What parent doesn’t want their child to do well in school, stay out of trouble, and grow up to be a highly successful adult? But as I’ve found over the years raising my own daughter, that’s far easier said than done.
The truth is, there is no set path to guaranteed parenting success (believe me, I’ve tried finding one). What I did find are a number of important studies that provide some guidelines that can greatly improve your odds.
Here are ten things you should do to raise smart, well-rounded kids.
1. Do teach social skills.
A 20-year study by researchers at Pennsylvania State and Duke University shows a positive correlation between children’s social skills in kindergarten and their success in early adulthood. Teaching your kids how to resolve issues with friends, share their belongings, listen without interrupting, and help others in the home is a great place to start.
2. Don’t overprotect.
In today’s age of helicopter parenting, many parents (including myself) have difficulty allowing our kids to solve problems, but rather rush to fix challenges for them.
Drawing on a Harvard University study, Julie Lythcott-Haims argues that allowing kids to make mistakes and develop resilience and resourcefulness is critical in setting them up for success.
Newsflash: This isn’t easy. We all need to walk a fine line between protecting our children and letting them tackle problems in order to learn from them.
3. Do get your kids involved in academics early (then encourage independence when they are older.
Research shows that reading to your children and teaching them math early can greatly impact achievement in later years. However, it is best to start weaning kids off homework help later in elementary school, as helping your child with homework can actually stunt their development.
Parents should always communicate interest in their children’s schooling, but encourage them to take charge of their work independently.
4. Don’t let them languish in front of a screen.
Too much screen time has been linked to childhood obesity, irregular sleep patterns, and behavioral issues. In addition, a 2017 study by Greg L. West at the University of Montreal revealed that playing “shooter” games can damage the brain, causing it to lose cells.
So what can we do about the ever-so-helpful digital babysitter that so many of us rely on?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, entertainment “screen time” should be limited to two hours a day.
Another helpful idea: encourage your children to become content creators rather than passive consumers. Encourage them to learn computer programming, 3D modeling, or digital music production and turn screen time into a productive endeavor.
5. Do set high expectations.
Harnessing data from a national survey, a UCLA team discovered that the expectations parents hold for their kids have a huge effect on achievement.
The study found that, by the time they were four, almost all the children in the highest performing study group had parents who expected them to attain a college degree.
6. Don’t spend too much time praising innate qualities such as intelligence or looks.
“Wow, you got an A without even studying? You are so smart!”
A Stanford University study shows that praising children with statements like the above and focusing on their intelligence, can actually lead to underperformance.
As an alternative parenting strategy, parents are encouraged to offer praise that focuses on the effort kids expend to overcome problems and challenges by demonstrating grit, persistence, and determination.
7. Do assign chores.
There is a significant body of evidence that shows that chores are beneficial for childhood development. Yet, in a Braun Research poll, just 28 percent of parents said they regularly assign chores to their kids.
A University of Minnesota analysis of data found that the best predictor of success in young adulthood was whether children had performed chores as young as three or four.
8. Don’t tune out.
According to a survey by Common Sense Media, 28 percent of teens said their parents were addicted to their mobile devices. Another recent study by AVG discovered that 32 percent of children surveyed felt unimportant when their parents were distracted by their phones.
As the first generation of parents with 24/7 access to the Internet, it is important for us to know when to disconnect and focus on the family.
9. Do strive for a peaceful, loving home
Children in high-conflict families tend to fare worse than children of parents that get along, according to a University of Illinois study review. Creating a loving, supportive environment is a staple of healthy, productive offspring.
If you do have an argument with a spouse, it is recommended to model fair fighting, boundary-setting, and a focus on reconciliation and resolution.
10. Don’t be too hard (or too soft)
Diana Baumrind, in her groundbreaking 1966 study, distinguished between authoritarian (very strict), permissive (very lenient), and authoritative (equally disciplined and loving) parents.
In short, authoritarian parents are too hard, permissive parents are too soft, and authoritative are just right.
When a child models their authoritative parents, they learn emotion regulation skills and social understanding that are critical for success.