Inspired by Inc.’s lead parenting columnist, Bill Murphy Jr.’s, collection of science-based parenting advice collected and shared.
As parents, one of our core desires for our children is for them to be happy. As working parents, we recognize that one of the core tenants of our own happiness is the pursuit and achievement of success, however we have defined it for our careers, our families, and ourselves. Naturally, we want to raise our children to succeed as adults, but we also want them to experience the emotional health that is supported by their encounters of success (and dare we say, failure) as children, teens and young adults. If we invest our parenting capital in these five key areas, we can later reap the rewards of that investment in children who become successful and well-adjusted adults (and grown children who still want to come ‘home’ for the holidays).
One | Great Expectations
We all have expectations, and we all know the frustration that results when those expectations are not met (likely, because they were never communicated in the first place). We also know the power of a boss who sets clear (and high expectations), revisits them often, and celebrates our fulfillment of those expectations. Our children are no different. The greater our expectations, when communicated clearly and supported intentionally, the greater our children will perform. That performance will directly translate into confidence, and improved self-esteem.
Our expectations communicate to our children that we believe they are capable of doing hard things, that we hold them accountable, and that we want them to achieve their dreams. Establish your expectations, communicate them clearly, re-visit and remind your children of them often, and affirm and celebrate their fulfillment of those expectations.
Two | The Power of Praise
People perform better when they receive praise routinely. However, in order to support our children in taking risks, and pursuing academics and activities with persistence, the way we deliver that praise is imperative. Otherwise, we may end up raising vapid egomaniacs, and the world is already full of those.
So, how should we deliver praise? First, know that there is no ideal ratio, but the more you praise your children, the better the results. In other words, you cannot spoil a baby by holding them too much, and you cannot spoil a child by praising them too much. Next, it is important that you praise their effort and specific application of skills or attributes, rather than their innate talents. When you offer praise frequently and ‘correctly’ you avoid the adage of, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.
Here’s an example. Instead of telling your child, “Wow, you are so fast!” praise them instead by saying, “I am so impressed with the way you were determined to push your body to move your legs so quickly. You didn’t give up!”
Three | Chores, Chores, Chores
According to the longest running longitudinal study in history, there are two key factors people need to possess to be both happy and successful: love and work ethic. How, as parents can we instill those two traits in our children simultaneously? Chores. When children participate in chores they learn the importance of work ethic, and they feel loved knowing that they have a purpose in their family life and knowing that they are contributing to that family life.
But, we have to include them. And that means letting go of some of our own expectations along the way. They have to learn, and the only way for them to learn is to practice. Give them grace, and ample amounts of praise, and then learn to live with the missed crumbs –they will get it right, with time.
Four | Be There
In a Love and Logic world, it can be hard to remember that ultimately our children need us there, and they need us to be a safe and empathetic shoulder as much as they need us to walk them through the natural consequence they were just delivered. When something happens to our children, whether they get hurt, make a mistake, or are confronted with failure, you can (and should) rush to their side. In numerous studies, researchers found that adults who reflect on their childhood, had a much more positive perception of their parents when they were perceived as being there, rather than modeling self-reliance by maintaining their distance.
You can be there for your children, without ‘fixing’ the situation. And this is the Love component of Love and Logic. We don’t sit back when our child trips and falls; instead, we lovingly acknowledge their pain, “Ouch! That looks like it hurts; I am so sorry that happened. What would make it feel better?” and we offer them Logic when the time is right, “Do you think your shoes being untied caused you to trip? What are your ideas for preventing another trip?”
Five | Champion their ‘Weirdness’ and their Social-Butterfly Aptitude
Children are laughably weird, and it doesn’t take more than a year or two of parenting to also realize, they come to us as they are —wonderfully and wildly unique— with their own interests and passions and eccentricities. Rather than dejecting their affinity for dinosaur trivia, champion it and channel their interest into some real life connections, like paleontologists or a trip to a dinosaur museum. Warren Buffet attributes his success to his eccentric tendency toward entrepreneurship as a child. So embrace their quirkiness, and help to develop it so they can later leverage it for success and happiness.
While we’re discussing comments you may anticipate hearing at Parent Teacher Conferences, if your child is often discussed as being ‘too social’, help them to curtail it…to an extent, and know that children who are perceived as prosocial, later have a significant financial lead. And if your child struggles socially, seek out opportunities and employ strategies to help improve their social skills and their future.
While there is no handbook for parenting, employing these 5 study-proven and scientifically supported practices will help you to raise children who are both well adjusted and successful. And, at the end of the day, if “all you need is love”, and your children are loved and secure, you have already started a beautiful legacy. We are so looking forward to the return on our investment, of a home filled with grown children during the holidays.