The Secret of Parenting, According to a Nobel Laureate

Want your kids to succeed in life? What parent doesn't? That's why we have helicopter parenting, Tiger Moms, Panda Dads and so on and so forth.

But what is the secret to creating happy children that grow up into successful adults? According to Nobel laureate and economist James Heckman, the secret to good parenting is actually less of it:

So what can parents do to help their children develop skills like motivation and perseverance? The reality is that when it comes to noncognitive skills, the traditional calculus of the cognitive hypothesis—start earlier and work harder—falls apart. Children can't get better at overcoming disappointment just by working at it for more hours. And they don't lag behind in curiosity simply because they didn't start doing curiosity work sheets at an early enough age.

Instead, it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills—which is to say, to develop their character—may be to do nothing. To back off a bit. To let our children face some adversity on their own, to fall down and not be helped back up. When you talk today to teachers and administrators at high-achieving high schools, this is their greatest concern: that their students are so overly protected from adversity, in their homes and at school, that they never develop the crucial ability to overcome real setbacks and in the process to develop strength of character.

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