There comes a time in most parents' lives when their aspirations for their children exceed their aspirations for themselves.

Since I've become a parent myself, I've been on a mission to collect as much science-based advice as I can find on how to raise successful kids, and to share it both here on Inc.com and in a continuously updated free e-book, now in its third edition.

Here are some of the most interesting and useful strategies I've found and highlighted recently.

1. Nag your kids (to do the right things)

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that parents' super-high expectations for their children--specifically for their teenage daughters, and especially if they remind them constantly of those expectations--are among the most important factors in predicting whether they will grow up to become successful people. (Original story.)

As a university press release put it: "Behind every successful woman is a nagging mom? Teenage girls more likely to succeed if they have pushy mothers."

2. Learn the more effective way to praise them

Much of this comes from two studies involving school-age children, both led by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University--designed to examine the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. (Original story.)

To summarize, praising kids merely for their innate abilities, such as their intelligence, actually makes it less likely that they'll grow up to enjoy learning and to excel. Praising kids instead for the strategies and processes they develop to solve problems--even when they don't fully succeed--makes them more likely to try harder and ultimately achieve.

3. Send them outside to play

This research applied specifically to boys, but it's common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day--and never to have recess withheld as punishment. (Original story.)

Unfortunately, researchers say we're more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.

4. Develop their emotional intelligence

To be happy and successful, we all need to develop great relationships, and to develop those relationships, we need adequate emotional intelligence. The most important thing parents can do to encourage this development is to act as mentors who model good behavior in their own love and partnerships. (Original story.)

The research behind this comes largely from the Gottman Institute.

5. Read to them like this when they're young

The trick here is to "read on the inside" with your children, and it's based on research showing that adults who read literary fiction develop better intellectual empathy -- meaning they can learn to better understand the thoughts and motivations of others. (Original story.)

This is probably easier to explain by example. For one, instead of simply reading straight through a book with your children, for example, embrace dramatic pauses and interrupting the story at appropriate moments to encourage your children to put themselves into the minds of the characters.

6. Don't hover like a helicopter

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen students at Stanford University, is the author of the New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult. In it, she says one of the biggest problems facing parents and teenagers now is a phenomenon we've been hearing about since the 1990s: helicopter parenting. (Original story.)

Her advice for parents is multifaceted, but the most important piece is simply to be willing to let your kids try new things--and fail, without being shielded from all the consequences.

7. Make them do chores

Okay, we have one more from Lythcott-Haimes, who found that one common trait among successful adults in one of the largest studies of its kind, was that they reported having to do chores as children. (Original story.)

Lythcott-Haims told Tech Insider: "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. It's not just about me and what I need in this moment."

8. Teach them to be resilient

Resilience is defined as "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness," and it's a characteristic shared by some of the world's most successful people. (Original story.)

Teaching kids to develop resiliency involves things like setting good examples, demonstrating a commitment to serve others, practicing daily gratitude, and being a mentor--but not a savior who solves all of their problems for them.

9. Teach them to find inspiration

This last item admittedly is not exactly founded on science, so much as on experience. However, it's based on the prescriptions of retired Navy SEAL Admiral Bill McRaven in his bestseller, Make Your Bed, and it's some of the most popular advice I've been able to share. (Original story.)

In short, McRaven suggests ways to develop internal motivation and inspiration to achieve goals. His most famous advice--which sounds like it might be facetious but isn't--is (as his book's title suggests), to start every day by making your bed, so you'll have accomplished at least one small thing shortly after starting your day.

Published on: Jun 30, 2017
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