Building better adults. The science is in.

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7. They get on with their kids –

Children are not dogs. Simply barking at them to do certain things and responding to their physical needs is not enough. Being mindful and available, responding sensitively to a child’s signals gives them a secure base to feel secure in the world and in themselves. This early investment is of inestimable importance as it helps form a secure core identity that accrues value over a lifetime. A study of children born into poverty found that children who received “sensitive caregiving” in their first three years not only did better in academic tests in childhood, but had healthier relationships and greater academic attainment in their 30s.

8. They’re not pulling their hair out –

Time spent with children was not a predictor of childhood well-being or achievement. Simply putting in more hours was not in itself found to be beneficial. Similarly, intensive mothering was also ill advised and was noted by the study to be often counter productive (take note ‘helicopters’). The key here is quality. One significant finding of the study was that the level of stress exhibited by a parent or parents had a direct effect on their children. We all know what it’s like, trying to find time to spend with the kids whilst juggling work and other commitments. It’s a tough job, but doing it stressed could be detrimental to their well- being. This a prime example of the adage, sometimes less is more. Pick the good moments (or the better moments) if possible. Don’t force the time together out of a misplaced sense of guilt. Take the time away, let them watch that movie instead, regroup, de-stress and find your window, otherwise you risk emotional contagion, which over time can be really quite damaging. This advice has the danger of sounding like an eye rolling ‘first world’ problem, but the notion of contagion is a very real psychological phenomenon. It denotes those times where we literally catch feelings from one another. I know it still sounds flakey, right? But consider it for a moment. I’m sure we’ve all been with someone we feel obligated to spend time with, someone who is perhaps not the beacon of joy we consider ourselves to be… someone or some ‘them’ who can be quite gloomy and oppressive. Such occasions can literally leave you feeling wiped out. Now imagine this feeling over a sustained period of time. Likewise, a parent who is frustrated or exhausted may unintentionally transfer an emotional burden that takes a very real toll on the little ones they are trying to protect. Terms like projection and introjection also come to mind when reading these findings and these unconscious ways of relating can lead to a false self in our children which again is very real and damaging.

9. It’s the trying that counts –

This is not some wishy washy liberal hippy nonsense. It has been shown that the origin of success in a child’s mind (how it is perceived) correlates to future attainment. Children that are taught that intelligence and creativity are not fixed or static things fare better. They don’t see awards as a simple affirmation of what’s already there, the consequence of some natural reserve of intelligence or a genetic legacy passed down from mother and father to son and daughter, but rather as the result of something they have persevered and grown over time. In this way failure is not failure, but an obstacle to overcome. Encourage a growth mindset and a lack of success is seen as a challenge to succeed. To fail on these terms becomes an opportunity to grow and to learn about themselves. In this, a child will flourish. To fail on fixed terms with a fixed mindset, in which things are finite and entrenched, removes this chance to grow. To fail here is to fail at being themselves, attacking the core of who they consider themselves to be. Failure becomes the enemy and something to be avoided at any and all cost.

10. Mum does the 9-5 –

Controversial perhaps, but studies reveal that daughters of working women were more likely to attend school longer, find a job in a supervisory role and earn up to a quarter more than peers who had stay at home mothers. The same study also concluded that in these households the male offspring took more responsibility for household chores and child care. The point here is in reality fairly benign. It is really about modelling. Children do what their parents do or what they are expected to do and if the latter point is to be believed it would seem to tilt the balance in favour of gender equality! I’ll leave it up to you dear reader to interpret and weigh in on the rest.

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