Independent adults are built from their first days, studies show

A mother may not be able to instill financial tips in her one-year-old, but evidence from several studies shows she can take early steps to ensure her child’s sound financial future.

The future begins at first steps
The success of a business owner’s financial plan and overall leadership often begins from the very start of life, according to Carol S. Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. The key to raising real-world savvy children, Dweck’s studies show, is to encourage acts rather than simply telling kids they are wonderful.

One example she notes in Stanford Report is of a parent playing catch with his child. Dweck explained that an adult who tells his son that he’s done a good job, rather than saying he is a great baseball player, is more likely to develop a mindset in his offspring that lends itself to challenges and lacks a fear of failure.

“‘You’re great, you’re amazing’ – that is not helpful,” she said. “Because later on, when they don’t get it right or don’t do it perfectly, they’ll think they aren’t so great or amazing.”

Letting go little by little
The psychology expert’s findings were reported by the New York Times in 2012 and were backed by Madeline Levine, a clinician and author of Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success. Levine agreed that research done by Dweck and fellow psychology professor Diana Baumrind of the University of California proved the necessity for parents to promote autonomy in their children in order for them to become successful later in life.

Baumrind’s research, according to Levine, shows the ideal attitude parents should carry in raising their children is one that is firm in setting some guidelines – character-based terms and basic family values – but lenient in allowing adolescents to choose their own path in many other ways.

Levine’s New York Times editorial focuses on what is arguably the hardest part of parenting for involved moms and dads: Letting children become their own people by allowing them to take necessary, increasingly more risky steps. The author provides the example of letting a preteen daughter go to the mall with friends for the first time and the emotions a parent must cope with in facilitating this relatively safe right of passage. Essentially, she says, kids have not got a chance unless their parents are willing to let them take progressively bigger leaps away toward independence.

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