Chances are, your vision of succeeding as a parent doesn’t involve your offspring living in your basement when they’re 30, or flitting aimlessly from job to job without some sense of purpose in life. But what can you do to help forge young adults who are hardworking, confident, resilient and able to support themselves? Research suggests parents of kids who turn out well employ several tactics worth considering.
1. They let their kids fail.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s one of the best things a parent can do. According to Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, a clinical psychologist specializing in Parenting in the Real World: The Rules Have Changed, failure is good for kids on several levels. First, experiencing failure helps your child learn to cope, a skill that’s certainly needed in the real world. It also provides them with the life experience they need to relate to peers in a genuine way. Being challenged also instills the need for hard work and sustained efforts, and also demonstrates that these traits are valuable even without the blue ribbon, gold star, or top score. Over time, children who have experienced defeat will build resilience and be more willing to attempt difficult tasks and activities because they are not afraid to fail. And, she says rescuing your child sends the message that you don’t trust them. “Your willingness to see your child struggle communicates that you believe they are capable and that they can handle any outcome, even a negative one,” she says.neuropsychology and author of
2. They prioritize relationship with their children over working long hours.
If you hold the mindset that a strong work ethic will help your kids succeed, role modeling overwork may not be the best idea. According to research coming out of the Netherlands, a father’s warm relationship with his teenagers is more likely to instill a strong work ethic. “While the research didn’t delve into how the hard-working adults came to have such warm relationships with their dads, it stands to reason that their fathers had to be around for such tight bonds to develop,” writes Inc. columnist Jessica Stillman. “That suggests, though doesn’t prove, that fathers who spend more time with their kids and a less at the office might actually be better placed to instill the value of hard work in their children.”
3. They give them simple, common names.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Marquette University in Wisconsin, people who have common names are more likely to be hired. Apparently, monikers like “Kate” and “David” tend to be better liked, whereas those that are more unusual are perceived less positively. This weird bias is so significant that the authors suggest names should be removed from resumes during hiring processes. Want to know which names, specifically, leverage people’s biases? Check out the list of the top 20 names which a UCLA researcher has identified as most likely to be perceived positively by others.
4. They encourage them to travel.
If you travel frequently for business your perspective on life likely differs from people who don’t. First, you’ve experienced new cities with different cuisines, climates, peoples and personalities from your home base. It follows, then, that your kids can benefit from seeing more of the world, as well. In fact, the Student and Youth Travel Association (surveyed 1,432 U.S. teachers who credit international travel, in particular, with affecting students in a myriad of ways:SYTA)
- Desire to travel more (76%)
- Increased tolerance of other cultures and ethnicities (74%)
- Increased willingness to know/learn/explore (73%)
- Increased willingness to try different foods (70%)
- Increased independence, self-esteem and confidence (69%)
- More intellectual curiosity (69%)
- Increased tolerance and respectfulness (66%)
- Better adaptability and sensitivity (66%)
- Being more outgoing (51%)
- Better self-expression (51%)
- Increased attractiveness to college admissions (42%)
If sending your son or daughter abroad or bringing them with you overseas isn’t feasible, take heart. The survey also asked teachers about domestic travel and found similar benefits for students. “Shorter trip durations and short travel distances do not reduce the impact of travel experiences on students,” the report reads. “Furthermore, compared to international trips, domestic student travel is more accessible (financially, less planning required, etc.). Given the overall number of participants, its reach of impact is far greater.”
5. They don’t tell kids they can grow up to do anything they want.
Yes, you want your kids to have high aspirations, but it also makes sense to look at where the most jobs will be in the future. According a survey of 400 teenagers, conducted by market research agency C+R Research, young Americans aren’t interested in doing the work which will need to be done in the years to come. In fact, about 20 percent of teens want to work as musicians, athletes or video game designers, even though these kinds of jobs only comprise 1 percent of American occupations. Also, only 7 percent of teens want to hold one of the 25 most common jobs in the U.S; just 3 percent of teens aspire to hold one of the 25 jobs expected to grow most by 2024; and while 15 percent of Americans currently have office or administrative jobs, 0 percent of the surveyed teens want to do this kind of work when they grow up.
When you crunch the numbers, it’s statistically not likely your child will grow up to be a professional athlete or musician, so why not encourage young people to think more broadly about their future careers? A wide variety of occupations in the health arena will be growing like crazy in the next decade, as are other professions which don’t involve being famous. Steering kids to prepare for work involving science, math or service may be a better focus.