We all know that the most important thing in raising a child is to offer it unstinting love. But what are the next two most important things? Surprisingly, neither have to do with how you specifically relate to your child, as I learned from a fascinating article in the current issue of Scientific American Mind by child psychologist (and fellow PT blogger) Robert Epstein.
Epstein points out that parents are deluged with advice — there are more than 40,000 books on the topic listed on Amazon. So he and his colleagues set out to see if they could determine which techniques were the most important in raising healthy, happy, successful children. Epstein analyzed responses to an online parenting-skills questionnaire that had been completed by some 2000 people. The survey asked respondents to rate themselves in 10 different categories of parenting skill, which Epstein calls “The Parents’ Ten,” since prior studies have shown them to be crucial tools. The test-takers were also asked how well their children had turned out.
As expected, Epstein found that the most important parenting skill is simply love them. “Our… findings confirmed what most parents already believe,” Epstein writes, “that the best thing we can do for our children is to give them lots of love and affection.” But the second and third most important factors related not to how the parents treat the child, but one another and themselves. Read the rest of this entry »