Being a millennial, I grew up in an era where technology was on the cusp of booming into what it has transformed into today. I played computer games that I found in cereal boxes, I instant messaged my friends using AOL or MSN, and I fell in love with video games and technology in general.
But nowadays, the limits of technology aren’t as prominent as when I was a kid. While I grew up withsome technology, what we had was never anything like what the kids of today have. The iPhone wasn’t a thing until I got to college; I was super proud of my matte black Motorola Razr in high school, it couldn’t do much (relative to smartphones today), but it was awesome.
If you walked into a supermarket today and saw a toddler using a tablet or smartphone, you probably wouldn’t even think twice about it. I know that my spoiled cousins, who are in elementary school, have had the latest in tech gadgetry for as long as they can remember.
The invasion of technology into our children’s lives has become a concern for some, acknowledging that they are now having to compete (sometimes fiercely) for their child’s attention in a world full of computer user interface interaction. And they’re worried that it’s going to affect whether or not their kids turn into ‘good’ kids or ‘bad’ kids.
But Harvard psychologists have been studying the things parents do that cause their children to turn out one way or another, and reoccurring themes have popped up everywhere, suggesting that there are still tried-and-true methods of child-rearing that will help your kid become a successful, functioning member of society like we all want them to be.
Here are five tips from Harvard psychologists for how to raise your child:
Spend time with your kids
Perhaps the most fundamental and useful tip you should take heed of when reading this, spending time with your kids is the most important thing you can do when they’re young. Ask them questions about their world, how it makes sense to them, and what they think about themselves. Be sure to really listen and engage with them when you do this, you’ll learn so much about your child, and you’ll be teaching them how to listen to others and care for them.
If something matters, say it out loud
Wanting something for your child is natural, and if it really matters to you then say it out loud to them. Researchers have said, “even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message.” Tell them that you want them to be nice and caring. And be sure to check in with the adult supervisors that they interact with on a regular basis to see how they’re doing with teamwork and just being a decent being.
Show your child how to solve their problems
The decision-making processes that we all go through on a routine basis have been largely influenced by our parents and the way they did things. Try going through these processes with them, showing them how to think critically along the way. For example, if they want to quit the sport they’ve been playing. Ask them how their decision will affect the other members of the team and whether or not their quitting will help anything.
Exhibit helpfulness and gratitude regularly
The researchers say that “studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving–and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” Which means that parents should be holding their kids accountable for chores and their expressions of gratitude throughout their days. However, researchers have suggested that parents only give praise to “uncommon acts of kindness” when it comes to rewarding ‘positive’ behavior.
Teach them how to see the bigger picture
According to the researchers, “almost all children empathize with and care about a small circle of families and friends,” which means that the key to this tip is being able to get them to care about people who lie outside of these familiar circles. To do this, teach them how to be excellent listeners, encourage them to try to place themselves in another’s position, and use opportune moments to teach them how to empathize.
The final quote of the study says this:
“Raising a caring, respectful, ethical child is and always has been hard work. But it’s something all of us can do. And no work is more important or ultimately more rewarding.”