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"Tough Love" is Good for Kids

Tough LoveA British study has concluded that a “tough love” approach to parenting brings out the best in kids. The study showed that kids whose parents were engaged in their lives and set clear rules and expectations had the most “character”.

According the report’s author, Jen Lexmond, “It is confidence, warmth and consistent discipline that matter most.”

How do you measure character? The Demos think tank looked at personality traits like:

  • self-control
  • empathy
  • application.

They found that five-year-olds who had received a balance of warmth and firmness from their parents scored better in these areas than those whose parents were laissez-faire or disengaged.

The study also found that economic class was a major factor in children’s success, with rich kids doing better in the character department than their poor peers. Additionally, children of married parents fared better than children growing up in single parent house or with a stepparent.

The factor that mattered most, however, was the quality of parenting kids received during their preschool years. Breastfeeding and the educational background of the child’s primary caregiver also gave kids a boost in the character department.

Paid employment for either parent did not affect the kids’ character development at all.

How important is character? It’s an essential skill for success in life, the think tank says, and one that can’t be taught later on. By the time a child is five years old, their core personality is largely shaped already.

To help even the playing field between rich and poor, the group is recommending that Britain’s Sure Start program put more resources into parenting education and support, and focus less on daycare.

The study isn’t advocating punishing young kids to toughen them up, but rather staying involved in their lives and teaching them from an early age to be responsible for themselves and their actions.

What do you think? How tough is your love? Do your kids run wild, or do you rein them in?

Photo: Jurgen Schiller Garcia

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