By Dr. Edward Hallowell
Dr. Edward Hallowell is a psychiatrist who's been in practice for more than 25 years. He is the founder of the Hallowell Centers in New York, Boston and San Francisco, and the author of eighteen books including The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. He was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School and is considered to be one of the foremost experts on the topic of ADHD.
How do you raise a child so that he or she turns out to the best person possible? That's the question we all ask ourselves. And yet, with this clear goal in mind, few parents have a practical plan – one rooted in research rather than rumor – to increase the chances that a child will flourish and become a happy, vibrant, successful adult.
With so much (sometimes conflicting) information available, parents wind up with an uneasy feeling that they might not be getting it right. They are worried that their children will not be ready for the uncertain, competitive world that awaits.
I have good news for you. Research has actually shown us what works and what doesn't. And it's astonishing to me how few parents are aware of this research, so instead they either do what their own parents did (sometimes great, but sometimes misguided) or feel they must follow the latest celebrity-driven trend. Studies like the groundbreaking Harvard Grant Study and current positive psychology research, like the work being done by Dr. Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, give us critical insights into what kinds of childhood experiences lead to happy, fulfilled lives.
Here are a handful of things you don't need to raise a happy, well-adjusted child: wealth; straight A's in school; a crammed schedule of extracurricular activities; or even a traditional family.
What DO kids really need? They need to be deeply connected to at least one other person; they need the opportunity to play and imagine; they need the discipline, time and encouragement to practice one or two things well, and ultimately to feel mastery of it so that they can earn the recognition that comes with hard work. That's the five-point plan: connection, play, practice, mastery, recognition.
At its heart, this plan is about the radiant force called love. But how do you implement love? How do you make it practical? How do you turn love into a daily force for growth, health, and success? And still get dinner on the table?
It's not always easy, but there are steps you can take to put you on the path toward raising the happy, successful child(ren) you dream of. I'll lay out those practical steps at 92Y's Parenting Conference, and share with you some of the research behind the plan. I hope that knowledge will give you the confidence to know that you are doing what is best, and that you are headed in the right direction.
A teacher gave me some excellent advice many years ago: "Never worry alone."
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