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Published on August 22, 2019

How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids

My family is a work in progress. My husband and I am trying our best to be good parents so that we can have successful kids and more importantly, successful adults. We have five-year-old twin boys and a seven-year-old girl. Success to us does not mean great wealth or fame. Our ideals don’t point us toward parenting our kids to become rich and famous. We define success according to our family’s ideals, which include loving others, having good moral character (this is based on our faith), finding passion and purpose for life, and contributing to society in a meaningful way. These are our personal ideals.

Your ideals and definition of success may be different. Every family is different, as are their values. It is important to recognize your own family ideals in order to have direction and purpose for your family. I wrote about this topic on my blog,[1] and you can read it if you are interested in creating purpose and a mission for your family, based on your ideals.

With my own kids being so young, I can’t speak from personal experience on how to raise kids to be successful. We are still in the process of raising our kids and are doing what we think is best to raise our kids to become successful adults. I am hoping and praying that someday, I can speak from experience, when they are grown and leading successful lives as adults. We aren’t there yet.

However, I can look at parents who have raised their children to be successful. There are families that I know personally, along with research articles I have read about raising successful children, from which I have learned valuable tips. I will share what I have learned below on how to be a good parent and raise children to become successful adults.

1. Inattentiveness

There is an incredible study that recently released its results following 30 years of research. This study was reported in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry.[2] They followed over 2,500 six-year-old children for 30 years to assess the ability to succeed in life. Their findings reported that the adults who were less successful had inattention at a young age.

Inattention was defined in this study by a variety of variables including poor sharing skills, lack of focus, blaming others, aggressiveness, and high levels of anxiousness. This means that we, as parents need to look at how we can effectively parent to reduce inattentive behaviors. Teaching our children to share, how to focus, and handling issues of aggression and anxiousness are imperative to helping our children become successful adults.

For example, if you attend a parent teacher conference and you are told that your child exhibits high levels of anxiousness, you don’t just brush if off as one opinion or hope that your child will grow out of it. Instead, you look for a counselor or therapist to get your child some help. Perhaps the anxiousness isn’t severe and stems from the difficulties your daughter is having in making friends at school. The therapist helps your daughter work through her feelings and teaches her some valuable skills on how to make friends.

Dealing with the anxiousness and aggression are important aspects of helping children become successful. If your child exhibits these behaviors, then get them the help that they need, for the sake of their success in the future.

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2. Be There for Your Kids

One tip for raising successful kids is to be there for your children. Children want their parents. They would rather have time and attention from their parents than toys and things.

We need to ensure that our personal life and work life are balanced, so that our children get the time that they need from us. If we are working 90 hours a week at the office, it is going to be difficult to be there for our kids. They want us to be there for their activities and for their everyday too, including helping with homework and eating meals together on a regular basis.

A study by Raby et al (2014) found that children who had sensitive maternal caregiving early in childhood were more likely to be successful mentally (having higher educational levels) and were more socially competent as adults.[3] This shows that it is crucial for children to have loving and sensitive interactions with their parents when they are young. It affects the child’s development and how they turn out as adults. Young children who are provided with sensitive care, love, and attentions are more likely to be successful as adults.

I have been a stay-at home mom and writer for the past eight years. As a Doctor of Psychology, I know how important parental involvement is during early childhood. I recognize that having one parent stay at home is not an option, or best option, for all families. However, it was for our family. My kids are used to having me at their activities. Recently, I missed a camp performance for my daughter. I was packing our family for our annual National Parks Road Trip that we were leaving on in two days. My daughter had dance camp leading up to our vacation. At the conclusion of that camp, the participants put on a performance. I missed the performance. It was an oversight on my part, due to busyness in packing for our trip and taking care of the twins that day.

I can’t recall ever missing an important event like this for my daughter, ever. When I arrived to pick her up, she was in tears. She was upset that I missed her performance. I apologized and we talked about it. It was eye opening to me. She often acts like she doesn’t care whether I am there to volunteer in her classroom, go on her field trips, or attend her school function. Missing this one event showed me how much she cares. She was extremely broken-up that I was not there for her. It was a good lesson for her as well. Perhaps she will show her appreciation for me being there at her events in the future. We discussed this as well, since it was a good opportunity during that moment of revelation of her true feelings.

All kids want their parents at their special events and moments in their lives. They want their parents to be there for them, to be their ultimate cheerleader. Life is difficult. We all need people and a support system. Parents should be the natural first line of support in the lives of their children. It is not always possible because of life circumstances such as death, illness, or other sad situations. However, if you are alive and able to be there to raise your children and be there for them on a day to day basis, then you should make every effort to make that possible.

Your children need you. They are only little once. Your ability to influence how they develop emotionally, socially, and mentally has a window of opportunity. It is while they are young. Be there for your children, so you can make a positive impact on their development, especially in the first years of their lives, as research by Raby et al. (2014) showed us that the first few years of life a parent’s presence and type of care affects their success in adulthood.

3. Praise Effort Over Achievement

Having grit is a better predictor of success than IQ, according to Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who wrote the best-seller Grit. One of the best ways to help children develop grit is to praise their efforts and not their achievements. If you praise their efforts, then when they fail, they can still identify the good in the situation and not feel like a complete failure.

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Children need to be praised. They develop their self-worth and confidence when they can achieve success, even in small things in life such as learning to tie their shoes or learning to ride a bike. They can pick themselves back up from failure as they are learning these activities when they have someone encouraging them along the way and praising their efforts.

If a parent is putting them down and telling them they are such a failure and loser every time they fall off their bike, then they are going to feel defeated and feel like the loser you are telling them that they are.

Your words to your children are powerful. A child’s value in life will initially develop based on what their parents have told them about their value. I have worked with individuals who have had to overcome emotional and physical abuse in childhood. They were repeatedly told that they were of no value. They grew up believing this lie, because it was told to them by one or both of their parents. It took therapy, time, and effort for these individuals to overcome the defeating messages that their parents imprinted on them as children.

If you tell your child that he or she is dumb repeatedly, eventually they will believe you and take it to heart. Some kids take it to heart and believe it the first time it is said to them. Words can damage just as much, if not more, than physical abuse.

Be careful in the words you speak to your children. Children do need correction and guidance, but it doesn’t have to inflict damage to who they are as a person. They should never be told they are dumb, worthless, meaningless, or lazy. They will take these messages to heart. Correction should never involve name calling.

Children need positive words so that they can believe in themselves enough to try. Children who have been encouraged correctly, with praise being provided for their efforts, are more likely to develop grit. Grit is a great predictor of success. You can help your child develop grit by praising their efforts and avoiding negative messages such as name calling and belittling.

4. Teach Them to Work Hard at Home

Successful people are typically hard-working people. People know how to keep going even when they want to give up, and when they have a good work-ethic. Teaching kids to work hard begins at home. This means assigning chores.

Children need to develop a good work ethic and learn to be a part of the team (team family) in order to be successful as adults. Doing chores is not only about lifting the workload for parents and caregivers. It is also about teaching children responsibility and that they have a role in the family chores and workload.

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Research discussed in the Wall Street Journal[4] showed that children are more successful as adults when they have grown up being assigned chores on a regular basis. However, their research also showed that fewer and fewer parents are assigning regular chores to their children. Children need to be assigned chores. There are many benefits to chores being assigned such as:

  • Children learn that things don’t come free. They must earn an allowance from doing work or chores to earn things that they want.
  • Children learn that they are part of a team and that parents aren’t solely responsible for maintaining a household and doing all the work. Children play a role in being a part of the running of a household and this means doing chores daily.
  • Children learn that they are held accountable for the job that they do. If they don’t complete their chores, then there are consequences. If they complete their chores, there is a reward (maybe it is having a roof over their head, food to eat, and a home that is maintained); for other families, it may be an allowance provided for completed chores.
  • Children learn to work hard by doing chores. Not doing their chores has consequences. Those consequences should be big enough (such as removing technology or favorite toys) that they are strong motivators for completing chores, as required. They learn to work hard and complete the chores, even when they would rather be playing or doing something else more fun.
  • Children learn to respect their home. When children have to take care of the home, they become more conscious of the condition of the home. For example, a child that is required to clean the bathroom and then has a sibling come in and use the shower only to leave towels and bath products all over the floor is going to become upset that their sibling ruined their hard work. They will become better at taking care of the home and their belongings, if they have an active role and involvement in maintaining a home.

Extracurricular activities and homework are important. However, teaching children to work hard through chores is just as important, as shown in this Wall Street Journal article. Don’t allow your children to get so busy that they can’t participate in household chores. Chores will help them in their development and ability to be successful as adults.

5. Teach Them to Have Good Character

For many families the teaching of character development is rooted in their faith and religious practices. This is true for our family but, going to church is not enough. We must consciously work to teach our children to be loving individuals. Teaching them qualities of good character is an ongoing daily process. The first step is identifying which character traits are most important.

An article in TIME, written by EstherWojcicki, who has raised two CEO’s and a doctor, outlines specific traits to develop in children to make them successful adults.[5] She identifies these traits that lead to success as trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. These are all character traits that as parents, we have the ability to instill in our children.

It doesn’t mean it is an easy task, but it is about parenting in a way that the development of these specific traits is emphasized. For example, trust should be taught at home and instilled at a young age. When your child lies about stealing cookies from the cookie jar, there are consequences. They may lose their tablet for the next three days. They get this consequence, not only because they took the cookies without asking, but more so because they lied, and this is a trust issue (and you emphasize this when dealing with the infraction).

Teaching these traits is a daily practice. It involves consciously making an effort to work on the development of these traits among your entire household. It starts with you, the parent, first and foremost, as you are the example.

6. Be an Example

Being an example of success is one of the best ways to model to your children how they can become successful. The primary role model for children is usually their parents, as it should be, if possible. Parents are role models for their children whether they want to be or not. Therefore, if we want our children to become successful, then we need to model the behaviors above that are linked to success.

Trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness are behaviors we should model to children in our actions. Our children copy what we do. If they see that we cheat at a board game, then they learn that cheating is okay. If they watch us treat strangers with rudeness and hostility, they will that it is okay for them to treat others this way too. We are an example to our children in all that we do. Being a positive model of good character, working hard, and exhibiting grittiness, all help our children learn from our example and they will be more likely to succeed as adults.

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The Center for Parenting Education examines the topic of parents as role model and states the following:[6]

“Social scientists have shown that much of learning that occurs during childhood is acquired through observation and imitation. For most children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers, who have a regular presence in their lives. As a parent, it is impossible to not model. Your children will see your example – positive or negative – as a pattern for the way life is to be lived.”

If we want our children to be successful, we need to model success to them. Not only in the outcome, but the process. This means exhibiting personal qualities and character traits that align with success so that they can learn these behaviors from watching you, their parent, their most important role model.

Final Thoughts

Successful adults don’t just happen. They are developed. Children who are molded and shaped during their childhood for success are more likely to achieve success.

Parents have the opportunity to influence their child’s ability to succeed in adulthood. It is helping their children develop the qualities and traits associated with success that will essentially lead to children becoming successful as adults. These qualities to instill in our children to develop them into successful adults include hard-work, grit, trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness.

Being in our children’s lives to teach them these traits is imperative. If we aren’t around enough to teach them, they cannot learn from us. They will learn, not only by what we teach to them, but they will also learn by our example. It is important that we model these qualities associated with success consistently in our own lives. Our children are watching our example.

More About Parenting Tips

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on January 24, 2020

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is hard. It takes a great deal of effort to be even a decent parent. My husband and I are raising our three children ages 6, 6, and 7.

Yes, I have my hands full. Twin six-year-old boys and a seven-year-old girl keep me on my parenting toes, so to speak. It is not easy, but I do my best to be a good parent. Having a PhD in psychology is helpful, but I still devour plenty of parenting books and research articles to continually try to do better. I am still a work in progress just like all parents.

    It would be great if we knew exactly what to do and how to do it with our kids. But not all kids are the same and they are not born with a manual that provides us with instructions on how to raise them right. However, we do have research on parenting and psychology that can help us out and point us in the right direction.

    Below I have five tips on how to improve your parenting skills starting today! These tips are backed by research. The first step toward being a great parent is knowing how. It is difficult to be a good parent without knowing first and foremost the how and why.

    1. Practice Loving without Conditions

    Loving unconditionally seems like a given that we all assume we are doing as a parent. However, we may have behaviors or words spoken that undermine our ability for our children to feel unconditionally loved.

    For example, asking our child if he wants another mom when he is acting out is not practicing unconditional love. The message that is being sent to the child is that if they act out or misbehave, they are at risk of losing you as a mother, since you ask “do you want another mom” or “do you want to live somewhere else?”

    If you have ever made these statements, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. However, if we want our child to feel loved unconditionally, then we need to stop saying things that make the child feel like the relationship could ever be severed because of their behavior.

    Another way to look at these threats is comparing them to threatening divorce. If you have ever been married, or lived in a home with married parents, then you know that when one person threatens divorce, it cuts to the core.

    Threatening divorce damages the relationship, because trust is lost. The other person begins to feel that that their relationship may not be forever, and that the relationship can be ended because their spouse is threatening divorce. Even if the person threatening doesn’t really mean what they are saying and they truly love their spouse, the words are damaging none the less.

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    The same principles go for parent and child relationships. If a child has been threatened with loss of their current home life, the parent leaving them, or being placed in foster care, then that child does not feel loved unconditionally. They will believe that love from their parent is contingent on their behavior. It is conditional love which means that they are only loved under certain conditions.

    My son Charlie has recently gotten into the habit of saying “I love you Mom” every time that he gets in trouble. He kicked the dog the other day. Not hard, but nevertheless he kicked our family dog. I was fuming. I yelled at him and he was sent to his room for a long time out (I know the yelling was not a good thing to do). I couldn’t even think of a consequence in the heat of the moment so I said “go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now, I will think about your consequence later.”

    He cried, and as he was running up the stairs and he was saying “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy.” Why was he saying that? Because in his six-year-old mind, he is worried that I will stop loving him if he has bad behavior.

    Kids don’t know that we love them unconditionally. They are learning though and we must teach them that we do. My response in this situation and always is to say “I love you too.” I then usually follow it up with “I don’t like your behavior right now, but I will always love you.”

    Kids need to be told that they are loved regardless of their behavior. It needs to be ingrained that they are loved even if they act out, break the rules, or misbehave.

    An article by Elite Daily examined several research studies on unconditional love.[1] The findings from these studies showed that children become more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy, and physically healthy adults when they experience unconditional love in childhood. When children are exposed to conditional love in their parent-child relationship, the research showed that, children have higher levels of anxiety which in turn negatively affects their long-range health, such as heart health.

    Loving unconditionally means loving without conditions. Unconditional love is loving someone just the way that they are, flaws and all. Tell your children that you love them, even when they break the rules, misbehave, or they tell you that they hate you (most kids say this to their parents at some point in time).

    You must always respond with “I love you regardless of your behavior.” It doesn’t mean that you are accepting or allowing the bad behavior. There should always be reasonable consequences to match the behavior. However, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel that the love of their parent can be revoked because of bad behaviors.

    2. Develop a Bond That Will Last a Lifetime by Creating Memories

    You need to spend time with your kids in order to create a bond. Quality time matters, but so does quantity time.

    Kids want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week. Make a rule that no technology is allowed at the table during that time, so that you can talk and spend time together.

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    Before you know it, that child will be grown and out of your home. Take the time to spend meal times together, talking and truly getting to know your child before they leave your home as an adult.

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree looked at research on how to create happy memories that last a lifetime. Some of the things discovered in the research included:[2]

    • Memories are made when our senses and emotions are elevated.
    • If we are pulling out the camera phone, it is likely an elevated experience that you want to remember.
    • Celebrating milestones and praiseworthy moments (graduations, winning seasons, etc.) helps to create positive lasting memories.
    • Struggling together creates a bond. If you have worked through conflict in your relationship and made it better in the process then you have created a bond. Fraternities haze, soldier fight together, and families overcome struggles together. These all make for lasting bonds. When you struggle together as a family, celebrate the success at the end of your victory, once you have overcome the challenge together.

    Take the time to make memories with your children. They are only little once. Go on those vacations, hike to the top of a mountain together, sail across an ocean, go camping, or teach them to ice-skate.

    Do anything and everything that will help create memories, bonds, and experiences that will last a lifetime in their memory. Those memories are what will carry them into old age with happiness in their heart.

    3. Stop the Yelling

    Yelling at our kids is not good parenting. Yet it is still happening on regular basis in most homes. I admit, I am still continually working on this one. I think this quote summarizes the situation.

      However, I know I need to continually work to not yell or raise my voice, as I would prefer a household with zero voices ever raised.

      Yelling causes our children to become anxious. It also affects them emotionally and mentally in a negative manner. If you have ever been yelled at by a boss or superior, you probably remember it and it is not a fond memory. It made you feel bad. It is hard enough to be reprimanded in a calm voice.

      When someone, whether adult or child, is yelled at while being reprimanded it causes anxiety, stress, and negative emotions to abound. When the yelling involves name calling or insults it becomes emotional abuse.

      Heathline Parenthood examined research on the topic of yelling and found that parents who yell at their kids end up with children who are more aggressive verbally and physically.[3] Children learn from their parents’ example. If yelling is a regular occurrence in your household, then your child is learning that when dealing with behavior or situations that they don’t like, it is appropriate to yell. None of us want to teach that to our children, so we must take action to stop the yelling.

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      Healthline provides some tips on how to stop yelling:

      • Know what triggers the yelling. What are the behaviors occurring or situations where you find yourself yelling at your children?
      • When you feel that you are going to yell, give yourself a time out or count to ten.
      • Practice responding in a calm, even tone. Practice makes the action a habit.
      • If you do yell, then admit the mistake and apologize to your child. They will then learn that it is not an acceptable behavior and that they too should apologize if they make a mistake and end up yelling. (Yes, I apologized to Charlie for yelling and he had to apologize to our dog Max.)

      My article about yelling less at your kids less is also helpful: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out. This article outlines the steps to use the “one-ask” parenting approach. This approach is used to help parents follow up with consequences more quickly so that situations don’t escalate to worse behavior by the children and yelling from the parents. Some tips from this article on talking to your children without yelling include the following.

      • Get on their level, talking face to face in a calm voice.
      • Don’t make repeated threats about a consequence that is coming to them and wait for the situation to become more heated.
      • Follow through with the consequence (i.e. loss of playtime or time-out) immediately after they violate your warning. Don’t wait for them to repeat the bad behavior several more times. One warning is all that is needed. Then, if they break the rule or don’t obey, the consequence should be immediately implemented.

      If you find that your yelling is so entrenched in your daily behaviors that you have a hard time kicking the habit and you need more support, then buy, or find at your local library, the book Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Their tips were even featured on the Focus on the Family national radio program and were rated as a number one show for 2019. Their gentle parenting methods simply work.

      A quote from the book:

      “Peacemaking moms produce peacemaking kids.”

      Wendy and Amber also have a Facebook group that is free to join. It is Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. In this group, you will find thousands of other parents looking for support to yell less in their homes. Check out the group if you want more connected support to stop yelling at your kids. I am a member of this group too. Nobody is perfect, but we can do better as parents by yelling less starting today.

      4. Provide Experiences Over Toys

      Toys are fun. But our kids don’t need an excess of overcomplicated, electronic, and expensive toys in order to be happy or develop in a healthy manner. Focusing on experiences over toys is a way to improve as a parent now.

      The next holiday or birthday that comes up, think about gifting your child an experience, for example, a year membership to the children’s museum or zoo. Another experience is a trip to someplace interesting such as a National Park. These experiences help to create memories. They also help to make your child a more well rounded individual as they are out in the world experiencing activities rather than sitting in their room playing the newest video game.

      Motherly posted a recent article that delved into the science that experiences are better for our kids than toys. Here is a quote from that article that is worth noting.[4]

      And if we need one more reason to cool it on the toy giving, researchers have discovered that gratitude and generosity increase when experiences are given instead of objects. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted many studies over many decades and found that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Bottom line: The happiness derived from a childhood experience is far more significant than the fleeting excitement of toys under the Christmas tree. Giving experiences that involve spending time together instead of gifting toys brings greater and longer-lasting joy. Don’t stress about the number of toys, mama. Focus on making memories.

      Creating family experiences and making memories go hand-in-hand. Our money and resources get more bang for their buck when they are used on experiences for the family instead of things. The research from the Motherly article shows that families are happier overall when they have more experiences together and less toys.

      5. Let Them Play and Be a Child

      Play and childhood development go hand-in-hand. However, the amount of playtime our children are getting has been diminishing in recent decades.

      We are so intent on our children learning, that we take away from their playtime. Play is learning. We need to get our children back to basic playtime so they can develop and learn in a natural way.

      Increase their playtime and limit the electronics. Research by Very Well Family found that too much technology is damaging to our children.[5] When children get too much time on electronic devices, their research found that children have sleep issues, obesity, behavior problems, academic problems, and emotional issues. Limit your children’s time on technology.

      According to We Can, we need to aim for less than two of screen time per day for our school aged children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends far less time for children under the age of five. We Can offers a free screen time chart so you can track your child’s time on digital devices.

      The goal is to get children playing and off the technology. Playing will help them developmentally. In my book Let Them Play, I explain the importance of play and provide 100 child developmental play activities. Some great play activities that promote development and learning that are listed in the book including Play Doh, magnet blocks, Legos, puppet shows, and hopscotch.

      Parents can teach their children different play activities while they actively play with their children. Fifteen or twenty minutes of playtime together can help to create bonding time between parent and child. Then the parent can allow their children to continue playing the activity on their own. This play time is crucial to the child’s healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

      They are only little once. Let them be a child when they are little. Two-year-old children aren’t meant to sit at desks for hours completing school work. They were made to play, explore, and be active physically. This is how they learn and develop best.

      Final Thoughts

      These are not the only ways to improve as a parent. However, these are five ways that you can begin improving as a parent starting today.

      Nobody is a perfect parent, which means we all have room for improvement. Look at your own parenting methods objectively and decide where you can improve. Then do something about it.

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      Featured photo credit: Jonathan Daniels via unsplash.com

      Reference

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