Parenting is tough. No matter who you are, how much money you make or whatever other resources you have available, doing it right involves the simple recipe of time plus attention. And according to the research, there are several things the parents of the most successful kids do differently.
1. They role model volunteering
Parents who volunteer are more likely to have children who volunteer. And volunteering is good for kids. Research has shown altruistic behavior builds social skills, decreases negative mood and lowers the risk of cardiovascular health problems. Plus, young people who volunteer attain higher levels of education and earnings. In fact, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that even when kids are forced to volunteer, they benefit academically and occupationally. They think it's because the social skills kids gain as well as the relationships they build with influential connections serve as assets in the future.
2. They teach kids how to cook
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education, young people who learn to prepare and cook meals grow into adults who eat more vegetables and eat fast food less often. How does this affect success? A higher body mass index--as one might attain by not eating vegetables and ingesting crap food--has been found to be associated with lower socioeconomic status.
3. They steer teens away from caffeine
It's because the widely-used stimulant may predispose a person to addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that rats which drank caffeine during adolescence self-administered cocaine more often, and tried harder to get it, compared with caffeine-free rats. While the argument could be made that what's true for rats doesn't translate to humans, other studies have found a correlation between caffeine use and the abuse of other drugs and alcohol.
4. They help their kids become strong readers and writers
Researchers looked at data from 346,660 students who were in high school in 1960 in terms of certain behaviors and attitudes as well as personality traits, cognitive abilities, parental socioeconomic status and demographics. Years later they surveyed thousands of these same individuals to determine how much education they achieved, how much money they made, as well as their level of occupational prestige. Those who were better at reading and writing--skills which predispose a person to doing well in school--ended up with more education and more prestigious jobs later in life.
5. They don't give up on exposing kids to the right things
Take the problem of picky eaters, for example. It's the easiest thing in the world to give kids only the foods they like, instead of battling over eating healthy, but unappealing, options. But open-mindedness often comes through repeated exposure along with the right wording. In a study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers offered preschoolers several kinds of healthy foods over the course of six weeks, and said things like "Lentils will help you run faster." A month after the study ended, parents found their kids were eating twice as much of the foods they were exposed to in the experiment.