Science Says Parents of the Most Successful Kids Do These 6 Things

Want your kids to lead happy and fulfilled lives? Here are some tips for getting them started on the right foot.

We all want to lead happy, successful lives. But for parents, there’s a time when your priorities shift a bit, and your most important goals start to involve setting your kids up for success and happiness in their own lives.

Parental priorities aren’t the only factor, of course. There are plenty of stories out there about people who defied the odds and achieved great success despite their parents’ involvement, not because of it.

Still, scientists and researchers have made a lot of progress studying what the parents of the larger share of successful people have in common. Here are 6 of the most important things those parents do.

1. They move to the best neighborhood they can afford.

Moving can be expensive and disruptive. But parents who want to give their kids a leg up and set them on the road to success will uproot their lives if necessary. The No. 1 thing they can do is to move to a location with good schools, great opportunities, and the chance to grow up with more privileged peers.

This advice is controversial, but it’s effective. It’s why parents in developing countries try to immigrate to wealthier nations, and it’s the thinking behind the advice to “buy the cheapest house you can find in the best neighborhood.”

2. They model and encourage good relationships.

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period. So what do parents of successful kids do, armed with that knowledge? It’s simple to say and hard to execute: They model good relationships with friends and family, and they encourage their children to nurture their relationships, too.

3. They praise their children the right way.

Parents of successful kids learn to praise in a way that encourages positive lifelong habits. This means praising children for the strategies and processes they use to solve problems, rather than praising them for their innate abilities.

Don’t praise a child for getting a high grade on a test; praise her for the studying she did, which led to the result.

Don’t praise for winning a race or a game; instead, offer praise for all the sweat she put in during practice—again, which led to the result.

Don’t say, “You’re so smart!” or “You’re such a talented singer!” Instead, you want to find a way to say things like, “You did a great job figuring out that problem,” or, “You sound so great—all those hours of practice paid off!”

The goal is always to encourage kids to develop a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset.

4. They encourage them to do scut work.

One of the best pieces of advice we can give for parents is to make their kids do chores–and never do their homework for them!

“Teach them the skills they’ll need in real life, and give them enough leash to practice those skills on their own,” said Lythcott-Haims, who based her conclusions on the Harvard Grant Study. “Chores build a sense of accountability.”

5. They ensure their kids know they will always support them.

Don’t worry, we don’t mean that you’ll always support them financially!

Perhaps surprisingly, the science supports the “run to their side” style of parenting. It’s about responding supportively—while not solving all your kids’ problems for them.

“Parents who respond to their children’s emotions in a comforting manner have kids who are more socially well-adjusted than do parents who either tell their kids they are overreacting or who punish their kids for getting upset,” said child psychologist Nancy Eisenberg of Arizona State University.

6. They help them to become resilient.

Resilience, defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,” is an underpinning of success. It’s what allows people to, as Sir Winston Churchill put it, “go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

And that undaunted attitude is what allows them to work through problems without fear of coming up short.

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