We all worry, to some extent, about how financially successful we'll be. But if you're a parent, there's an extension of that concern that gets talked about less often, which is the financial success of your children.

Of course, it's not all about the money. Parents should do what they can to help enable a child's happiness and raise them to be well-adjusted. But if you knew you could do something to increase the likelihood of your adult child becoming financially successful (without sacrificing their happiness/overall well-being), I'm betting you'd want to do it.

Well, now you can. A 30-year study published last month in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry followed the lives of 2,850 6-year-old children. They found participants who went on to make less annual income between the ages of 33-35 all had one common trait demonstrated at a young age.


I'll define this in a moment, but first it's important to note the extent of the impact. The income difference between high-attentive and low-attentive children in the study took into account IQ and family adversity factors (although it didn't account for general economy or individual debt factors). Over a 25-year career, the difference amounted to approximately $75,000 in income (roughly $3,000 lost or extra income for men, $2,000 for women). Not exactly pocket change.

Now for the definition of "inattention": the researchers considered inattention to be a lack of sharing, poor focus, blaming others/showing aggression, and high levels of anxiousness.

This means that as parents, if you can work with your children on these inattentive behaviors, you just might have an impact on their earnings three decades later. Here are some power tips to get started on doing just that.

1. Encourage sharing.

Experts at parentsplace (a resource/education blog for parents) say you shouldn't force your child to share but should instead introduce the concept of taking turns (even using a timer to demonstrate they will get their shared item back).

They also suggest asking the child to put away special toys they don't want to share before a friend comes over (hey, you don't want anyone driving your Ferrari, right?) and giving them enough playtime opportunities with other kids to enable practice in sharing.

2. Help your child to focus.

Clinical psychologist Jamie Howard says to improve your child's concentration it's important to break up their big tasks into smaller tasks with more manageable pieces (good advice for adults too), and to encourage them to focus on one thing at a time (not easy to do, but necessary in an increasingly multi-tasking world).

Experts at Oxford Learning (a child tutoring company) say you should also create an uncluttered workspace for your child when it comes time to do homework. The fewer physical and visual distractions in that workspace, the more it helps them to focus and ingrain habits of doing so. My daughter has improved on this front, but the access to devices makes it a challenge my wife and I have to continually stay on top of.

3. Assist your child in getting along with others.

Child development expert at Parents.com, Dr. Wayne Fleisig, says it's important to work with your child on developing empathy. When you and the child witness something happening in the world that requires such an emotion, ask him/her, "How do you think that made that person feel?" or "Why did that person do that to the other?"

You can also work with them on figuring out how to handle their anger constructively and teach them to be aware of how others feel when they lash out in anger.

4. Help your child with anxiety.

Child psychotherapist Katie Hurley says it's important to allow your child to worry because "No child ever stopped worrying because a parent said, 'Don't worry!', or 'Relax!'" She encourages parents to give their child uninterrupted time in the day to express their worries, so solutions can be brainstormed together. In those moments, you can reframe the child's worry, says Hurley, by working through four sequential questions with him/her:

  • Name a worry floating around in your brain right now.
  • What is the worry telling you?
  • Let's break it down and see if that worry is 100 percent right.
  • How can we take that worry thought and change it to a positive thought?

The bottom line is you can help your future adult's bottom line by working on these behaviors. The pro-social behavior boost will pay off in more ways than one.