Sydney Gideon, Symmetry Counseling Therapist

Throughout our upbringing and early adulthood two of our main goals are for happiness and success. These words can mean different things to various individuals and one person’s version of success may not be another’s but overall, these are the two things most individuals work towards throughout their lives. Despite this being a priority for many years, there comes a time in individual’s life where their goals shift. This is typically when a man or woman decide to have children. At this point, it’s common for the parent’s priority to be the success and happiness of their children over their own.

While there are many factors that go into whether or not a child will be successful, scientists and researchers have begun to condense these factors into a more specific list. There are always outliers and children who defy the odds stacked against them, but author Bill Murphy Jr., has found many parents of successful and happy children have a number of things in common. 10 of the most important things parents can do to raise successful and happy children are highlighted below.

1. Live in the best possible neighborhood

The most important decision a parent can make for their child is to live in a location with good schools even if that requires their family to move. Attending a good school and living in a good neighborhood opens the door to more opportunities than living in a less privileged area. While this suggestion is rightfully controversial, it has been proven to make a large difference in a child’s life leading to the mindset of “buying the cheapest house in the best neighborhood”.

2. Support and model healthy relationships

A study called the Grant Study examined the main factor leading to the happiness of 400 male Harvard students. The findings showed the single most influential factor leading to health and happiness is good relationships. This information allows parents to acknowledge the gravity of modeling good relationships for their child. Modeling and encouraging healthy relationships is an important priority of parents of successful kids.

3. Provide positive reinforcement

The way in which a parent praises their child can be very influential on their lifelong habits. Instead of praising their child for a positive outcome, parents of successful kids praise their children for the strategies or effort given. For example, praising a child for how hard they studied for an exam versus praising them for the grade they received can make a big difference in their lifelong habits.

4. Teach real life skills

In the book, How to Raise an Adult, the author stresses the importance of requiring kids to do chores and to be responsible for their own work/homework. She states, “teach them the skills they’ll need in real life, and give them enough leash to practice those skills on their own.” As she says, “chores build a sense of accountability”.

5. Respond supportively

While there is much controversy surrounding this topic, research supports taking a more involved approach when a child is hurt versus a “get over it” attitude. It has been shown parents who respond supportively to their children’s feelings raise more socially well-adjusted kids than parents who respond in a more extreme manner.

6. Encourage and model resiliency

In general, resiliency is known to be an underlying factor in determining success. Resiliency is what allows an individual to fail repeatedly without losing determination and continuing to pursue their goal. This is fostered by encouraging your child to tackle challenges and take risks without being deterred by the fear of failure.

7. Be their advocate

While it is important to allow kids the opportunity to stand up for themselves, it is also a parent’s role to advocate for their children, particularly in the school setting. Schools, unfortunately, tend to focus most of their energy on the more average students in order to increase their overall performance, at the expense of the more gifted students. The belief is typically higher functioning students will achieve their potential on their own which is not accurate.

8. Emphasize high expectations for them

While this research is very controversial, studies have shown children whose parents have set high expectations for them have more positive outcomes later in life.

9. Model a healthy and loving relationship

A study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis discovered “marrying the right person leads people to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.” While this is largely the child’s choice, parents of successful kids do their best to model a healthy and loving relationship and ensure their children understand the gravity of choosing a life partner.

10. Encourage forward thinking and financial stability

While many people hesitate to say money determines happiness, it’s necessary to acknowledge a lack of money can lead to a very hard and trying life. It’s not beneficial for an individual to find themselves in a position where they’re unable to live up to their potential because they’re focusing on short-term financial needs. When 118 successful entrepreneurs were asked if they could determine a factor responsible for their success, 93% responded “they’d been encouraged to act like entrepreneurs and had gotten started when they were still young”.