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Parenting Discoveries You Need to Know

Search Amazon for ‘parenting’ and you’ll find 120,000 books. Parents, myself included, clearly have a lot of questions. New research is providing fresh answers every year — though perhaps there are so many studies now it can be all a bit overwhelming. Here’s my summary of what seemed to be the bigger findings to emerge about ‘bringing up baby’ in 2012, there’s not much brain research in this post, just lots of food for thought.

No. 1: As freedom wanes in children, so does creativity

We live in a world obsessed with data. Applying this trend to education may be having some unintended consequences, creating an obsession with following the rules, with getting the answers right, and with reducing children’s capacity to think freely. Researchers are wondering if this trend may be partly to blame for the steady decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the last few decades.

According to Kyung Hee Kim, a professor at the College of William and Mary, all aspects of creativity are in decline for kids, the biggest being in the measure called Creative Elaboration — which assesses the ability to expand on ideas in novel ways. Yikes.

Kim, analyzed test scores from kindergarten through twelfth grade over several decades using the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT). The scores on these tests began to decline somewhere between 1984 and 1990 and have continued to decline since. Grade level didn’t matter.

This decline in creativity should raise concern in the business world, where creativity is an important asset because it is one of the biggest driving forces for innovation and problem solving. There are also very strong links between creative scores and success in life, with the TTCT being a greater predictor of adult achievement than IQ and peer reports and many other metrics.

Are we really leaving no child left behind, or are we leaving no child free to be creative?

No. 2: Overly coddled children can grow into incompetent adults

Research shows it is important to communicate, encourage, and cuddle with your youngsters a lot if you’re interested in raising highly moral and empathetic children. Just be careful not to go from cuddling to coddling.

When kids are praised for everything and told they are ‘special’ it does two things: reduces their desire to put in effort and reduces their ability to self-regulate because they do not challenge themselves. Self-regulation is a central player in whether people succeed or not. Researcher Carol Dweck has shown that a ‘change’ mindset versus a ‘fixed’ mindset is central to learning. Trying to instill high self-esteem in kids without ever challenging them is likely to leave these future adults in a ‘set’ mindset, less able to develop themselves and most importantly, less willing to change negative circumstances that come their way.

Coddling children, results in developing adults who expect a lot from life but are not willing to give much in order to get what they want. (See more on codding in my previous blog.)

No. 3: Fostering delinquency in our young by being too controlling

There are three common styles of parenting: authoritarian, authoritative, or permissive — each of which have their own characteristics. Recent studies show one of the styles results in a higher likelihood of fostering delinquent children…

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