Well, there goes our plans of watching Netflix in pajamas all weekend. According to a new study, children who see their parents exhibiting determination are more likely to work harder themselves. In some ways, this is kind of a no-brainer: Kids do as they see, right? But the researchers found a surprisingly powerful connection between what children observed and how they behaved in this context. Let’s just say the effect kicks in earlier than we would have predicted!
According to the study, which appears in Science, children as young as 15 months old are prone to imitate their parents’ hard work. A group of scientists observed a set of children as they attempted to make a toy work. According to their findings, the kids were more likely to work harder to get the desired results after witnessing their parents struggle to complete their own chores.
The toy involved in their observation had a big button on it, and though the button appeared to play music, it actually didn’t function—and the children pressed the button about twice as many times after witnessing their parents show more perseverance in completing their own tasks.
At first glance, this news may be frustrating. After all, parenting is hard enough—do you really have to add the notion that your occasional lazy day may have a negative effect on your child?
But according to the researchers, we should see this finding as a positive one—and it just may help us understand that we don't have to appear perfect in order to pass some valuable benefits to our kids. "There's some pressure that parents need to make everything look effortless at times. I think this study shows that it's OK to let your kid see you sweat," said study author Julia Leonard, according to a release for the news. "Infants are watching your behavior intently and actually learning from what you do."
When we work hard, our children's lives tend to get better: Whether we're giving them financial stability or a clean home, letting them into that world may make our kids more tenacious themselves. So maybe that means instead of focusing on presenting a perfect home-cooked meal at dinnertime, we let our families watch us chop and stir and wipe down the stove. Maybe we don't try so hard to make chores seem fun and just do them. Maybe we don't let ourselves sink into guilt when we have to answer work emails during time we'd hoped to spend with our kids. If anything, those simple acts of imperfection may trickle down to our children in a pretty awesome way.