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May 10, 2014

I’ve posted about the research behind happy families and solid marriages, but what does science say about good parenting skills?

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman do an excellent job of rounding up the latest research in their book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.

Here are my highlights:

1) Praise Kids For Effort, Not Smarts

Praise kids for something they can easily control — the amount of effort they put in.

This teaches them to persist and that improvement is possible.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

But praising too often can be a problem.

If a child’s persistence is based only on rewards like praise; when the praise stops, the effort stops.

Best thing to do? Be like a slot machine. Praise intermittently.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

2) Make Sure They Get Their Sleep

Losing an hour of sleep reduces your sixth-grader’s intelligence to that of a fourth-grader.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

If continued long enough, sleep issues can cause permanent problems. Teens surliness may actually be due to chronic sleep deprivation.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

And staying up late on the weekends is problematic too. Weekend shift causes a drop of 7 IQ points — the equivalent of lead exposure.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

A study of over 3000 high school students showed a clear correlation between sleep and grades.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

(More on good sleep here.)

3) How To Raise Honest Kids

No, you don’t know when your kid is lying. That’s your parental ego.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

Kids want to please you. Tell them that the truth makes you happy – not just the right answer — and you’re more likely to get the truth.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

What’s a quick trick for getting your kid to be honest?

Say: “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?”

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

4) Kids Need Rules

It’s a myth that being too strict causes rebellion and being permissive equals better behavior.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

Parents who set ground rules and consistently enforce them were also the parents who were the warmest.

And their children lied less than most kids.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

That doesn’t mean you should be a Tiger Mom.

Parents that are too controlling = kids that are bored. And bored kids are the ones who drink and do drugs

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

5) Arguing With Teens Is Normal — And Healthy

Moderate conflict with teens produces better adjustment than none.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

More than 3/4 of daughters felt arguments with their mother strengthened the relationship.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

6) Fighting In Front Of The Kids Can Be Good

Fighting with your spouse in front of the kids can be a good thing — if the children see the argument resolved in front of them.

Fighting and sending the kids away before it’s resolved — that’s what causes problems.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

7) A Gratitude Journal Works Magic

I’ve posted before about the incredible benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. It works for kids too.

Students who kept a gratitude journal were happier, more optimistic, and healthier.

Via NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children:

What Next?

Here are three other research-backed posts that can help build a great family:

  1. How To Have A Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed By Research
  2. Recipe For A Happy Marriage: The 7 Scientific Secrets
  3. Parent myths: How much of what your parents told you was wrong?

For more helpful tips, join 45K+ other readers and get my free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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