Parenting tips are everywhere but most have zero legitimate research behind them. So what does science have to say? And how can you remember what’s important so you actually use it?
Remember to WACC your kids.
No, I’m not saying to hit your kids. “WACC” is a good acronym to help you keep in mind 4 things that come up in the research again and again:
- Work on yourself
These four things can make a big difference in whether you end up saving college money or bail money.
Let’s break down the how and why on these parenting tips so that your kids end up healthy, smart and happy.
1) Work On Yourself
This is what many of the parenting books ignore — and it may be the most important.
Want happy kids? Then make sure you’re keeping yourself joyful. Happy parents make for happy kids and parental depression causes child behavior problems.
And this is not merely due to genetics.
So other than feeling good about you own life, what’s key here? That ol’ work-life balance.
In fact, what’s the #1 thing kids wish for when it comes to parents? They wish you were less tired and stressed.
Your stress isn’t just your stress — it’s their stress too. When you’re stressed out it hurts your children’s intelligence and immune systems.
Yup, you are a role model. So the first step to taking good care of your kids is taking care of you.
(For more on the research-backed ways to raise happy kids, click here.)
Okay, so you’re taking good care of yourself. What else do many of the parenting tips miss?
Tiger moms and helicopter parents: your children thrive when they have some room to be individuals.
Kids do better when they make plans themselves or at least have a say.
You should even allow them to pick their own punishments. It creates greater motivation to obey the rules.
Which kids say they like going to school? The ones who get to pick which extracurricular activities they’re involved in.
You don’t have to overschedule kids or be involved in every moment of their lives. Unstructured play has huge positive effects on children.
(For more scientific tips on how to make your kids smarter, click here.)
So everybody always talks about communicating with kids… but what’s that actually mean?
You know much real conversation happens at family dinner? 10 minutes.
I interviewed Bruce Feiler, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Secrets of Happy Families and he said the research shows most of the talk at the dinner table is “Take your elbows off the table” and “Please pass the ketchup.”
So what’s the best way to make use of those 10 minutes? Here’s Bruce:
And I asked Bruce what he would recommend if he could only give one piece of advice.
He said: “Set aside time to talk about what it means to be a part of your family.”
Ask yourself: “What are your family values?” In business-speak: Develop a mission statement for your family.
Not having family dinner together? You might want to start. It has huge benefits.
Doesn’t work for your family’s schedule? It doesn’t have to be dinner. And it doesn’t have to be every night.
I know what some of you are thinking: isn’t all that talking going to mean more fighting? Yes. And that’s a good thing.
Moderate conflict with teens produces better adjustment than none.
And what’s a quick trick for getting your kid to be honest? Po has an answer.
Say: “I’m about to ask you a question. But before I do that, will you promise to tell the truth?”
(For more on how to have a happy family, click here.)
Final tip. What else do you need to do? Well, really, it has nothing to do with you…
Tons of research shows religious families are happier. Why is that?
Further study has shown it’s the friends that a religious community provides. A community of ten supportive friends makes families happier.
What influences your kids more than you do? Their peer group.
And your kids need more family in their lives than just their parents and siblings.
If you had to make sure one family member was consistently there for the young ones, who should it be?
Grandmom. Scores of studies show the incredible benefits that grandmom brings, like teaching kids to cooperate and to be compassionate.
Children who spend time with their grandparents are more social, do better in school and show more concern for others.
(For more of the latest research on good parenting skills, click here.)
Time to round all this up and add in that last ingredient that makes your kids love you back.
Remember to WACC your kids:
- Work on yourself: Increasing your own happiness and reducing your stress have big effects on your kids.
- Autonomy: Want them to be successful adults? Make sure they have a say in what they do — starting now.
- Communicate: Family meals make a big difference. Tell them their family history. More arguing means less lying.
- Community: Their peers have more influence they you do. Make sure Grandmom is around if you want compassionate children.
One last thing you need to keep in mind if you want a close relationship with the kiddos:
Love. Don’t just be guider, protector and enforcer. Kids are nearly 50% more likely to feel close to those who show them affection.
They’re the next generation. They have the potential to be better than we are, so give them every chance. As Dr. Seuss said:
“Adults are obsolete children.”
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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