Do We Need to Nag Our Children To Make Them Successful?

Also: ugh, “nag”


Science. Can we even trust it anymore? Well, assuming we can, it has news for us: moms pushing daughters, specifically, helps them achieve — in adolescence and beyond.

Want to Raise Successful Daughters? Science Says Nag the Heck Out of Them

The findings suggest that when a child’s primary parent (usually her mom) pushes her hard to succeed, the child becomes more likely to achieve. That means she is less likely to become a teen mom, but also, and more relevant to our interests, she becomes:

* Less likely to get stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs.

* Less likely to have prolonged periods of unemployment.

Caveat: maybe it only works in England? “The researchers, led by PhD candidate Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, studied the experiences of more than 15,000 British girls aged 13 and 14 over a 10-year period.”

It makes sense that high expectations can net good results, in part because parents with high expectations of their children are probably more active and involved. But let’s zoom in.

Is the word “nag” necessary?

The word “nag,” like the words “shrill,” “hysterical,” and “mother in a Phillip Roth novel,” is so gendered as to be, for me, an immediate turn off. Surely that was the interpretation of the Inc writer who wanted a good headline, not the conclusion of the scientist, right?

Nope. Rascon-Ramirez herself used the word “nag” when publishing her findings last year. Sometimes she has chosen more politic phrasing: when she presented the paper at a conference, it was titled, “Teenage Pregnancy and Motherhood in England: Do parents’ educational expectations matter?”

In any event, I’m not sure “nagging” is the best way to describe a parent reminding a child that she’s paying attention and that the parent expects her to live up to her potential. But it sure is the best way to draw the media’s attention to your research!

What’s the cause and effect here?

Isn’t it more likely that engaged parents have engaged kids, and those kids are more likely to “succeed” — according to our traditional, capitalist notions of what success is — than others? That parents who care about their kids’ lives correlate with kids who care about their own lives too?

Rascon-Ramirez maintains that “parents with high expectations can reduce a teenager’s chance of becoming pregnant by four per cent compared to parents with ‘middling aspirations.’” Also:

The University of Essex study said the benefit of pushy parents was most marked among the least academic teenagers, who often have no friends or teachers willing to encourage them.

It seems that Rascon-Ramirez felt she could make a small but statistically significant case for cause and effect. I can’t find the study itself, only write ups about it, like this one from the Daily Mail, from which I pulled those quotes above, so it’s hard to argue.

So let’s just resort to anecdote. After all, this doesn’t sound that different from the battle hymn of the tiger mother. And supposedly those assumptions — about how pushy moms can produce successful kids — were borne out by science too?

The Tiger Mom Effect Is Real, Says Large Study

Were your parents pushy? Did your Tiger Mom (ugh) set high expectations for you and is that why you succeeded? Or perhaps did your mom have one piece of sterling advice, like, “When you want men to take you seriously, go by your initials”?

Initial Acceptance

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