6 things successful people say their parents did growing up

You may have heard of the infamous Stanford study coined the “Marshmallow Study” in 1972. 

Used to assess delayed gratification, researchers gave children a simple choice. Participants could have one marshmallow now, or they could wait a period of time and have two. 

These children were tracked for years after the initial study, and an overwhelming percentage of kids who waited for the second marshmallow were, on average, more successful in everything from academics to work and happiness

On the other hand, their counterparts, the ones who ate the first marshmallow and couldn’t resist, well, on average, they didn’t fare so well. 

All this to say, how we are brought up, and the choices we sometimes make as we age impact how we function as adults and the levels of success we can obtain.

But all that leads to this question, “What common characteristics did the parents of successful people do when growing up?”

Today, we will explore just that. The most successful people had parents that did these six things

Six things successful people said their parents did

1. Let them ask questions and learn on their own.

Letting kids ask questions on their own and engage in “Adult Talk” can make them more successful. Don’t believe me?

Published in 2008, Malcolm Gladwell’s hit book, Outliers, analyzed many successful people throughout history and even makes a point to address reading levels and their correlation with socioeconomic status and parenting. 

Gladwell points out that kids who retain reading skills each summer, thus becoming better at reading overtime, have parents who engage with them and let them learn on their own. Instead of just going to the dentist, a parent might ask, “What questions are you going to ask your dentist about today?”

These parents encourage their kids to ask questions, think deeply, and engage in “Adult Talk,” thus helping condition them for future interactions. This is also a confidence-building strategy that helps kids grow up with strong interpersonal skills! 

2. They were honest. 

“You can be anything you want in life so long as you put your mind to it!”

Yes and no. 

You could want to be the President, a professional basketball player, or a musician – but the likelihood of those things occurring are slim to none. This is where honesty in parenting comes in. 

Helping their children understand what it takes to make it to the top, including things like work ethic, education, grit, and perseverance, to name a few, starts with being very honest.

Honest parents say things like:

  • You can be a great high school basketball player and perhaps even a college basketball player, but there are factors like height and talent you may not possess. Have a backup plan. 
  • You might be president, but you will first need to go to law school and start a political career. Have a plan if you truly want to go into politics. 
  • You can be a musician, but most musicians never make enough money to pay their bills, so what else do you have in mind?

While this might seem like you’re crushing a child’s dreams, please make no mistake, being honest with what it takes is better than encouraging a kid they will be the next Micahel Jordan even though they don’t make the high school team! 

Honesty goes further! 

3. Read to them. 

Reading allows us to see the areas where we can stand for improvement and come to grips with it independently. 

However, many parents contradict themselves when they tell their kids they need to read, yet they spend all their time watching the TV when they’re at home. But studies show that if parents read to their kids, those kids will be more successful. 

Cognitive functioning, creativity, social skills, and the given – vocabulary – all go up when parents read to their children. 

Readers are not always leaders, but as the saying goes, all leaders are readers! 

4. Let them eat dirt (fail).

Learning from failure is vital to anyone’s success. 

Often in school, we are taught a lesson, then given a test. However, as adults, we are confronted with a test that usually teaches us a lesson… so long as we pass the test, life throws at us. 

Learning from failures (lessons) parents let their kids learn on their own instead of micromanaging their life. This helps children develop perseverance, resilience, and determination.

Sometimes referred to as natural consequences or the “Hot Stove” phenomenon, successful people had parents who let them learn on their own – especially when making mistakes! 

Put plainly, letting a kid eat dirt is another way of saying let your kids fail. 

5. Eat dinner together.

A sense of community and belonging, who doesn’t want that as an adult?

Well, that belonging starts with a family meal, where technology is off, conversations are in full swing, and children can learn from others. Countless studies show that families that eat together more often than not have kids who grow up to succeed. 

Once again, things like vocabulary, perspective, and interpersonal skills are more commonly possessed amongst those who had family dinner growing up! Sorry, Freshly and DoorDash!

6. Let them know when they mess up. 

This might seem like a spin on being honest with your kids, but successful people had parents who let them know when they messed up. 

In Dr. Jordon Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life, one of his rules is, “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.” His reason for this seemingly odd rule?

If you let kids get away with things you don’t like when they’re young – say throwing a fit in a restaurant – these behaviors will take shape in different forms later in life; only later in life, there are more serious repercussions (think job loss, relationship issues, lack of follow-through, etc.). 

Successful adults had parents who were very candid with them when they messed up or missed the mark. Unlike the participation trophy, successful adults had parents who let kids know when they lost when they won, when they did something wrong, and how to get better. 

When a child messes up, it’s better to let them know. Parents who manipulate environments and outcomes more often than not hurt their kids instead of helping! 

The verdict

Success isn’t easy, and neither is parenting. 

However, if you ask a teacher who their favorite parents are, they will tell you it’s the parents who foster a great learning environment, but they don’t micromanage every situation for their kids. 

If you see a common trend in this article – let kids fail, social skills, perseverance – that is because these are the qualities that typically separate those who make it higher on the ladder than those who don’t.

Successful adults typically had parents that instilled a system of values and character within them, and they did this with things like reading, eating dinner, and letting them fail forward!