There's no denying that if you coast along and put forth minimal effort in raising your kids, there's a high likelihood they'll end up being mediocre (or even worse than mediocre, to be honest). Raising the highest achieving children will necessitate being intentional, disciplined and diligent. Here's what researchers say the parents of the most successful kids do differently.

They make sure Mom is happy

There's some credence to the phrase "Happy wife, happy life." That's according to researchers from the Marriage Foundation and the University of Lincoln who analyzed data from the Millennium Cohort study, a longitudinal survey conducted at the University of London, from which they gathered information regarding 13,000 U.K. couples with a child born in 2000 or 2001. They looked at how satisfied the couple was with their relationship when the child was nine months old. They then fast-forwarded 14 years to determine how happy the couple was, whether they were even still together, if their teenagers were displaying mental health problems, and how close the parents reported being with their teenagers.

It turns out that all four outcomes were more linked with the mother's initial happiness, compared with the father's. For example, Mom's happiness was twice as important than Dad's when it came to whether or not they would stay together. Mom's happiness was also twice as important when it came to predicting mental health issues in boys. As for girls, only their mother's happiness was found to be linked to their mental health as teens.

They role-model persistence

Imagine what your child's future would look like if he or she had the ability to persist in the face of challenges. Apparently, how you model your own persistence as a parent has a lot to do with it, say researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They looked at how well 520 four- and five-year-olds persisted by observing how much effort adults put into the same task. They also studied how the kids' persistence was affected by what adults said, such as "Trying hard is important." Children persisted the most when adults themselves expended effort at a task and talked about the necessity of pushing through, even with things get hard. 

They get engaged with their child's learning

That's according to researchers in England who conducted a study in which they surveyed and interviewed academic experts and reviewed recently published international studies regarding parental engagement and child academic achievement. They found that parents help young children the most by reading to them, listening to them read, helping them learn letters, numbers, songs and nursery rhymes, interacting positively with them and modeling parental literacy. When kids are older, they do better in school when their parents go on field trips, participate in the classroom, show an interest in school and monitor how kids are doing with homework and tests.

They get them to take music lessons

Researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama surveyed 2,323 parents of kids ages seven to 17 who were currently participating in some kind of private music lesson and found that the majority of parents see several ways music lessons help their kids manage their time and attention.

  • Eighty-five percent feel that lessons have improved their child's patience, resiliency and ability to finish tasks, even hard ones.
  • Sixty-eight percent believe that lessons have improved their child's ability to finish tasks on time as well their competence using a planner or calendar to track what's on their plate.
  • Eighty-three percent think that lessons have helped them be more self-aware and receive feedback to improve performance.
  • Sixty percent feel lessons have helped their child get better at self-monitoring and limiting screen time because they know it benefits them.
  • Seventy-one percent of parents believe that because of taking lessons their kids are better at prioritization and self-monitoring screen time because when they do so they have more time to do activities which are important to them.

While the study was commissioned by Guitar Center, which is certainly biased on the subject, it fits that  the daily practice involved in preparing to meet with a music instructor builds diligence and perseverance. It's also an appreciable amount of time kids aren't spending on their phones. 

They teach them to be indistractable

That's according to Stanford psychology expert Nir Eyal and author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. He says that in spite of the ubiquitous nature of digital distraction, becoming "indistractable" is the most important skill people will need in the future. Yet, it's also one that many parents don't teach their kids. The key, he insists, is that parents teach kids why limiting screen time is important and then give them the autonomy to set their own limits.

In the case of his own daughter, when she was young he and his wife sat her down and explained that the time she spent using the iPad meant less time doing other fun things like spending time with friends or going to the community pool. They then explained that the people who make the apps and videos she liked so much were designed so that she would want to spend a lot of time looking at a screen. Next, they asked her how much iPad time she thought she needed every day and instead of saying "all day," she offered "two shows."

The important thing is to inform kids about why limiting screen time is important, and then letting them choose their own limits. Now, as an older child, Eyal's daughter asks Amazon's Alexa to set timers to remind her when to get off her screen. "The important thing is that these are her rules, not ours, and that she's in charge of enforcing them," he writes. "Best of all, when her time is up, it's not her dad who has to be the bad guy; it's her device telling her she's had enough."