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What do parents of successful children have in common?

Posted on 21 June 2016

I’m guessing as good parents we share a universal goal of wanting the best for our children.  We’re not looking to raise uber competitive child prodigies hothoused to boiling point.  We just want them to have the optimum chance of success and blossom into emotionally well-rounded adults having done their best at school and developed a supportive group of friends along the way.

I turned to my own children for inspiration and after the briefest of pauses to stop my son sitting on his sister’s head in retaliation for mixing up his Match Attax cards decided I needed to seek expert help.

Spoiler alert – what I discovered won’t come as a surprise.  A recipe for raising successful children simply doesn’t exist.  There are however a handful of factors identified by leading child psychologists that predict success.  Again you won’t be surprised to our child’s successes comes down largely to how we parent them. 

Experts say parents of successful children do the following five things:

Teach their children social skills

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University tracked more than 700 children from nursery to age 15 and found a high correlation between the social skills they displayed in nursery and their success as adults two decades later.

The study shows that socially competent children who can cooperate with their peers without prompting, be helpful to others, recognise and understand their feelings and resolve problems on their own were far more likely achieve a university degree and have a full-time job by the age of 25 than those with more limited social skills.

They have high expectations

Our children live up to our expectations. The aspirations we share with them become a self-fulfilling prophecy according to research conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles.   Researchers followed the lives of over 6,600 children born in 2001 and found that parents who saw university in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets.

Mum works

Great news for all working mothers feeling guilty about how much time they spend with their children.  As a working mother you are providing both your son and daughter with a positive role model.  Harvard Business School researcher Kathleen L. McGinn found daughters of working mothers went to school longer, were more likely to have a job in a supervisory role and earn 23% more money.

Sons of mothers also tend to pitch in more on household chores and childcare.  So let’s ditch the guilt and celebrate the fact that by working mothers are helping to bust gender inequality for our sons and daughters.

They develop a good relationship with their children

Invest time developing a good relationship with your child in their early years.  A 2014 study of 243 people born in poverty found that children who received “sensitive caregiving” in their first three years not only did better in academic tests in childhood but had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30’s.

Parents that are “sensitive caregivers” respond to their child’s signals promptly and appropriately and provide a secure base for their child to explore the world. 

They value effort over avoiding failure

Parents who focus on effort as success rather than just the end result see greater successes in their children.  A Stanford University professor Carol Dweck has discovered that children think about success in one of two ways.  Those with a “fixed mindset” think they either have or haven’t got what it takes to succeed.  They tend to focus on the end result and interpret success or failure as evidence of whether they had the skills to succeed in the first place. Children with this mindset tend to stick to doing what they know they are good at and avoid failure at all costs.

Children with a growth mindset on the other hand thrive on challenge and view failure not as evidence of a lack of intelligence but as a way of growing and stretching their existing abilities.  Given we all learn from mistakes it isn’t hard to see how this mindset produces adults that are better equipped to succeed in an uncertain world.  To achieve a growth mindset expert encourage parents to celebrate the efforts of their children rather than a perfect end result.


At what age would you give your child a mobile phone?

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