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Raising children to grow up safely and thrive in the world is certainly the top priority for most parents. But it takes work and intention. Here are several habits which researchers have found contribute to steering kids toward a successful trajectory.
1. They use an authoritative parenting style.
It's when parents have rules and enforce them, but also are warm and explain the rationale behind their expectations. This is opposed to an authoritarian style, which PsyBlog describes as holding kids to high standards without negotiating while being punitive and non-nurturing. According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescence, this kind of strict parenting style can be linked with delinquent behavior in adolescents. It's because kids perceive unbending, authoritarian parents as having less legitimacy, making teens more likely to rebel.
2. They travel with their children.
Exposing kids to new cultures and locales exercises parts of the brain which can be under-utilized in a kid's normal environment. The Telegraph outlines research which has found that two systems—described as the PLAY system and the SEEKING system by a neuroscientist named Jaak Panksepp—are activated when kids travel, helping to grow and mature the frontal lobe. It's the area of the brain responsible for cognitive functioning, social intelligence, attention, motivation, memory, and more.
3. They play card games with their kids.
Experts have found that playing card games can improve math skills, memory and strategic thinking, promote conversation, and strengthen family relationships. It can also build social skills, since verbal sparring, joking, and bluffing often are involved. "To be able to compete against parents and sometimes win is symbolically important to kids," William Doherty, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, told The Wall Street Journal. "They get a sense that 'my time is coming,' a little foretaste of not being under the parent's thumb."
4. They exercise regularly.
A few things are at play here. First, when parents are in better health, they have the physical and emotional energy to do what it takes to raise kids the right way. Second, it's all about role modeling—kids who see their parents exercising are more likely to do it themselves. And get this: According to a study published in Cell Reports, when men exercise something happens at the cellular level to affect their sperm, which is passed onto offspring who then have better capacity for learning and brain function.
5. They eat meals with their kids.
According to the American College of Pediatricians, researchers have found that when families regularly eat meals together, kids are less likely to engage in negative high-risk behaviors. Congregating around the table makes kids feel secure in having structure in their day and helps parents assess how their kids are doing emotionally, behaviorally, and socially. It's also a place where children can see their parents respectfully interact, solve problems, and share their feelings.