We all want our children to succeed. Success can mean different things to different people.
In general, it refers to realizing success and getting positive results.
The success of a person depends on many factors.
Yet, research suggests that successful people’s early childhoods share several common characteristics.
How to Raise A Child For Success
Following decades of scientific research, here is a list of things every parent can do to create favorable conditions for their children to succeed.
The following tips aren’t exhaustive, but they are a good starting point for parents who want to know how to raise successful kids and become the best parents they can be.
1. Be A Warm, Responsive, And Accepting Parent
In 1938, Harvard University conducted a special study to find the secret to raising kids to become successful people1.
In the Harvard Grant Study, the first study of its kind, 268 male Harvard students, including John F. Kennedy, were tracked over the next seventy years.
Their physical and emotional health were recorded, and their successes, or the lack of them, were analyzed2.
Researchers arrived at one clear conclusion:
Strong relationships are the secret to a happy and successful life.
A childhood in which one feels accepted and nurtured is one of the best predictors of adult success, well-being, and life satisfaction.
This outcome was hardly surprising.
Bowlby & Ainsworth formulated the Attachment Theory in the 1950s, stating that a child who receives warm and nurturing care from a caregiver can develop a secure attachment.
A child with a secure attachment is much more likely to have positive development and outcomes.
In addition, human brains are highly experience-dependent3.
The brain’s architecture is shaped by life experiences and interactions4.
An experience with a warm and responsive parent sets the foundation for future mental health. Memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength.
2. Master and Teach Emotional Regulation
Regulating one’s emotions is crucial in achieving success and happiness in this world5,6.
Emotional regulation is not a skill we’re born with. We must teach our children how to control their emotions.
However, teaching emotion regulation is not simply teaching kids exercises or playing games.
Young children learn to self-regulate primarily by watching the parents and seeing how they regulate themselves7.
If we are upset and yell at our kids every time they misbehave, we cannot expect our kids to be able to stay calm when they get upset.
As parents, we play an important role in our children’s learning to regulate their emotions.
Many of us were brought up being reprimanded or yelled at when we misbehaved.
Therefore, emotional regulation is probably not something you have mastered either.
So to help your child succeed in life, first and foremost, master self-regulation yourself and become a good role model for them. Then your child will learn how to do this8.
3. Let Them Practice Decision Making
As parents, we want to protect our children, but controlling or helicopter parenting can hinder rather than enhance a child’s development. Making good decisions requires practice, which can only come from experience.
Give children choices over non-safety and health-related things so they can start learning how to choose.
Instead of forcing them to follow your advice, guide them.
However, if they still want to do it their way, let them suffer the natural consequences.
Experience is the most efficient way to learn to make good, tough decisions.
Autonomy also allows a child to gain self-trust and self-esteem.
A person cannot succeed no matter how well they’re equipped if they don’t want to succeed. A person needs to be motivated to achieve greatness in what they do.
Besides learning to make their own choices, having the freedom to choose is also a crucial motivator, especially with schoolwork.
If kids cannot make their own decisions, they will lose motivation.
A child’s ability to self-motivate to learn and achieve relies on having the autonomy to choose.
4. Challenge Them Just Enough
Children are motivated to strive toward goals they can achieve. It takes effort to sustain motivation, but success must be possible.
A task becomes uninteresting to the child when it is too easy, but also when it is too challenging to accomplish.
Offer kids challenges within their current capabilities and provide them with prompt feedback so they can keep improving their performance.
If schoolwork seems too easy, you can help them find new things to learn.
If schoolwork is too challenging for your child’s current level, work with the school or seek a tutor to work on this.
5. Stop Using Reward And Punishment. Motivate Them Through Values.
Not all motivations are created equal. Rewards and punishment only create extrinsic motivation, which is not a good long-term solution.
We may be able to force kids to do schoolwork when they’re young using rewards and punishment.
But if they don’t like learning or school, they will eventually quit or do poorly in it.
To help kids develop intrinsic motivation, share your values on why learning is important.
Going to school and learning shouldn’t be just about getting A’s. It’s about acquiring knowledge and growing as a person.
Only if kids enjoy learning will they be intrinsically motivated to succeed and enjoy doing it.
Thus, strive to motivate your child to learn and enjoy learning.
Think of the big picture. Using punishment to teach also doesn’t instill ethics.
Wanting to be a good person and do the right thing differs from wanting to avoid punishment.
Using punishment to discipline teaches the latter, not the former.
A child develops good character when they adopt ethical values, not when they have fear.
6. Kind, Firm, and Respectful Discipline
Being kind and firm is characteristic of authoritative parenting, consistently linked to a kid’s success.
Children whose parents are authoritative tend to do better in school, are more resilient, have better coping skills, and less likely to drop out of school9.
“Tough parents” often fear that kindness will allow their children to rule the house.
But being kind doesn’t mean being permissive. These are two separate things.
Being permissive means being warm and kind, but you cannot set rules or maintain boundaries.
But being kind and firm means you can kindly let your child know the boundaries and firmly enforce them10.
Positive parenting is a popular form of authoritative parenting you can adopt.
It is a parenting philosophy that emphasizes using positive instructions and mutual respect to encourage positive behaviors.
Inductive parenting is another authoritative way to teach kids right from wrong.
In addition to positive instructions and mutual respect, it teaches a child critical thinking.
It strengthens their reasoning skills, which we need in our society today, and what makes a child successful in life.
7. Listen To Science And Avoid Parenting Myths
Science shows that these parenting myths fail to raise healthy children, and some are detrimental to kids.
In some ways, parenting is an art.
Everyone can do it differently because every child is different. But there are also universal truths, no matter how different your child is.
And this is what science-based parenting means.
No doctrine, no opinion, no personal beliefs, no bias. Scientists have discovered facts through rigorous research to help moms and dads raise thriving kids.
Also, check out these science-based parenting books.
Final Thoughts On How To Raise Successful Kids
The bottom line is parenting matters! We can decide how to raise a successful and happy child.
Adopting science-based approaches to parenting can make a huge difference in our kids’ lives.
Need Help Motivating Kids?
If you are looking for additional tips and an actual step-by-step plan, this online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
It gives you the steps you need to identify motivation issues in your child and the strategy you can apply to help your child build self-motivation and become passionate about learning.
Once you know this science-based strategy, motivating your child becomes easy and stress-free.
- 1.Vaillant GE. TRIUMPHS OF EXPERIENCE: THE MEN OF THE HARVARD GRANT STUDY. Harvard University Press; 2012.
- 2.Woodhams V, de Lusignan S, Mughal S, et al. Triumph of hope over experience: learning from interventions to reduce avoidable hospital admissions identified through an Academic Health and Social Care Network. BMC Health Serv Res. Published online June 10, 2012. doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-153
- 3.May A. Experience-dependent structural plasticity in the adult human brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Published online October 2011:475-482. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2011.08.002
- 4.Greenough WT, Black JE, Wallace CS. Experience and Brain Development. Child Development. Published online June 1987:539. doi:10.2307/1130197
- 5.Graziano PA, Reavis RD, Keane SP, Calkins SD. The role of emotion regulation in children’s early academic success. Journal of School Psychology. Published online February 2007:3-19. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2006.09.002
- 6.Grandey AA. Emotional regulation in the workplace: A new way to conceptualize emotional labor. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 2000;5(1):95-110.
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- 8.Gottman JM, Katz LF, Hooven C. Parental meta-emotion philosophy and the emotional life of families: Theoretical models and preliminary data. Journal of Family Psychology. Published online 1996:243-268. doi:10.1037/0893-3188.8.131.52
- 9.Rumberger RW, Ghatak R, Poulos G, Ritter PL, Dornbusch SM. Family Influences on Dropout Behavior in One California High School. Sociology of Education. Published online October 1990:283. doi:10.2307/2112876
- 10.Robinson CC, Mandleco B, Olsen SF, Hart CH. Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive Parenting Practices: Development of a New Measure. Psychol Rep. Published online December 1995:819-830. doi:10.2466/pr0.19184.108.40.2069