Raising children might just be the world’s toughest job. Science shows that good parenting has a lot to do with how kids turn out. With all the conflicting parenting advice available today, it’s hard to know if you’re making the right choices.
Has your latest decision just set your kids up for a lifetime of success or doom them to live in your basement forever? One action probably won’t bring about either of these extremes, but there are parenting behaviors that seem to help kids thrive. Take some of the guesswork out of parenting with these 11 ways to raise successful kids.
1. Praise effort over achievement.
When your kid brings home a stellar report card, a parent’s natural inclination may be to praise the achievement itself, with something like, “You’re so smart! I knew you’d make all As!” However, this kind of praise may set your child up for failure later in life.
Instead, parents should teach their kids to have a “growth mindset.” Children who learn to focus on the process of achieving goals instead of the achievement itself are often more successful. Rather than praising your kid for being so smart, focus your praise on the effort he or she must have put in to making good grades.
When parents value effort over achievement, children learn to appreciate setbacks, using them to overcome obstacles rather than be defeated by them.
2. Assign chores.
It might seem easier to just take care of chores yourself instead of supervising your children as they wash dishes, clean their room, or take out the trash. But having your kids complete chores is actually instrumental to their success.
Studies show that when kids have regular chores, they are more likely to be responsible, do well in school, and have fewer discipline problems than kids who did no chores at home.
3. Teach early math skills.
Most parents read their children nightly bedtime stories, but how many focus on bedtime math equations?
It turns out that kids who learn early math skills are not only better at math once they reach school age, but they also develop better reading skills. They have higher rates of college enrollment too.
Children who learn early math skills are successful later in life for several reasons. Kids who are focused on math from a young age tend to make better grades and thus feel more confident in their overall abilities, which leads to success in other areas.
Early math skills may also help children improve executive function skills, which help people organize and complete tasks efficiently—a hallmark of successful adults.
4. Get involved academically.
In addition to learning early math skills, children are more successful when their parents are involved in their education.
Kids are more likely to have better social skills and behavior, get better grades, and attend college when parents are actively involved in their academic life.
Parents can engage in a child’s academics in a variety of ways:
- Regularly attend parent–teacher conferences
- Participate in school fundraising with children
- Volunteer in the classroom or at school events
- Continue learning activities at home
5. Teach kids healthy habits.
The most successful adults practice healthy habits. The earlier kids learn about healthy nutrition and exercise, the more likely they are to stick to these habits as adults. Kids who eat a healthy diet have improved brain function. A healthy diet also improves school attendance, behavior, and test scores.
Parents can lead by example when teaching kids healthy habits. Get kids moving on a family bike ride or hike, or prepare healthy meals together to teach kids the basics of nutrition.
6. Lead by example.
Kids are incredibly empathetic and are susceptible to emotional contagion, a behavior in which one person’s emotions affect the behaviors and emotions of another. For example, if you’re stressed by a work situation, you may be more distant and irritable at home.
Your kids see your actions and may begin to mimic your emotions and behaviors. If these are negative and unproductive, children’s grades might slip or they may withdraw socially.
Parents can lead by example when it comes to managing stress. When your stress level is reduced, your kids will benefit too.
7. Practice mindful meditation.
In addition to stress management, parents who teach meditation to their kids can have positive effects on a child’s attention span, grades, and overall mental health.
Individuals who meditate are generally happier and less anxious. Meditation is often not an option in an already jam-packed school day, but parents can set aside time at home each day for kids to meditate. Institute a family quiet time before dinner each day for kids to totally unplug from devices, take a break from homework, and generally relax.
8. Take a step back.
Although coined in 1969, the term “helicopter parent” just gained widespread notoriety a few years ago. It refers to parents who are overly focused on their children, hovering over them like helicopters.
Although parents might think being involved in all aspects of their kids’ lives is proactive, it may do more harm than good.
For kids to be successful, parents should actually take a step back. Allow kids to make mistakes, take risks, and work through situations on their own. Of course, this doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t be involved; obviously parents should intervene if a child is in a dangerous situation.
But when parents limit their involvement in certain areas, kids learn to be self-reliant, a key tool for success.
9. Let kids follow their passions.
Kids dream of being everything from a rock star to the first farmer on Mars when they grow up. Instead of squelching their dreams, encourage kids’ passions, however outlandish they might seem.
Parents often measure their child’s success in terms of exclusive college admissions or high-paying careers. However, when kids are allowed to pursue their dreams, they are much more likely to be successful in their chosen field. After all, a kid who wants to be the first farmer on Mars might just be the first scientist to discover life on other planets.
10. Build a community.
Humans are not meant to be solitary creatures. Children especially thrive when they have a strong sense of community. Kids who develop strong ties to others have stronger social skills. They are also better at overall communication and problem solving.
There are many ways parents can help children build community bonds. Here are just a few ideas to get started:
- Have your kids volunteer once a month at the charitable organization of their choice.
- Get them involved in a recreational sports team or a club at school.
- Have them participate in community cleanup efforts.
11. Get advice from parents of successful kids.
Sometimes it’s nice to get advice from parents who have raised successful kids. Some parents set high academic expectations. Others allow children to pursue their natural talents. One family might have a weekly family meeting for better communication. Each parenting style is different.
The one thing these parents have in common? They all agree there is no “right” way to raise successful kids. But these tips can help parents raise self-reliant children who are at a greater advantage academically, are socially adept, and care about their community.
Ann Landers, the iconic advice columnist, summed it up perfectly when she wrote, “It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”