We all want the same things for our kids. We want them to be happy, healthy, grow up to follow their dreams, but mostly, we want our children to find success. In fact, it’s often something that keeps us up at night as parents. Is my child doing well in school? Will he get into college? (Never mind that my kid is currently in second grade.) Will he get a job or am I going to be supporting him until he’s thirty? Will my child be successful?
Just how much control do we have over whether or not our children find success? A lot, actually. And while there isn’t a hard and fast road map to raising successful children, research points to several factors that contribute to success later in life — and it all starts with the parents.
Teach Them Self-Control
By nature, children are impulsive and self-control is learned behavior. However, research shows that the ability to exert self-control is linked to success later in life.
Stanford professor Walter Mischel published a study in 1972 where he offered children a marshmallow. However, if they waited and didn’t eat the marshmallow when he left the room, they would get another marshmallow when he came back. Some kids ate the marshmallow and some kids didn’t. But, it wasn’t the immediate results that were interesting. It was the follow-up.
Years later they followed up with the kids and found that the children who waited for the second marshmallow ended up with higher SAT scores, more academic achievement, had better social skills and were better able to handle stress as opposed to the children who reached for the first marshmallow.
Self-control is a big factor in success. By slowing things down and encouraging our children to use mindful steps, we can guide them down the path toward success.
Get Them Reading
Have you ever heard the saying: Readers are leaders. It’s true. The American Academy of Pediatrics has been recommending that parents read to their children starting at birth.
“Reading to children is important for the development of creativity and problem-solving,” board-certified pediatrician and mother of three, Angelee Reiner, tells Parentology. “It encourages children to think beyond the world that they know and to gain new ideas at any age.”
How does reading promote success? Children who read develop intellectual empathy — meaning they can learn to better understand the thoughts and motivations of others. Intellectual empathy is important to success because it gives us the ability to see how other people see and experience things.
If you are reading to your child, stop and encourage your child to put themselves into the minds of the characters. Why is the girl doing that? Would you do that? Helping our children understand the conflict builds intellectual empathy.
Give Them Chores
A study by the University of Minnesota found that doing chores is the best predictor for success later in life. By giving kids chores we instill a sense of responsibility, competence, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives.
Chores give kids a sense of responsibility and independence, which leads to confidence. Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University said during a TED Talks Live event, “By making kids do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life.” Kids raised on chores go on to become employees who collaborate well and are able to take on tasks independently.
“Chores teach lifelong values and reinforce positive self-esteem in children,” says guidance counselor and parent educator Tracy Garcia. She tells Parentology, “Kids that do chores go on to be more successful adults later in life.”
Let Them Fail
It’s hard to watch our kids stumble and fall – our natural instinct is to pick them up and get them back on their feet. But if the college admissions scandal has taught us anything, it’s that failure is a good thing. By allowing our children to fail, we teach them resiliency, the ability to bounce back and adversity. Failure is truly the only way to succeed.
Psychologist Jennifer Carson tells Parentology, “Constantly stepping in to save the day tells our children that you don’t trust their choices. Failing and recovering teaches our children that stumbling blocks can be overcome and inspires them to take on new challenges.”
While there is no guarantee of raising a successful child, as a parent all we can do is try to give them the best foundation we can. We need to arm our children with the right skill-set to help them gain confidence and independence. Success starts at home.
As parents, our goal is to mold our children into the best versions of themselves. It starts with reading to them, encouraging them to have self-control and showing them how to be responsible by giving them chores and allowing them to fall down, pick themselves up and try again, because the framework for success starts with you — the parent.