Nobody ever said being a parent was easy. Raising kids who do well in the world doesn't happen on its own, and even when you do everything right, things can go wrong. But it certainly helps to know what you can do to increase the chances that your children take the paths that lead to health and happiness. Here are several things researchers have found parents of successful kids do differently.
They let them figure out how to use their own time
Statistics regarding the mental health of young people are staggering. According to a study recently published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, between 2009 and 2017 rates of depression increased by more than 40 percent for teens aged 14 to 17 and 47 percent for kids 12 to 13. And young people in those age groups visited emergency departments with suicidal thoughts or actions at twice the rate in 2015 compared with 2007. According to Kim Brooks, author of Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear, part of the problem is that parents structure every minute of their kids' lives and prioritize safety and supervision over emotional and social development. Unstructured, unsupervised play is practically non-existent today, and it's to the detriment of kids who don't get the chance to practice social skills like making friends and figuring out how to handle interpersonal problems.
They help struggling readers
The ability to read well is a valuable skill that affects myriad realms in a person's life. Yet according to reading researcher Kindel Turner Nash, only about a third of all eighth-graders can read at or above grade level. The best parents take a hands-on approach to helping their kids thrive in this area. Nash advocates the "Read Two Impress Plus" method of practicing reading, which she describes this way:
- Select reading materials that will challenge the child.
- Read passages that reflect the child's culture, language, and interests.
- Read expressively, making sure the child hears you.
- Guide the child's finger, with your hand over her hand, across the words.
- Read simultaneously with the child, but have him read everything aloud a few moments later than you.
- Re-read these passages or stories, using the same techniques.
If you practice reading in this way nearly every day for 10-15 minutes, your child's reading ability will most likely improve.
They are mindful about what they share on social networks regarding their children
Sharenting is the oversharing of information about your kids on social networks. In one study, researchers found that 70 percent of parents who use social media have seen other parents sharing things online that could embarrass a child, including personal information that gives a child's location or photos of a child that could be deemed inappropriate. Why do we want to do this? The best parents protect the privacy of their children and teach them via example that not everything needs to be made public, especially since what goes online stays there forever.
They don't let them have a TV in the bedroom
Canadian researchers looked at data regarding more than 1,800 children who participated in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. They looked at children who had a television in their bedroom at age 4 and found that at ages 12 and 13 these kids were more likely to have a higher body mass index, unhealthier eating habits, and higher levels of emotional distress. They were also more prone to depressive symptoms, victimization, physical aggression, and lower levels of sociability. There's no need for another screen taking up residence in your child's space. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that bedrooms be screen-free zones and that screen time be limited for kids of all ages.
They have a hands-on approach to education
According to a research conducted at the University of Missouri, when parents get involved with their kids' education early in the school year, kids are less likely to have problems with concentration and behavior later in the year. Parents of the most successful kids make it a priority to help with homework, communicate regularly with teachers, attend school events, volunteer at school, and join parent groups. "In addition to being less likely to have emotional or behavioral issues in class, we also found that students with engaged parents ended the year with better social skills and were able to focus on tasks easier," said Tyler Smith, a senior research associate in MU's College of Education. "This means that when parents are more involved at school, the benefits to their child grow over time."