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Study Finds Kids Who Play Well with Others Are More Likely to Succeed When They Grow Up

Study Finds Kids Who Play Well with Others Are More Likely to Succeed When They Grow Up
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Everyone knows that it is important to be social than asocial, but a scientific study has shown how important social behavior and play can be from an early age.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, aimed to look at the importance of noncognitive compared to cognitive skills of problem solving and academic abilities. Past studies have shown that there is not much correlation with high levels of cognitive ability “measured through IQ or test scores alone” and workplace success.

However, noncognitive skills, such as self-control and positive attitudes, do have a correlation. As the researchers observed, “a key characteristic of noncognitive ability in young children is social competence.” The researchers decided to analyze young children’s social ability and see how it correlated towards their eventual development.

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In 1991, kindergarten teachers in four locations spread out over the United States ranked over 750 of their students on social ability with a scale of 1 to 5. These scales included measurements such as “cooperates with peers without prompting,” “is helpful to others,” and “very good at understanding feelings.”

For the next 19 years, the researchers kept track of the students using self-reported information, information from teachers and parents, and court records. Among other factors, they looked for records of substance abuse, arrests, and employment and educational background.

At the end of the 19 years, the researchers found that those children who ranked higher on the social ability scale as kindergarteners were more likely to have obtained a college degree, attained full-time employment, and run a successful company. They were less likely to be dependent on alcohol or have a criminal record compared to children who ranked lower. This supported previous research that examined long-term prediction of the importance of noncognitive skills.

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As a caution, the researchers noted that this single study is not enough to declare that an absolute relation between early child social development and general success in life. But it is clear that a child’s noncognitive abilities are just as important, if not more so, than his problem-solving abilities.

What does it all mean?

So what do the results of this study mean for parents? It means that parents should consider re-prioritizing the importance of their child’s social and emotional development.

Parents take their children out to activities and camps to improve their intelligence, or give them skills which may be useful on a college application. But the most important thing that a parent can give a child is not necessarily additional piano lessons. It is the ability and opportunity to play with other children — a skill which will improve their social skills and their lives.

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The importance of play is something which researchers have known for some time. A 2007 study declared that “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” In addition to the physical benefits of play, undirected play helps children gain independence and learn about the importance of group activities.

But this does not mean that parents can let their children loose among other children and call it a day. That carries the risk of referred to as a “negative development spiral.” If a child ends up rejected by his peers, he may decide to become more isolated. This makes the child less likely to cooperate with his peers, which means that he will experience further rejection, leading to a dangerous spiral of isolation and rejection.

In addition to the risk of isolation and rejection, another problem is that one child may choose to learn from another who is not “well-behaved”. This can lead to anti-social behavior which will hurt the child’s emotional development over the long run.

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Because of this, a strong parent-child bond is necessary. Parents have to keep an eye on their child to monitor social development. However, parents also have to ensure that they do not end up smothering the child in the process — instead, allowing them to play with their peers in a healthy manner.

Staying “close, but not too close” is an incredibly challenging process, and every parent will make mistakes doing this. But in a world where parents have become too focused on developing “skills” which do not truly help the child, a focus on total emotional development is a great step towards rearing a well-developed, stable adult.

Featured photo credit: David Robert Bliwas via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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