Lessons from the longest study on human development

Parenting has never been easy and we all wish there is a manual that guides us on this tedious and ever-so-challenging journey. As a matter of fact, plenty of such guides are out there but they tend to espouse different principles and guidelines and they can be very overwhelming. No fret. Here’s the ultimate parenting summary from the findings of studying 70,000 children across five generations. Ready? Get your notebook out!

1. Be responsive and interested parents.

Studies have shown that small things that parents do, like talking and listening to a child, responding to them warmly, teaching them their letters and numbers, taking them on trips and visits, are associated with good outcomes for children. In one study, children whose parents were reading to them daily when they were five 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 than those whose parents weren’t doing those things.

2. Send your kids to bed at regular times.

Studies have shown that those children who were going to bed at different times were more likely to have behavioural problems. In fact, sleep has been found by researchers to affect executive functioning and children with a lack of sleep or irregular sleeping habits tend to suffer from lower inhibitory and impulse control. One more bad news, one study showed that catch-up sleep on a weekend has no particular benefits to executive functions; it might even have an adverse effect on self-regulation in children. Therefore, send your kids to bed at regular timings and do not rely on catch-up sleep on the weekends!

3. Leave it to your child to choose what to read.

Scientists found that children who were reading for pleasure, be it a magazine, a picture book, or a story book, were more likely to perform better in school in all subjects and not just English. So do not stop your child from reading Geronimo Stilton or Whimpy Kid thinking they are useless or too simple! Whatever they read doesn’t matter, what’s more important is that they read.

In summary, the ultimate guide to parenting: Give them your attention for at least 30min a day, send them to bed at regular timings, allow them to go everywhere with a book (instead of an electronic device!), whatever the title. Congratulations, you are on your way to becoming a GREATER PARENT.

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