A couple days ago when I opened up my browser, I spied an article from Inc.com titled, Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 5 Things Every Day by Bill Murphy Jr. As a new parent, that naturally caught my attention and so I read it. I really loved the five science-backed suggestions it gave on how to raise a successful child, and it caused my husband and I to reflect on our own childhoods and the things that our parents did, or didn’t do, with us. It also encouraged us to make some changes in our own parenting plans.
The first habit the author recommends is to set high expectations for your kids. He cites a British study whose conclusion was basically that your kids find it annoying when you nag them and set the bar high for them, but they do listen and your efforts pay off. The study found that British teens whose parents set high standards for them were more likely to attend college and less likely to become a teen mom, be unemployed for long periods of time, or to have a low-wage, future-less job.
I think my parents did a good job at setting the bar high for me. They always told me to “do well in school so you can go to college some day.” They also encouraged me to stay away from drugs and alcohol through their personal stories about the negative impact that it had in the lives of their friends and acquaintances.
The second habit Murphy suggests is to praise your kids the right way. This is actually something that I heard about recently on a podcast. Research has shown that if you praise your children based on their effort, rather than for their abilities, they are more likely to be successful. Why? Because you are either teaching them resiliency by showing them that they can work to overcome challenges, or you are teaching them that there is nothing that they can do to grow or change because they are the way they are.
I don’t remember how my parents praised me, but somehow I developed a good work ethic and the desire to succeed and overcome challenges. I think it was because my parents put me in gymnastics at a young age, which is a sport where individual effort is important and hard work pays off. I remember that I always had great coaches that had high expectations for us and praised us for our efforts.
This is one area where I know we will have to put some conscious effort into making some changes in our parenting. Having high standards for our child has never been a problem for us, but we are definitely guilty of using ability-based praised, rather than effort-based praise. I’m glad we found out now though, rather than down the road, because the consequences of your style of praise take root in early toddlerhood.
My parents did a great job on the third habit, which is to get your kids outside as much as possible. It’s been shown that kids who spend more time running around outside demonstrate better outcomes math and reading skills. While I have no way of knowing if getting outside made me smarter, I’d say that my parents helped me develop good habits of physical fitness by taking us on a nature walks and bike rides. I can’t say I always enjoyed it a kid, but now as an adult I love physical activity and spending time outside.
The fourth habit of raising successful kids is to read to your kids and to engage them in the story. Let them turn the pages and ask them open ended questions about the plot.
While I don’t remember my parents reading to us in the way this article describes, I can personally attest to the impact that reading can have on a child, because from an early age I developed a love for books. I remember my parents taking us to the library and letting us pick out a huge stack of books. They would read to us at dinner and before bed. We moved from picture books, to chapter books, to classics like Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was constantly reading as a child and I think that helped me to become a better writer and communicator, as I developed a broader vocabulary and a better understanding of how to logically communicate ideas which is useful for public speaking and teaching.
This is another area where we will be making some adjustments in our current routine. We love reading with our little one before her naps and sometimes during the day, but now we know the importance of being intentional about actively engaging her and asking questions. While the article didn’t explain why reading in this way contributes to a child’s success, I would imagine it develops their imagination and critical thinking skills.
The final habit is one that both my husband and I wish our parents had forced upon us, and one that we are already planning on incorporating into our little one’s life: doing chores. Because my parents did everything for us, I had no idea how to do basic things like cook a meal, wash clothes, or clean a bathroom when I went off to college. I had to figure it all out on my own later. That’s one reason chores are important, but there’s another. Chores not only teach kids valuable life skills, like how to cook and do laundry, but it also cultivates their work ethic. Having a good work ethic is essential for success in every area of life.
So there you have it. The five things that, according to science, are essential for raising “successful” children. Now what do you think? Do you do any of these things with your kids? What might you start to do differently?