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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Licking and grooming your kids will help them become confident adults!

Studies show that children who are licked and groomed by their mother more often as infants and toddlers will grow up to be more confident and well adjusted adults.  As confident and well adjusted adults, our kid's chances improve for finding happiness (or at the very least, satisfaction) in their lives through a meaningful job, caring relationship with a significant other, loving and positive relationship with their children, etc.

A quick review of previous Headhunter Dad articles shows no fewer than 8 articles that mention the word confidence (complete list available at the end of this article).  When speaking with recruiters and managers who interview our kids for jobs and admissions to college, confidence and maturity rate highly on their evaluations.  If our kids seem to have their s*** together they have more opportunities in life.

OK, so the study is actually about rats... but the message is the same. Baby rats that were licked and groomed more often by their mothers were more confident and adventurous than their peers in adulthood (Nature article - warning! lots of big science words). Since my son is older (13) I tend to think more often about his career as his applications to college are more imminent than his sister's (6) so I was excited to find a study that shows how our parenting can contribute to our kid's future working life at an early age. 

Perhaps licking our kids is a bit over the top but we can certainly spend more time cuddling with our toddlers while reading to them or at the very least, holding their hand while walking down the street.  This has been referred to (at least in part) as attachment parenting and while the definition for what "attachment" means and how to practice it has changed and multiplied, I find this one to be the best, "sensitive and emotionally available parenting".

While reading about the rat study, I was encouraged about how it might help me to raise my daughter as a well adjusted adult but then I began to worry about whether or not I had "licked" my son enough when he was younger.  Is it too late for attachment parenting in middle school?  Fortunately, it is never to late in my opinion.  And, in this particular case, my opinion happens to be backed up by science, neuroscience to be precise.  The key to applying this to teens is being aware of the changing needs of your children.  Maybe he will not appreciate you holding his hand while crossing the street  when he is 15.  This is why I like the definition above, sensitive and emotionally available. It focuses us on the needs of our kids at any age. The word "available" implies a slightly more passive approach that allows our older kids to reach for independence as they grow but also allows them to turn back to us for support.

So let's get out there and start licking!

Other Headhunter Dad articles relating to confidence:

Update (4/2/2015) Paul Tough suggests in his book, How Children Succeed, that when our kids reach adolescence, motivating our kids is less about licking and grooming and more about taking them seriously.

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