From the longest study on human development, which spans over 70 years and involves more than 70,000 children, Helen Pearson sought to find out what more parents can learn from scientific research — this time on how to be a “good parent.”
Pearson is a mom of three children whose ages are 3, 9 and 12. She is also the chief magazine editor of Nature, the world’s leading science journal. But, in a TED talk held last April 2017, she admits she has no idea what she’s doing as a mom most of the time.
“I want them to be happy and healthy in their lives, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do to make sure they are happy and healthy,” Pearson says. “There's so many books offering all kinds of conflicting advice, it can be really overwhelming. So I've spent most of their lives just making it up as I go along.”
That is until Pearson dug into a British study that started all the way back in 1946. “It's helped me become more confident about how I bring up my own children, and it's revealed a lot about how we as a society can help all children. I want to share that secret with you today,” says Pearson.
The secret she found is simple and can be summarized in five easy-to-follow tips. To be a “good parent,” one must:
You can't get an easy-to-follow manual than that, right? Pearson explains that these fives tips are especially useful for children who were born in disadvantaged households. “Children who had engaged, interested parents, ones who had ambition for their future, were more likely to escape from a difficult start. It seems that parents and what they do are really, really important, especially in the first few years of life.”
“Good parenting” helps children beat the odds and overcome their disadvantages, says Pearson. Although, good parenting cannot entirely reverse the bad outcomes of being born into poverty, she explained, it can still greatly impact what a child will be able to achieve and become later on.
Of course, these five tips do not act as the formula to perfect parenting (there's no such thing). Every child is different and complex with specific, individual needs, added Pearson. But it is a good place to start.
Pearson shared, “I realized I was so busy working… that there were days when I hardly even spoke to my own British children. I try better now to ask them what they did today, and to show that I value what they do at school. Of course, I make sure they always have a book to read. I tell them I'm ambitious for their future, and I think they can be happy and do great things.
I don't know that any of that will make a difference, but I'm pretty confident it won't do them any harm, and it might even do them some good.”