The rich aren’t like you and me, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote almost a century ago. One of the ways that’s most obvious today is how they choose to raise their kids.
Let’s assume that the most successful and wealthiest people love their kids as much as the rest of us do.
They can literally do anything to ensure their kids have the best chance of growing up to be happy and successful, too. So here are some of the things they choose to do.
Most of these are backed up by science–but as well-known, successful people understand, they have more of a platform to preach their practices.
1. Help them develop emotional intelligence.
This is right at the top of the list. Happy and successful people need one thing more than anything else: great relationships. Developing them, as the people at the Gottman Institute have written at length, requires developing adequate emotional intelligence.
The most important thing parents can do to encourage this development? Model good behavior in their own love and partnerships. Billionaire entrepreneur Tory Burch summarized this as well as anyone: “Put your children and family first, and then everything falls into place.”
2. Encourage them correctly (and let them fail).
Encouraging kids correctly is about praising them for their effort, not for the results. Doing so pushes kids to develop a “growth mindset,” according to the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck, rather than a less successful “fixed mindset.”
Doing this right includes making them understand that failure is okay.
“My dad would ask my brother and me what we had failed at that week, and if we didn’t have something to tell him, he’d be disappointed,” explains self-made billionaire Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was just redefining failure for me, so failure didn’t become about the outcome, it became about not trying.”
3. Help them date and marry the right people.
I get lots of feedback every time I write about this, but successful people tout it all the time: Marry the right person. At the very least, don’t marry the wrong person. Jeff Haden has written about this at length, citing a well-known study at Washington University in St. Louis.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives immense credit to having married the right person in accounting for her success: “I have had more than a little bit of luck in life, but nothing equals in magnitude my marriage to Martin D. Ginsburg. .. [W]ithout him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court.”
4. Work from home when you can.
The science is pretty clear that people who work from home (at least sometimes) are happier and more successful than their colleagues in the same job who go to an office every day. And the world’s most successful people say it’s also important to help raise successful kids.
“I’m a great believer in people working from home,” explains billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, both because of what it did for his lifestyle, and for the opportunity to be with his kids.
5. Eat meals with them.
One of my favorite parts of the day is that I get to eat breakfast with my daughter each morning. Turns out, this is good practice–eating meals with kids makes it more likely they’ll be successful, because doing so communicates that “time at home as a family is our highest priority,” writes pediatrician Dr. Leonard Sax.
We could highlight any number of successful people on this front–but let’s go with Jeff Bezos, who reportedly refuses to schedule morning meetings, because that’s the time he’s eating breakfast with his kids.
6. Don’t hover like a helicopter…
The former dean of freshman at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims, says kids face big problems now because their parents hover over them with helicopters, saving them from hardship and hard decisions. As had as it is to step aside, the most successful people realize it’s important.
“I’d much rather have a kid with nine fingers than a resourceless kid,” says MacKenie Bezos (wife of Jeff), explaining why they let their kids play with knives.
7. But be by their sides when they need you.
I think the lesson here is: don’t go to extremes, because avoiding helicopter parenting doesn’t mean leaving kids to fend for themselves. A review of research in this field suggests between the “run to their side” school of parenting, and the “tell your kids to suck it up” side, “run to their side” (maybe within rason) leads to happier outcomes.
There are many examples to cite here, but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s habits strike a chord. Reportedly, he makes time each day to ensure he’s home to tuck in his kids at night–and sings the Jewish prayer Mi Shebeirach to his daughter.
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