Parenting is hard. Possibly the most underrated sentence of the century – but it’s true. Parents have the task of raising children – teaching them right from wrong, how to tie their shoes, how to be a good sport, how to deal with heartbreak and everything in between. We also all know that children are sponges and begin soaking up lessons before we realize we’re even giving them.
While many children don’t remember the first few years of their lives, the moments and memories they do remember can stick with them into adulthood. Because of that, a parent’s behavior in the home can have a lasting impact on children, as preschoolers and beyond.
Parenting trends are just that – trends. Millennials are raising their children differently from their upbringing. New information and new technology have taught us that children between the ages of 2-5 should have no more than an hour of screen time each day. We’ve also learned that helicopter parenting, while it has its positives, can very negatively influence children.
But, while there is no magic formula for how to parent, a study featured in the New York Times found a “sweet spot.” Studies have found that the “optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy.”
“Authoritative parents” have found the perfect place for parental involvement and generally raise children who do better “academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved.”
Clear as mud, right? Maybe it’s time to remind everyone once again that parenting is hard. And while everyone has their own style, we have one key piece of information that can potentially help parents raise successful children – emotional support, beginning at an early age.
According to a study published in Child Development, babies and toddlers raised in a supportive and caring home did better on standardized tests in school and later obtaining higher education degrees. They also benefited socially and felt satisfied in romantic relationships.
“It seems like, at least in these early years, the parents’ role is to communicate with the child and let them know, ‘I’m here for you when you’re upset, when you need me. And when you don’t need me, I’m your cheerleader,'” says Lee Raby, a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware who led the study.
We may all still be trying to figure out what parenting style is right for our families and children, but in the mean time, we can offer the support our children need to lead successful lives.