades will be golden in future decades. Why not steer them into well-paying professions in which there will be a huge shortage of workers?