Research on the effects of parenting on how kids turn out shows that while parents can influence their kids, they can't really change them, and the main area a parent really can improve is the parent-child bond.
Bryan Caplan, an economics professor, writes on the Freakonomics blog that parents are working too hard at parenting in general, and it's much more, well, economical for them to focus their energy on the areas where they really can do the most good.
He cites adoption and twin research done over the last 40 years that shows that of the major outcomes that parents try to influence — health, intelligence, happiness, success, character, values, appreciation — just about all of them in the long run have more to do with nature than nurture. In other words, it's really hard to change your kids, especially what kinds of adults they'll be.
What does last, however, is "appreciation" — the way kids see and remember their parents (or, perhaps, from the example below, how accurately they remember you):
One Swedish study asked middle-aged and elderly twins – some raised together, some raised apart – to describe how their parents raised and treated them. Twins raised together painted much more similar portraits of their parents than twins raised apart. If you raise your children with kindness and respect, they will probably remember it for as long as they live.
The upshot: Parents spend too much effort trying to mold their kids for the future, and not enough just enjoying life together.
So, while parents surely can teach kids important lessons and guide them, we can relax a little about trying to control their destinies and focus on enjoying who they are and will be. Photo by Malingering
The Economics and Genetics of Parenting [Freakonomics]