We all want to live happy and successful lived. But for parents, there’s a time when your priorities shift a bit, and your most important goals start to involve setting your kids up for success and happiness in their own lives. Parental priorities aren’t the only factor, of course. There are plenty of stories out there about people who defied the odds and achieved great success despite their parents’ involvement, not because of it.
Still, scientists and researchers have made a lot of progress studying what the parents of the larger share of successful people have in common. Here are 7 of the most important things those parents do;
1. They Move to the Best Neighborhood They Can Afford
Moving can be expensive and disruptive. But parents who want to give their kids a leg up and set them on the road to success will uproot their lives if necessary. The No. 1 thing they can do is to move to a location with good schools, great opportunities, and the chance to grow up with more privileged peers. This advice is controversial, but it’s effective. It’s why parents in developing countries try to immigrate to wealthier nations.
2. They Praise Their Children the Right Way
Parents of successful kids learn to praise in a way that encourages positive lifelong habits. This means praising children for the strategies and processes they use to solve problems, rather than praising them for their innate abilities. Don’t praise a child for getting a high grade on a test; praise her for the studying she did, which led to the result. Don’t praise for winning a race or a game; instead, offer praise for all the sweat she put in during practice—again, which led to the result.
Don’t say, “You’re so smart!” or “You’re such a talented singer!” Instead, you want to find a way to say things like, “You did a great job figuring out that problem,” or, “You sound so great—all those hours of practice paid off!” The goal is always to encourage kids to develop a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset.
3. They Ensure Their Kids Know They Will Always Support Them
Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that you’ll always support them financially! Instead, this is about one of the hottest debates in parenting circles: whether parents should encourage their kids to “suck it up” when they are hurt or suffer setbacks, or instead “run to their side.” Perhaps surprisingly, the science supports the “run to their side” style of parenting. It’s about responding supportively—while not solving all your kids’ problems for them.
“Parents who respond to their children’s emotions in a comforting manner have kids who are more socially well-adjusted than do parents who either tell their kids they are overreacting or who punish their kids for getting upset,” child psychologist Nancy Eisenberg of Arizona State University said in an interview.
4. They Help Them to Become Resilient
Resilience, means “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,” is an underpinning of success. It’s what allows people to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. And that undaunted attitude is what allows them to work through problems without fear of coming up short—exactly the behavior that the “praise for the effort” tactic that Dweck advises is designed to develop.
So how do you help kids to develop resiliency? Set an example, trust your children to solve many of their own problems, and encourage risk-taking while also asserting your authority as a parent when it’s sensible.
5. They Advocate For Them At School
This next bit of science-backed advice requires some judgment. On the one hand, it’s important to let kids solve their own problems when possible. On the other hand, your job as a parent requires you to act like an authority figure and a determined advocate. Nowhere is this more true than in the schools.
A 45-year longevity study called the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth found that schools often ignore the most talented students, in favor of trying to increase the performance of more average pupils. This all comes from a misguided belief that gifted students will achieve on their own—even in spite of a strict educational system that doesn’t serve them well. Unfortunately, it’s a huge societal mistake. The only real antidote is parental involvement and advocacy.
6. They Hope That They Marry the Right Person
Unless you’re living in a society with arranged marriages, however, this is much more about your children’s choices than anything you can do for them as a parent. Still, you can do your best to model a good marriage relationship and simply make sure they understand that the choice of who to spend your life with is probably the most important choice most people make.
7. They Encourage Them to Act Like Entrepreneurs / Become Rich
While we know that money is not the key to happiness, a lack of money can certainly sometimes lead to misery. We all know people who are less successful than they’d otherwise be because they spend their entire lives chasing enough money to live. They have to make long-term decisions based on short-term financial considerations.
So how do you help your children to grow up to avoid this trap? Financial literacy is important, but so is encouraging them to act entrepreneurially.