Every parent wants to know how to raise a successful and happy child, and how to be a good parent to our children. Well, turns out, the answer isn't as complicated as we'd think, at least according to the longest study of child development in history.
A 70-year study of over 70,000 kids finally reveals the secrets to raising happy and successful children.
How to raise a successful and happy child: Based on the longest study of child development in history
The study we are talking about here is known as the British birth cohort studies.Basically, for the last 70 years, British researchers have followed the lives of over 70,000 kids (born in 1946, after World War II) to see how they were doing, in terms of health, education, and overall thriving. And to better understand what constitutes good parenting.
In a TED talk in 2017, author Helen Pearson shared what she learned both as a scientist, and as a mother, from writing her book, The Life Project, on the cohort studies.
First, let's look at some findings from the study, as revealed by Helen:
- Children who were born into poverty were apparently far more likely to struggle in life. That includes doing badly at school, ending up with worse jobs and earning less money.
In one study, children who were born into poverty were almost a year behind other children in educational tests, and that was just by the age of 3.
- Children who had a tough start in life were also more likely to end up unhealthy as adults.
The study clearly shows that our early circumstances have a profound influence on the way the rest of our lives play out.
But the good part is, the study also shows that parents really matter. Children who had engaged and interested parents, and parents who had ambitions for their future, were more likely to escape from a difficult start.
"Parenting matters," declares Pearson, "especially in the first few years of a child’s life."
Thankfully, being a good parent is quite basic, and easier than we had thought.
Here are some things we need to do as parents (based on the study), if we want our children to grow up to be happy and successful:
- Talk to and listen to your kids
- Make it clear you have ambitions for their future
- Be emotionally warm
- Teach them letters and numbers
- Take them on excursions and visits
- Read to them daily (and encourage them to read for pleasure)
- Maintain a regular bedtime
Here is Helen's TED Talk video:
Interestingly, children whose parents were reading to them regularly when they were 5, and then showing an interest in their education at the age of 10, were significantly less likely to be in poverty at the age of 30.
Even something as basic as a bedtime routine has consequences on your child's behaviour. Data showed that those children who were going to bed at different times were more likely to have behavioural problems, than those who had regular bedtimes.
“Ultimately, if we want happy children, all we can do is listen to the science, and of course, listen to our children themselves," concludes Pearson.