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Tips for Raising Successful Kids

Tips for Raising Successful Kids

"Successful" is a subjective term. The word may conjure different ideas for adulthood—wealth, power, or athletic prowess, for example. But in childhood, success is often measured in both tangible (e.g, grades, sports achievements, musical ability) and intangible ways (happiness, friendships, confidence). According to Bill Murphy Jr., author of "How to Raise Successful Kids," there are five science-based habits that parents can adopt to steer kids toward a path for success. They are:

1. Be a role model.

"Winning" is nice but failure can provide a great teachable moment. Show your child that giving something your best effort doesn't always lead to success but that's ok. We're not necessarily talking about "participation awards," but rather resilience. As an adult, when we give something our best effort but come up short, we'll go to great lengths to hide it from our kids. Instead, try being honest and transparent. Kids who think their parents succeeded at everything they ever tried may end up ashamed of failure—or afraid to even try something they can't ensure they'll succeed at. 

2. Teach them to love the outdoors.

It's no coincidence that American middle school students have experienced a steady decline in happiness and well-being since 2012. That's when many U.S. children started getting their own smartphones ... and unlimited data plans. Time and time again, research shows that kids who spend time outdoors tend to have better mental health. One study even found that kids who spent time outside at recess (especially boys) had bigger reading gains over the next two years compared to peers who weren't guaranteed outdoor recess.

3. Praise them the right way.

Yes, science seems to indicate that there is a right way to praise your kids. Be authentic, praise effort (not gifts or outcome), and do it generously. Murphy suggestions breaking bigger tasks (e.g., two hours of homework) into smaller tasks to provide more opportunities for praise.

4. Teach them to prioritize kindness.

Kind children usually grow up to be kind adults. But according to science, they also tend to grow up to be successful adults! As an article in "The Atlantic" explains:

- Boys who are rated as helpful by their kindergarten teacher earn more money 30 years later. 

- Middle-school students who help, cooperate, and share with their peers also excel. Compared with unhelpful classmates, they get better grades and standardized-test scores

- Eighth graders with the greatest academic achievement are not the ones who got the best marks five years earlier; they're the ones who were rates most helpful by their third-grade classmates and teachers.

5. Be there for them.

Be involved and be vocal, but let your children do a lot for themselves. Two studies of note on the topic:

- Girls whose mothers who "nagged the heck out of them" were less likely to get pregnant as teens, more likely to go to college, and less likely to have long periods of unemployment or get stuck in dead-end jobs.

- Parents who ran to their children's side when they faced big challenges or had setbacks produced more successful kids who had better relationships with their parents as they got older.