Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dear Families,

Many of you know that I recently had the thrill of my life . . . I witnessed my first grandchild being born!  There’s no way to describe what that experience is like . . . but it is like witnessing the greatest of miracles and joys!  His name is Cornelius (Neilly) John.  For my daughter, her world is now forever changed.  She has someone to love unconditionally and to teach life’s important lessons.  On his fifth day in the world, she said, “I wish I knew what he’s thinking and what he’s wondering about.”  She got me thinking about the incredible role we have as parents, and the responsibilities we have for our children.

Recently, I read an article highlighting a handful of factors that psychology research says parents of successful children have in common.  And, while there is no ‘secret sauce or special recipe’, here are nine things worth thinking about. 
1.They make their kids do chores . . . teaching responsibility.
“If kids aren't doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them,” Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult”.  “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.  Lythcott-Haims believes kids raised on chores go on to become employees who collaborate well with their coworkers, are more empathetic because they know firsthand what struggling looks like, and are able to take on tasks independently.  She bases this on the Harvard Grant Study, the longest longitudinal study ever conducted.  By making them do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realize I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life,” she says. 

2. They teach their children social skills . . . enhancing competence.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University tracked more than 700 children from across the US between kindergarten and age 25 and found a significant correlation between their social skills as kindergartners and their success as adults two decades later. The 20-year study showed that socially competent children who could cooperate with their peers without prompting, be helpful to others, understand their feelings, and resolve problems on their own, were far more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25 than those with limited social skills.  This study shows that helping children develop social and emotional skills is one of the most important things we can do to prepare them for a healthy future,” said Kristin Schubert, program director at the Robert Wood Johnson foundation.
3. They have high expectations . . . instilling confidence.
Using data from a national survey of 6,600 children born in 2001, UCLA professor Neal Halfon and his colleagues discovered that the expectations parents hold for their kids have a huge effect on attainmentParents 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.  The finding came out in standardized tests: 96% of the kids who did the best were expected to go to college. This falls in line with another psychological finding: the Pygmalion effect, “what one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”  In the case of children, they live up to their parents' expectations.

4. They teach their children math early on . . . preparing academically.
2007 meta-analysis of 35,000 preschoolers across the US, Canada, and England found that developing math skills early can turn into a huge advantage.  The paramount importance of early math skills — of beginning school with a knowledge of numbers, number order, and other rudimentary math concepts — is one of the puzzles coming out of the study,” coauthor and Northwestern University researcher Greg Duncan said.  “Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement."
5. They develop a relationship with their children . . . loving unconditionally.
2014 study of 243 people born into poverty found that children who received "sensitive caregiving" in their first three years not only did better in academic tests in childhood, but had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30s.  As reported on PsyBlog, parents who are sensitive caregivers “respond to their child's signals promptly and appropriately” and “provide a secure base” for children to explore the world.  This suggests that investments in early parent-child relationships may result in long-term returns that accumulate across individuals' lives,” coauthor and University of Minnesota psychologist Lee Raby said.

6. They're less stressed . . . contributing to emotional well-being.
According to recent research cited by Brigid Schulte at The Washington Post, the number of hours that moms spend with children between ages 3 and 11 does little to predict the child's behavior, well-being, or achievement.  What's more, the "intensive mothering" or "helicopter parenting" approach can backfire.  Emotional contagion — or the psychological phenomenon where people "catch" feelings from one another like they would a cold — helps explain why. Research shows that if your friend is happy, that brightness will infect you; if she's sad, that gloominess will transfer as well.  So if a parent is exhausted or frustrated, that emotional state could transfer to the children. 
7.  They value effort over avoiding failure . . . developing a growth mindset.
Where kids think success comes from also predicts their attainment.  Over decades, Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, has discovered that children (and adults) think about success in one of two ways. Over at the always-fantastic Brain Pickings, Maria Popova says, they go a little something like this: 
A "fixed mindset" assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens that we can't change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.
A "growth mindset," on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of un-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. 
At the core is a distinction in the way you assume your will affects your ability, and it has a powerful effect on kids.  If kids are told that they aced a test because of their innate intelligence, that creates a "fixed" mindset.  If they succeeded because of effort, that teaches a "growth" mindset.

8. They teach GRIT . . . reinforcing motivation and perseverance.

In 2013, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth won a MacArthur “genius” grant for her uncovering of a powerful, success-driving personality trait called grit.  Defined as a “tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals,” her research has correlated grit with educational attainment, grade point average in Ivy League undergrads, retention in West Point cadets, and rank in the US National Spelling Bee.  It's about teaching kids to imagine — and commit — to a future they want to create. 

9. They are ‘authoritative’ rather than ‘authoritarian’ or ‘permissive’.

First published in the 1960s, University of California, Berkeley developmental psychologist Diana Baumride found there are basically three kinds of parenting styles:

·       Permissive: The parent tries to be non-punitive and accepting of the child 
·       Authoritarian: The parent tries to shape and control the child based on a set standard of conduct  
·       Authoritative: The parent tries to direct the child rationally 

The ideal is the authoritative. The child grows up with a respect for authority, but doesn't feel strangled by it. 

Parenting is such an awesome responsibility!  We are grateful for all you do on behalf of your children  . . . and for trusting us to raise them with you!

Best,
Peg