Frederick Douglass once said “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”.
Everyone wants to build strong children. We want our children to become smart, confident and successful adults. A number of research studies have also focused on this issue by analysing the parenting habits that foster independence in children.
These studies have found that parenting styles have an important impact on how kids turn out. There is evidence that the environment in which a child is raised often has a considerable impact on self-confidence, social, academic and psychological outcomes.
How a child is raised can also determine whether or not he turns to drugs.
Below we explore six parenting habits that can influence your child’s academic, social and psychological outcomes.
6 evidence-based habits for raising successful kids
Habit 1: Give your children wings
Charles Dewey’s “learning by doing” approach has stood the test of time. Dewey believed that children learn best when they are active participants rather than when they are passive. He encourage hands-on-learning and argued that children learn through practical experience.
Other researchers have come to the same conclusions: children “feel good” when they “do well”. When you try to protect your children by making their paths as smooth as possible, you actually do them a great disservice because much is to be learnt through failure.
What you can do
- If your child can do it himself, don’t do it for him
- Give your children age-appropriate tasks
- Provide opportunities to foster your child’s creativity
Habit 2: Be firm but receptive
Evidence suggests that children raised by parents who are firm but receptive are more likely to have positive social and academic outcomes. Being firm but receptive means setting reasonably high expectations but at the same time, being warm and attentive to your children’s needs.
What you can do
- Make negotiation a part of your parenting strategy. As evidence suggests, children whose parents negotiate are better behaved and enjoy more positive relationships with their parents.
- Set reasonable expectations. Expectations set too high can frustrate your child and those set too low can lead her to believe that minimum effort is acceptable.
Habit 3: Become your child’s emotion coach
Children often face strong emotions they are unable to deal with (anger, fear, frustration, anxiety) and this can be manifested through behaviour such as acting out, meltdowns, tummy aches when one has to go to school, tantrums, aggressive behaviour, etc. Your child cannot deal with those emotions in an appropriate manner if she doesn’t understand them first.
Some studies have found that children who are more aware of their emotions tend to be more ready to start school, are happier and have better educational outcomes during the childhood years and beyond (some of these studies are available here and here).
What you can do
Habit 4: Foster creativity
There are still many who wrongly believe that curiosity is an innate characteristic. While children’s eagerness to explore and discover can be observed in children from the youngest age, some researchers such as Professor Steven Dutch argue that that the tinkering observed in children is not necessarily synonymous with creativity.
Professor Dutch insists on the fact that curiosity and creativity are acquired tastes. In his opinion, curiosity involves “seeking new kinds of stimuli”. In other words, if curiosity is not stimulated, it dies.
There are many advantages to being curious. A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh found that curiosity was as important as intelligence in determining academic performance. Curiosity also enhances creativity.
What you can do
- Spark learning everywhere.
- Help your child differentiate between needs and wants.
- Buy your children less toys. Indeed, as several researchers have found, scarcity rather than abundance spurs creativity.
Habit 5: Differentiate between discipline and punishment
Being intentional about discipline means:
- Being mindful about how and why you discipline
- Placing mutual respect at the centre of your discipline strategy
- Creating healthy parent-child relationships
Discipline is not about punishing your child, it is about teaching him specific values.
What you can do
- Be clear about your expectations.
- Be consistent
- Use natural consequences.Using natural consequences means tying behaviour to the consequences of that behaviour: “If your homework is not done because you’re playing with your Nintendo, you’ll only be able to play over weekends”. The authors of the Bestseller Parenting With Love And Logic advocate natural consequences to teach children about responsibility. My book review is available here.
If you’d like to learn more about mindful discipline strategies, check out my free e-mail course here.
Habit 6: Teach your child the power of persistence
Kids are terribly poor at persevering. There is much evidence to suggest that children’s ability to persist through difficulty predicts social and educational outcomes.
One study found that persistence in 5/6 year olds significantly predicted their reading and math achievement between kindergarten and early adolescence. A recent study has found that “paying attention and persisting on tasks are foundational skills that are critical early in life and continue to positively predict a variety of social and academic outcomes throughout childhood and into adulthood”. The study suggests that that interventions in early childhood can help promote persistence.
What you can do to increase your child’s persistence
- Make it worth her while. You’ll be more successful if you focus on your child’s strengths rather than on her weaknesses.
- Set reasonable expectations.
- When you child meets with success, he is more likely to take on new challenges. Success breeds success.
- Convince your child he has what he needs to succeed. Teach him to cultivate “the now habit”
Ultimately, raising successful kids is about finding the right balance between freedom and responsibility.
If you’ve found this post useful, you’ll love my Ebook Fifteen Days to Independent Kids. Check it out here.