How to be a Parent of Successful Children

Want to know if you’re going to raise a successful child? According to the research, there are 12 key traits that parents of successful children have in common. Business Insider has summarised them here:

They make their kids do chores

Using measures of individual’s success such as completion of education, getting started on a career path, IQ, relationships with family and friends, and not using drugs, and examining a child’s involvement in household tasks at all three earlier time, Rossmann determined that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four. However, if they did not begin participating until they were 15 or 16, the participation backfired and those subjects were less “successful.” The assumption is that responsibility learned via household tasks is best when learned young.  – University of Minnesota

The value of doing chores:

  • Helps children build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.
  • Teaches children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.
  • May help improve mental health.

How to set chores:

  • Focus on “being a helper” as opposed to merely “helping out” as it increases your child’s desire to pitch in.
  • Set time for chores alongside homework or soccer practice to reinforce consistency.
  • Keep chores separate from allowances – paying kids to do their chores decreases their motivation to help.
  • Chores should be tasks that benefit the whole family (e.g. sorting the recycling) rather than self-care (e.g. cleaning own bedroom) to promote prosocial behaviour.
  • Work on chores together – everyone should be pitching in at the same time.
  • Don’t use chores as punishment – keep it neutral.

successful children have strong social skillsThey teach their kids social skills

A comprehensive 20-year examination from the American Journal of Public Health of 800 children from kindergarten through their mid-20s found a link between a child’s social skills in kindergarten and how well they were doing in early adulthood.

Children who were helpful and shared in kindergarten were more likely to have graduated college and have a full-time job at age 25. The children who had problems resolving conflicts, sharing, cooperating and listening as kindergartners were less likely to have finished high school and college, and they were more likely to have substance abuse problems and run-ins with the law. – CNN

See also: Nurture Shock – Plays Well with Others

How to teach social skills:

See also: 101 Ways to Teach Children Social Skills

They have high expectations

In 1964, a group of elementary school students were given a special test by a Harvard psychologist, Robert Rosenthal. Rosenthal then reported to the class teacher that the results revealed certain students would bloom academically. In the next school year, the students who were highlighted had excelled as predicted. On average, the first-graders increased their IQ scores by more than 27 points. It was then revealed that the special test was faked and that the bloomers had been chosen at random. It had been the teachers’ belief in their students’ potential, not any innate advantage, that spurred these students to achieve. This effect has been name the Pygmalion effect.

The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. – Wikipedia

The problem with the Pygmalion effect is that it is tied to subconscious belief. Like the placebo effect, it doesn’t work if we don’t really believe in our children. The pygmalion effect comes from our subconscious behaviours, micro-expressions, and other non-verbal communications that we express unconsciously.

pygmalion affect on successful children
Image Source: Discover

If our children will live up to, or down to, our expectations based on our unwitting body language, perhaps the first person we need to work on is ourselves.

They have higher education levels

Studies (Dubow et al, 2009, Tang et al, 2014) have linked parents’ education levels to their children’s educational and occupational success. Since this is an “after the fact” piece of information that we cannot change, there isn’t much to say about it. Then again, you could start a new course of study to model to your child your own high personal aspirations and hope it rubs off.

successful children learn math earlyThey teach kids Math early on

“Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement. And it does so just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success.” – Greg Duncan, Northwestern University

A meta-analysis of 35,000 preschoolers revealed that early math skills are a strong predictor of later achievement (Duncan et al, 2007). Here’s how you can start early:

They develop relationships with their kids

The quality of children’s early caregiving experiences has an enduring and ongoing role in promoting successful social and academic development into the years of maturity. – Dr. Lee Raby

A study of 243 people born into poverty found that sensitive caregiving in the first three years of life predicted academic achievement and social competence from childhood through to adulthood. Sensitive caregiving involved:

  • prompt and appropriate responses to children’s signals.
  • positive interactions with children
  • providing a secure base for children to explore the world

See also: Early Childhood Development – What Neuroscience Says About Parenting, Care and Learning

They are less stressed

Parents who can manage their own stress well, provide an optimal environment for children to grow and develop in:

“the most critical thing that we can transmit to our kids is not our ever-present, undying love – it’s actually to provide them with a sense of calm and the absence of stress, which he says may be more powerful than declarations of love. This is what will ultimately help their growing brains wire normally, without having to accommodate for some vague sense of impending danger as they develop, which may or may not exist.” – David Code, Forbes

Here’s how we can manage our own stress:

The Mums work outside the home

In a new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on child care and housework. – The New York Times

Even though the study supports working mothers, The New York Times is also quick to point out that children whose parents spend high-quality time with them are also more likely to succeed (see above: parent relationships with children). The main point of this finding is that mothers who work outside the home convey non-traditional gender roles to their daughters. Exposure to mothers who work show children the “alternatives around what’s appropriate behavior for boys and for girls, and that those alternatives aren’t constrained by really tight gender stereotypes” (Kathleen L. McGinn, professor at Harvard Business School).

Given the changing nature of employment opportunities and the increasing number of mothers who now work from home, I believe the true bottom line is for children to understand that mothers have a life beyond the typical domestic responsibilities of taking care of the home and looking after the children. Now that we also have a growing population of stay-home Dads, I should think that boys are also learning about their non-traditional options.

They have higher socioeconomic status

Socioeconomic status predicts children’s cognitive ability at kindergarten entry. The factors contributing to the disparity in reading and math ability were family background, health, home learning, parenting, and early care and education factors.

Children in lower SES quintiles had younger mothers, less frequent parent reading, less home computer use (27%–84%), and fewer books at home (26–114). Parent’s supportive interactions, expectations for their child to earn a college degree (57%–96%), and child’s preschool attendance (64%–89%) increased across quintiles. Candidate explanatory factors explained just over half the gradients, with family background factors explaining 8% to 13%, health factors 4% to 6%, home learning environment 18%, parenting style/beliefs 14% to 15%, and early education 6% to 7% of the gaps between the lowest versus highest quintiles in reading and math. – Larson et al, 2015

In other words, some of the important factors were:

While these interventions may not take into account all the negative factors of low SES, it is a start in the right direction.

successful childrenThey teach grit

In study after study over the past dozen years, the research has shown that you can be smart and talented and curious but still not reach your potential (and having things come easily may actually work against you) if you don’t also develop a capacity to work hard and persist through setbacks over time. – Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence

How can we inculcate grittiness? We can start with these three things:

  1. The Growth Mindset
  2. Self-Control
  3. Deliberate Practice

See also: Raising Kids with Grit

They give their kids bias-proof names

If you already have children then there’s really not much to be done unless you’re considering a name-change. If you’re planning to have another child, here are a few things to think about for your next child’s name:

  • Make it easy to pronounce.
  • Pick a common name.
  • Keep it short for your boys – not too many syllables; make it longer for your girls.
  • Give them a white-sounding name.
  • Choose a name that starts with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet.
  • Add a middle name.
  • Keep your boys’ names masculine and your girls’ names gender neutral.

They understand the importance of good nutrition and eating habits

successful children - brain foodsEat breakfast

Children who do not eat breakfast at home or at school were less able to learn. Hunger can lead to lower math scores, attention problems, and behavior, emotional, and academic problems. Furthermore, studies show that children who are consistently or often hungry are more likely to repeat a grade.

Feed the brain

Certain foods linked to improved brain function include:

  • Walnuts boost memory, concentration and processing speed.
  • Blackcurrents improve mood, attention and accuracy.
  • Nuts, lean beef, dark chocolate, blueberries, fish, wholegrains, beans, leafy greens, apple, and blackberries protect and improve brain function.

Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration ensures optimal brain function. Dehydration can affect memory, executive function, attention and other cognitive functions.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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