Building better adults. The science is in.

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Okay, it’s official. Science has done it. They have the tools and they can build one. The future of tomorrow is here today. They have finally deciphered the arcane impulses that govern our children and unveiled the alchemical process that will unerringly result in the rearing of a perfect child. If that whiffs of nonsense, then your nose is operating as it should. Nevertheless, an article in the independent, which draws on psychological research from the Harvard Grant Study, the longest longitudinal study ever undertaken, has identified 13 key indicators of a child’s future success and rather unsurprisingly it comes down to the parents. Many of these are common sense and you may find yourself mumbling ‘tick’ to many of them, but there may we one or two that give some pause for thought (or discussion if the fancy takes you…comments welcome in the box below). So what do the parents of these wunderkids have in common? Well, before we get started I should point out that, for the sake of expediency, I have forgone the tedious enterprise of listing the various authorities, professional bodies, contributors and mountain of statistics relating to this study. In this way we can get to the meat of things that bit quicker. Be assured the research that underpins this blog is robust and the steady stream of contributors (North American, European et al) are luminous, esteemed and sufficiently eminent.

1.They’re not afraid to let their kid’s get their hands dirty –

They’re not suggesting that these parents are sending their offspring to the workhouse, but rather that little things like doing the dishes, taking out the rubbish etc can teach them important things about life i.e the notion that things don’t simply happen… that sometimes we do things we don’t like…that we struggle. These ideas are the stepping stones to empathy, to learning that humanity is in many ways a collective in which we all, in one way or another, must contribute. A sense of entitlement is the worst barrier to progress. It stultifies and inhibits creativity and progress. The values learnt here enable a child to become a future valued and productive member of a team and to take on individual burdens and succeed independently.

2. They teach their children to get on –

It’s never too early to start. Children do not suddenly decide to cooperate or to be helpful. They don’t wake up one day as a fully fledged problem solver. These things are taught. It is a constant and painstaking process, like water shaping limestone. Behaviour, bad or good, isn’t ignored. It is questioned, unpicked, applauded when warranted and used as a chance to learn. The study showed a significant correlation between the social skills displayed in nursery and primary school with success as adults two decades later. It seems the same skills and behaviours displayed in these younger years were mirrored to a surprising degree in later life (they were observed over the course of 20 years), translating into success in the workplace and relationships for those who were more emotionally and socially developed and regrettably poorer life outcomes for those who were less so. Indeed, the former were far more likely to earn a college degree and have a full-time job by age 25 than those with limited social skills. Conversely a significant number of those who illustrated poorer social skills in their primary years were much more likely to be in a poorer demographic in adulthood with higher incidences of criminal activity, addiction and lower levels of employment and a higher dependence on the state.

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