A recent article written by Bill Murphy Jr. considered seven scientifically proven areas to focus on to produce a successful child. I will summarize all seven and discuss my observations with them in a narrative hypothetical case study, as well, as a father of three largely feral beasts currently destroying the house…. and each other.

  1. Teach Kids to Take Pride in their Effort, not their Gifts: This dates back to the research of Carol Dweck in her seminal book, Mindset. I’m still begging Carol to be on my podcast to not avail, thus far. Mindset essentially posits that a “growth mindset” or one that sees the ability to achieve anything through effort and focus leads to success, while “fixed mindset,” or the belief that you either can do something or can’t do it, inevitably leads to failure. It’s a sensible view of approach to learning. Let’s see how it goes in practice:

Anonymous Merrill Child (Name redacted to protect the innocent): I’m a genius at math, more like a god really.

Parent: Whats 20 divided by 5?

Anonymous Merrill Child:….

Parent: Think about it like this: you take the-

Anonymous Merrill Child: Ahhhh!!! (Runs screaming from room and slams door loudly.)

Prognosis: Parenting Fail! Success possible with better technique.

2. Get them to Play Outside: Personally as a child, I remember being outside perpetually, left to my own devices. Watching ants crawl through the sandbox, bouncing off the old apple tree on the rope swing, playing ‘chef’ with the unripened blackberries out in the back field. Just seeing the arrested features of a one year old in the rain reminds me that the outside is fascinating, stimulating, and eye-opening for children. It’s a perpetual science experiment with the added benefit of oxygen and sunlight. Let’s see how that goes in practice:

Parent 1: Anonymous child B hasn’t been outside in four days.

Parent 2: But it rained last night a little bit, the grass is still a little wet in a tiny patch near the woods.

Parent 1: But he needs to get outside!

Parent 2: Okay, fine… “Anonymous Child B! It’s time to go outside!”

Anonymous Child B: But it’s Booooooring Outside!

Parent 2: Well, it’s almost naptime anyway and it’s pollen season, too. I think he has allergies. There’s always tomorrow. (Parent 2 returns to cleaning dried boogers off the wall)

Parent 1:….

Prognosis: Partial Parenting Fail. All kidding aside, we actually typically get out every day, but it’s a grind with three kids. This is why we do Montessori!

3. Make Sure They Learn About Good Role Models: The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ method of parenting has long been debunked. If you could get away with such hypocrisy, parenting would be ten times easier. The fact of the matter is… kids are like Big Brother… they’re always watching you. No pressure!! By far, the best thing to do for them is to provide them strong role models. If not the parents, then someone older who they can look up to and inevitably imitate. Aaaaand in practice?…

Anonymous Child A: (Whiny, fink voice) Anonymous Child B just plastered the entire bathroom with wet toilet paper!

Parent 1: (Opens the bathroom door, in horror): Oh my god… Parent 2 is literally going to murder you. Jesus…

Parent 2: (Overhearing the conversation, stomps in angrily and looks, turning to Anonymous Child B, screaming in anger): What the f@$# is wrong with you? Seriously?! God d%$#@ it!

Parent 1: Could we maybe give Anonymous Child B to the grandparents? Is that really morally wrong? It is, right?

Parent 2:(still steaming…)…Yeah…

Parent 1: …. (turning to Anonymous Child B and shouting): I’m locking you in this bathroom until you clean that s$*# up. That’s it! Fun is cancelled for you! Permanently!

Prognosis: Easier on Paper. Good luck, People.

(Four through seven continued in the next installment…)