12 Ways to Prepare Your Kids to Lead Happy, Successful Lives
Every parent wants to raise their children in a way that prepares them to live fulfilled, happy, productive lives. I'm trying to be the best father in the world.
Then life's reality hits. Many people, like myself, get a little lazy and lax on some of the rules and guidance children need. I'm a working entrepreneur putting in 12-plus hours a day building a better future for my family. I can't run a business and study parenting at the same time, right?
Wrong. Put down that child rearing book. I've done the homework for you and listed the 12 scientifically proven best ways to set your kids up for success, both personally and professionally. This advice works for children at any age.
1. Move to the best neighborhood you can afford.
The best move parents can make for their children is to a neighborhood with excellent schools, more career opportunities and the opportunity to grow up with peers who value education, hard work and achievement. Note: you don't even have to be wealthy to make this happen.
Although controversial, research has found moving to a better neighborhood is a better investment than tutoring and extracurricular activities like piano lessons.
"Forty to 50 years of social science research tells us what an important context neighborhoods are, so buying a home in a safe and respected neighborhood is probably one of the most important things you can do for your kid," says Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. "There’s mixed evidence on whether buying all these other things matter. But buying into a great neighborhood provides huge advantages."
Some suggest you buy the cheapest house in the best neighborhood, but that could backfire. If you don’t have the money for a house in a wealthy neighborhood, search for family-friendly neighborhoods that have homes within your budget. Neighborhood Scout is a great resource to start your search.
2. Become a happier and less stressed person yourself.
Research has proven adults thrive in business when they are happy and less stressed. The same is true for parenting. Carolyn and Philip Cowan, psychologists at the University of California, have found happy parents are more likely to have happy children. According to the husband-and-wife psychologists, "The children do not fare well if the adults aren't taking care of themselves and their relationships."
Research from Bowling Green State University sociologist Kei Nomaguchi found that "Mothers' stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of the juggling with work and trying to find time with kids, that may actually be affecting their kids poorly."
Emotions are contagious. If you’re miserable and stressed, your children are going to catch those feelings like a cold.
Related: What is Emotional Intelligence and Why Does it Matter?
3. Make them do chores.
Whether it was mowing the grass, taking out the trash, washing dishes, walking the dog or folding laundry, when I was growing up my parents were always assigning me chores. I hated it but thankfully, they didn't ease up. It taught me the value of hard work and collaborating to get things done -- one of us kids washed the dishes, another dried. Most importantly, it taught me responsibility.
During a TED Talks Live Event, Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of "How to Raise an Adult," said "If kids aren't doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so they're absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole," she said.
4. Make your kids read daily and learn math at early age.
During his five years studying the behaviors and habits of self-made millionaires, best-selling author Thomas Curley found that, “Sixty three percent of those self-made millionaires were required by their parents to read two or more books a month.”
The parents insisted their kid read biographies, history, nonfiction, literary classics or hobby books, and they quizzed them about what they had read. Curley believes not encouraging your children to read daily is “failing your kids.”
Besides encouraging your children to read, teach them math skills starting young.
"We find the single most important factor in predicting later academic achievement is that children begin school with a mastery of early math and literacy concepts," said Northwestern University researcher Greg Duncan. "Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success."
Related: A CEO's Tips for Raising Work-Smart Kids
5. Set high expectations.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics discovered that parent’s expectations predict their child’s success in school.
“The big surprise was what a strong role parents’ long-term goals for their children played in predicting their math and reading abilities,” said Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s senior author and director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities.
“Parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets,” he said.
6. Praise them correctly.
If you haven’t explored the exciting work regarding mindset from Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, then I suggest that you immediately do so. It’s greatly influenced me as an entrepreneur.
According to Dweck, a fixed mindset believes that talent and skill are innate and can not be changed -- you're only as good at something as you were born to be. A growth mindset, however, believes that talents can be developed over time and skills learned with sufficient effort.
This idea applies to how to praise your kids. When they earn a high score on a science test or win a soccer trophy, praise them for their hard work and effort instead of telling them they are smart or talented. Although we mean to compliment our kids, praising them for innate qualities encourages a fixed mindset that can undermine their confidence when they try and don't succeed at first. Praising children for effort encourages a growth mindset. We want our kids confident in their ability to learn and solve problems.
Related: Billionaire Mark Cuban on Raising Kids: 'I Don't Want Them to Be Entitled Jerks'
7. Create family rituals.
Research has found that children with strong social skills in kindergarten will thrive as adults. One of the best and most enjoyable ways to encourage these social skills is with family rituals. According to researchers Dr. Dawn Eaker and Dr. Lynda Walters, these family rituals are as simple as cooking meals together, family game night, evening walks and annual vacations. Consider weekly family meetings to review what you did and didn’t do well in the past week and what you’ll work on in the coming week.
8. Teach them to be “gritty.”
Angela Duckworth, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Founder and CEO of Character Lab, defines grit “as passion and perseverance for especially long-term goals.”
Throughout her research, Duckworth found a correlation between grit and rank in the US National Spelling Bee, educational attainment, grade-point average in Ivy League undergrads and retention of West Point cadets.
Teach grit by trying to “cultivate something which grabs their attention initially, but that they become familiar with enough, knowledgeable enough that they wake up the next day and the next day and the next year, and they’re still interested in this thing,” Duckworth said.
After that, encourage your kids to keep practicing and connect a purpose to their hard work.
Related: 11 Signs You Have the Grit Needed to Succeed
9. Help them build meaningful relationships.
Jack Shonkoff and Deborah Phillips discovered that having strong relationships is essential for children’s growth and psychological well-being. Children who do not have meaningful relationships tend to perform poorly in school, are more likely to get in trouble with the law and often develop psychiatric problems.
Help your children foster healthy and strong relationships with play dates and participation in activities they enjoy. Teach them how to manage their emotions and resolve conflicts by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence.
Every parent should read "Top of Mind" by John Hall. In this book, he teaches readers how to build meaningful relationships by keeping yourself at top of mind with those around you.
10. Teach them to be all-around healthy.
Healthy habits are vital for success as adults and kids both. Set boundaries that encourage your kids to get plenty of sleep, eat healthily and be active. For example, don’t let them sit inside and play videos all day. Send them outside to play. Teach them the health benefits of taking care of themselves instead of focusing on their appearance or complaining how guilty you feel after buying them fast food. Teach good habits by making healthy dinners together, family bike rides or setting aside time for writing in your gratitude journals.
11. Give them bias-proof names.
There is a wide-range of research that has found that your name affects your success. For instance, people with names easy to pronounce tend to be better liked. If your name is common, you’ll have a better chance of getting hired.
12. Encourage entrepreneurship.
Based on his research, Bill Murphy Jr. found that a majority of successful entrepreneurs were encouraged to act like entrepreneurs at an early age through:
- Personally observing an entrepreneur while growing up.
- Being encouraged to start their own business as a kid - even if it was just mowing lawns.
- Learn to collect money. Teach them how to invoice clients on their own.
- Being motivated because of necessity, such as being poor or experiencing a setback.
- Being challenged by their parents to think of creative ways to make money.
Here is to becoming the best parents on the block.