If raising kids to be successful were an easy thing, a lot more people would be wealthy, healthy, and surrounded with great relationships. In reality, getting children from infancy to adulthood so that they grow into thriving human beings takes a lot of work and intention. Here are several things experts say the parents of the most successful kids do differently.

They get kids to play outdoors

Kids are playing outdoors less than ever before, resulting in higher levels of inactivity and obesity as well as lower levels of cognitive, physical, emotional, social, and motor learning, which all play into healthy adolescent adjustment. But a recent study found another interesting benefit of kids spending time in nature: It boosts their confidence. Researchers had 451 8- and 9-year olds complete surveys before and after participating in outdoor activities and found that 79 percent of them reported feeling more confident in themselves afterward. This is important because experts have consistently found a correlation between confidence and success.

They foster family resilience

Meaning, they work together with kids to overcome family problems. Apparently, kids raised in families that behave this way have a lower chance of being bullied. Recent research suggests that when it comes to handling adversity resilient families talk together about what to do, understand what strengths they have to draw on, and stay hopeful even in hard times.

They encourage kids to take risks

According to Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, teenagers are meant to take risks. Doing so helps them learn about the world and how to operate in it. Not taking risks can even cause young people anxiety. But for them to take chances and experience the consequences of their decisions, they need to feel secure that their parents support them and love them unconditionally. "Keeping children from ever taking risks or experiencing their consequences may be counterproductive," she writes. "But a sense of parental care and stability appears to be just what's needed for children to take risks productively and learn something new."

They help adult children build financial muscle

Fewer than one in four adults are financially independent by age 22, with parents shelling out an estimated $500 billion to help adult children. That's double what parents are saving for their own retirement. But according to financial writer Carla Fried, anyone who has even a small concern about retirement security needs to dial back on how much money they're giving to adult children. She suggests, at a minimum, that grown kids pay their share of the phone bill and a portion of the monthly health insurance premium. "Money for groceries so they don't exist on a ramen diet or helping make rent on a shared apartment are reasonable assists," she writes. "Cosigning a loan for a new car (which should be a used car), or contributing to rent for their own place (rather than shared) is you not setting smart limits."

They cultivate grit along with academic and physical training

Grit is the ability to persevere through hardship to meet long-term goals. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth and colleagues have studied the characteristic in a prospective, longitudinal study of more than 11,000 West Point cadets, and found that grit, intelligence, and physical capacity all affect a person's ability to succeed. They found that grit, in particular, is very important when it comes to getting through a brutal six-week West Point initiation process. But during the four years of combined academic and physical training that follow, cognitive ability most strongly predicts how well cadets do with their studies. They also found that grit and physical ability are more important than cognitive ability when it comes to who actually graduates.

Published on: Dec 17, 2019
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