Building better adults. The science is in.

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3. They set the bar high –

This a tricky rope to traverse. Obviously, the helicopter mum phenomenon is something that has been derided in previous blogs, but one cannot dismiss the strong effect of expectation on a child’s attainment. And this makes sense. If you plan for university and assume it as a given, that child will attend, this is often what happens. Conversely, if there is an expectation that a child will leave school at 16 then that is what is likely to happen. This falls in line with another psych finding: the Pygmalion effect, which states “that what one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Simply put, kids, in the absence of a a strong notion of what they want from life, tend to default to their parent’s expectations and achieve accordingly.

4. They get on with one another –

Conflict is a killer. It bleeds into the pores, the cells… everything. Environments where conflict is pervasive, invariably translates into poorer life outcomes. This stands true for all configurations, i.e a single parent family with little conflict in day to day life is better for life outcomes than a two parent family where hostility is prevalent. This works similarly in a divorce. When a father without custody has frequent visitations for example, it can be beneficial or detrimental to a child’s adjustment according to the level of conflict accompanying such visits. Perhaps more surprisingly, it was found that although adults still reported some pain and distress when recalling a childhood divorce, feelings of regret and loss were more likely to be experienced in the children of high conflict families.

5 They’ve got a few ologies –

Stated starkly like this, such a statement may seem controversial, if not a little offensive. However, breaking it down, it makes some sense. The study is not suggesting that a good mother must attain academically, but rather that in a retrospective examination of their test groups a larger proportion of successful children tend to come from adults who have achieved academically. It is worth pointing out that it is not immediately clear whether the success in question refers to academic success or general life success. If it is the former, which I suspect it is, then it is a narrower definition of success that excludes important considerations. One may after all be academically successful but unhappy. The point here, however, is not a revolutionary one. It stands to reason that parents who have been to university will place the same expectation on their children. It’s not all that surprising that children of teenage single mothers were less likely to go on to college. In this, we find ourselves circling back to point two. One should be clear however, that although a parent’s education does correlate with a child’s future educational attainment, it ignores the levelling effect of aspiration. My father, a man forced to leave education early on, is a great example of this. Just ask his children!

6. They teach their kids math early on –

It’s an advantage to inculcate the importance of these skills early on. The concepts acquired here will help developing minds order and systemise the world around them. Early mastery is a predictor not only of future mathematical ability but, odd as it seems, of future reading ability.

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