Every parent wants their kids to thrive, but if raising high-achieving kids was simple everyone would do it. Here's what science says about how you can help your children to succeed in life.

1. Let them feel the discomfort of failure.

Researchers from Ohio State University, the University of Kansas and Stanford University asked 98 college students to search online for the least expensive version of a certain kind of blender, with the chance to win cash if they succeeded. Before learning if they won, half the participants were instructed to focus on their emotional response to how they did, and the other half told to merely think about their performance. The task was rigged, though, and all the students learned that the lowest price was several dollars less than what they found. When asked to perform a similar task later, the participants who had earlier focused on the negative emotions of losing spent 25 percent more time searching for an item, compared with the students who didn't dwell on their emotions. The latter group tended to make excuses for why they didn't win, whereas the students who focused on their emotional responses used the pain of failing to work harder and improve.

2. Get involved with school.

According to data analyzed by the nonprofit research organization Child Trends, kids have fewer behavioral problems and do better academically when their parents are involved with their school. When you attend a meeting at school, meet with a teacher, volunteer or serve on a committee it helps you better understand what's happening in this realm of your child's life. You're also better able to coordinate efforts with teachers to make sure schoolwork gets done and your child is on his or her best behavior. And teachers of students with highly involved parents actually pay more attention to those students.

3. Don't give them alcohol (even sips).

Science doesn't support the notion that it's safer for teenagers to drink at home versus out of your sight. Australian researchers followed 1,927 parents and adolescents for six years and found that kids who received alcohol only from parents had higher odds of later binge drinking, alcohol-related harm and symptoms of alcohol use disorder, compared with those who were not supplied alcohol. Plus, the researchers found that parental provision of alcohol also increased the chances that kids would also get booze from other sources.

4. Give adult children direct financial support.

You'd think letting your college grad live at home for free would be helpful, but the numbers don't show it. A researcher at North Carolina State University crunched data on 7,542 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 28, looking at the kinds of jobs they got as well as what kind of support parents gave them. She found that young people who received direct financial support--money--from parents had higher occupational status, compared with those who received indirect support, such as living at home. Want to help your adult kids leave the nest? It helps to have a plan: draw up a contract, insist they do chores, make a budget to pay down debt and set a goal for a move-out date.

Published on: Jul 6, 2018