Are you a Tiger Mom or a Snowplow Parent – someone who turns every moment of your child’s life into an opportunity to learn? It might be time to back off – and let your kids be kids.
Parenting expert Bryan Caplan says that research shows that kids who grow up in “enriched homes” – where they’re spoon-fed, or even force-fed educational and cultural opportunities – aren’t any smarter or more successful than kids who grow up in average homes. That’s because more than half of our personality traits are determined genetically, including our desire and ability to pursue lofty goals.
Kids aren’t really lumps of clay, we can mold into whatever we want. They’re more like balls of rubber. In other words, we can stretch them in different ways. But the moment we let go, they snap back to their original shape. Meaning, you can use flashcards to force your child to memorize French words. But if they’re not interested in French, it’s not going to stick.
Our parenting expert Caplan says this discovery bums out a lot of moms and dads who are hoping to push their kids toward great things. But he says parents should be happy. Because it means that raising a child doesn’t have to be a high-stress, 24/7 job that requires perfection. And once you accept that you can’t design an educational childhood that’ll guarantee your kid gets into Harvard or Yale, you can relax and just have fun with them. Say, by focusing on enjoyable memories – like visits to the zoo – instead of rote memorization and endless hours of studying.
Of course this doesn’t mean you can let your children do whatever they please. Kids may not need schedules and itineraries. But our expert says they do need guidance. In fact, one of the most important areas of parental influence lies in everyday behavior. Which means, teaching your kids to be honest, polite, and respectful of other people will do more to secure their future than creating an Ivy-League admissions checklist of sports, grades, and volunteer projects.