There is A LOT of parenting research out there. There are thousands of facts researchers would like parents to know. But here I narrow down to just six things science wants you to know about raising your kid.
1) Build a solid foundation
Science says that spending time as a family is highly beneficial for your entire family. According to the available studies:
– Children in families that hang out on a regular basis have fewer behavioral issues. These children also have better social, academic and psychological outcomes.
– Family bonding activities are important for the construction of your child’s sense of identity.
– The more families spent time together, the higher the chances of strong sibling relationships
- Strengthening your parent-child bonds goes a long way in reducing children’s problem behavior
- A family that regularly participates in bonding activities can cope more easily with life’s difficult challenges
- Children raised in a close-knit family are less likely to turn to self-injurious and destructive behavior
In these fast-paced times, it can be difficult to find the time to spend with your kids and family. The good news is that there are countless ways to connect as a family. Rather than focusing only on how much time you spend together, focus on what you do during those moments you spend together: does everyone participate in choosing the family activity? Does everyone participate in making the activity a success (for example, if it involves activities such as cooking)? Is everyone happy to participate in the chosen activity? Activities such as a family movie-night are often a great choice if there is a big age gap between your children.
Daily routines are an easy and perfect solution to hang out with your child. They help you ensure that you spend a specific moment with your child every day. But sticking to routines can be tough – to increase your chances of success, keep your routines “short and sweet”.
Below is a free 30-day challenge to help you spend more time with your kid. And here’s the best part: all activities can be done within 10 to 15 minutes and are completely free.
2) Put yourself on your list of priorities
Parenting is tough and tiring, and feelings of doubt and overwhelm are not an uncommon occurrence. But here’s the thing: you cannot take care of your child if you are tired and feeling anxious, and that’s perfectly normal. You are more likely to get upset by your son’s “normal behavior” when you are stressed, just like you are more likely to yell at your daughter when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Parenting self-efficacy is defined as the extent to which you feel capable of effectively managing the parenting challenges you encounter. Research suggests that stress and depression have an impact on this sense of self-efficacy. To more easily cope with parenting, it is therefore important to take care of yourself first. This may mean blocking off 20 minutes a day to do whatever it is that makes you happy, taking afternoons off to do something that relaxes you, chatting with your “support network” on a regular basis, and so on. Sharing parental tasks with your partner, knowing which “stressful people” to avoid (for example those who always criticize your parenting or make you feel like a bad parent) and encouraging your children to participate in age-appropriate chores can make you enjoy parenting more.
3) Making your child accountable makes him happier and more confident
Several researchers agree that the more your child is held accountable for his actions, the higher the chances that he will develop more self-control. According to them, if you teach your child that “messing up is okay, but everyone has to deal with their mess”, he will learn to be more accountable for his actions.
For example, asking your child who has spilled water on the table to help dry it teaches him what to do the next time he spills water, shows him that it is normal to “make amends” for mistakes or blunders, and also improves your relationship (you no longer have to get upset every time your kids drop or spill something and you have to clean up after them because they do it themselves).
Accountability is also about expecting your children to participate in household activities, and that includes household chores. We now know that the earlier children begin to help out around the house, the earlier they learn that they are capable of success, and this has an impact in other areas of their lives. Rossman, a professor at the University of Mississippi, says that starting chores early is among the greatest predictors of success as an adult. And there is more: the more your child participates in regular, reasonable and age-appropriate chores, the higher the social, emotional and academic benefits. Chores teach kids important skills such as responsibility, self-reliance and accountability.
An easy was to get started is to determine all your household chores and ask your child to choose those that are appropriate depending on his or her age. Using age-appropriate chore cards is an easy way to encourage your child to participate in household chores and to help him identify age-appropriate chores.
4) Success breed success
Have you ever wondered why it is always the same students who consistently have good grades or bad grades? Although all children are different and have different skills and abilities, we now know that the more your child feels capable of success, the more she is likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: if you child keeps failing, he learns to believe that all he is capable of is failure. Seligman coined the term “learned helplessness” to refer to a loss of motivation and confidence when one constantly experiences failure. According to him, this learned helplessness is often reflected in children’s attitudes: avoidance, stress, lack of motivation, aggressivity, a “don’t care attitude”, and so on.
Seligman is not the only researcher to prove that everyone craves success when they take on an activity, and when they fail, they can experience feelings that range from shame, to frustration, to behavior such as anxiety of even tantrums.
The easiest way to help your child avoid or overcome learned helplessness is to ensure that she has opportunities for success. This means setting reasonable expectations with challenging but achievable tasks.
The good news is that any task that helps her achieve success is good enough. This may involve performing the simple household chores I spoke about earlier, allowing her to help you complete a task (giving her the feeling that you need her), or even the successful completion of a more academic task.
If your child is already struggling with seeing herself as a successful person, ensure that she knows exactly what she is supposed to do, and do not forget to highlight her every success!
5) A growth mindset beats a fixed mindset any day
Your child has a positive or negative explanatory style, and this determines how he makes sense of the things that happen to him. If your child feels helpless when faced with difficult life events, he is more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and poorer problem-solving skills. This is what science refers to as a negative explanatory style.
A child with a positive explanatory style sees negative events as temporary, and while he understands that he cannot always control the things that happen in his life, he can control how he reacts to them.
How your child reacts to failure, for instance, is a good indicator of his explanatory style. If he has a negative explanatory style, he will naturally shift to pessimist thoughts: “I’m stupid”, “I’ll never make it”, “I’m never ever good”. But, if he has a positive style, he will have a more optimistic outlook to life’s events: “Tomorrow will be better”, “I’ll try harder”, “It’s not that important”, and so on.
Caroline Dweck’s growth-mindset theory goes in the same direction, especially with regard to failure. According to Dweck, if your child has a fixed mindset, he is unlikely to focus on what he can do to change his performance and is more likely to view himself as a “failure”. On the contrary, if he has a growth mindset, he is able to reflect on how he can improve his performance:
- Next time I can try…
- Next time I will revise differently…
- Next time I will avoid…
The “This is what it takes to raise a succesful adult” workbook will walk you through the process of boosting your childs’s independent thought, growth mindset and accountability.
6) Know what works for you
If there is one thing that everyone agrees on, it is that there isn’t one right way to parent. All kids are different, all parents are different, and determining what works for you and your child is your pathway to becoming a happier and more fulfilled parent, and having a happier and more fulfilled child.
So, the first thing is to adopt a more intentional parenting approach. This means being aware of what parenting means to you, the parenting values that matter most to you, and, most importantly, both your personality and your child’s personality.
Although it may not always look like it, your child wants to please you and most of her behavior will revolve around trying to get your attention, be it using positive or negative means. Here is the golden rule of parenting: No matter what you do, create a warm and secure relationship with your child and ensure that she feels free to express herself. But that does not mean giving her free rein to do as she pleases. It means setting reasonable expectations of her, letting her know what those expectations are, and remaining flexible, warm and receptive.