Amy Chua ruffled a lot of feathers when she wrote, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She said Asian kids have an edge over Western kids because Asian parents are more strict. As a Chinese-American mom, she didn’t let her children attend sleepovers, watch TV, play video games, or pick their own after school activities. They had to play the violin or the piano. They weren’t allowed to act in any school plays.
Every parent wants their children to succeed. But there might be an easier way to do it. In fact, it might be easier today than at any time before. There’s a long lost art that helps kids to kick butt. Household chores.
In fact, college graduates from state schools–if they did household chores as kids–might be more successful than Ivy League grads who didn’t do chores.
In a Braun Research poll of 1,001 parents, 82 percent of the parents who were surveyed said they routinely did chores when they were children. But just 28 percent of parents said their children do chores.
According to a 20-year University of Minnesota study, chores are the best predictor of success in young adults. The study determined success by career paths, level of education and personal relationships. The best results, according to the study, come when children begin to do chores by ages 3 and 4.
A Harvard University study found the same thing among inner-city males. Regular household chores were a lot like Popeye’s spinach. The research found that doing chores beat “all other childhood variables in predicting adult mental health and capacity for interpersonal relationships.”
Julie Lythcott-Haims is former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University. She’s also the author of How To Raise An Adult. She says household chores help kids become responsible. They learn to persevere. Chores don’t include cleaning a bedroom, making a bed or doing personal laundry. They include tasks that take care of the family. Such activities might include mowing the lawn, washing dishes, vacuuming or poo patrol–for families with dogs.
“When young people have been expected to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, and to ask how they can contribute to the household, it leads to a mind-set of pitching in in other settings, such as the workplace,” she says. She adds that parents who don’t assign chores deprive their kids of certain life skills.
There’s another clear way to help your children to succeed. Limit the time that they spend on social media. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe are the authors of Man Interrupted. Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He says kids spend far too much time on social media, often playing video games. This impedes their ability to be social. It also creates sexual and academic issues. These kids, he says, will have tougher times finding jobs, maintaining friendships and developing healthy sexual relationships.
Dr. Jeff Devens agrees. The school psychologist surveyed 600 middle school and high school students at a private school in Singapore. He found that the average teen reported spending more than 2 hours a day on social media: gaming, watching videos, texting. And this was in a culture where the Tiger Mothers prowl.
It might be even worse in the United States. In the Common Sense Consensus, Media Used By Teens And Tweens, U.S. kids were reported to spend an average of 9 hours a day using social media as a form of entertainment. That includes time spent before school, on the way to school and during school classes–when the teachers prefer that they be doing something else! They also use social media for fun after school, in the bathroom, and at night when they should be sleeping.
A media-addicted Stanford grad, who didn’t do chores as a child, might end up far behind a state school grade whose parents fostered a work ethic and boundaries. Encouraging chores, and limiting social media time, are far cheaper ways for a child to gain an advantage.
For years, Daniel Coleman has been saying that emotional intelligence matters more than IQ. In his book, Social Intelligence, Coleman says the ability to get along with others improves our health, wealth, happiness and overall effectiveness. A study published by the American Public Health Association showed that a child’s social skills in Kindergarten were strong predictors of future success.
Addiction to social media can blow holes in these skills. “Most parents today don’t establish clear boundaries for social media use,” says school psycholgist, Jeff Devens. “But they must establish boundaries. Parents who set boundaries will give their children huge advantages over those who don’t.”
Assigning regular chores and limiting social media won’t guarantee success. But it does increase the odds. That might beat putting on a set of Tiger Mother claws.