Parents, don’t worry: Your daughter does listen to your nagging, despite the eye-rolling and slamming doors. And it really works! According to science, not only do kids get their intelligence from mom, but there’s one more thing we can thank mother dearest for: our success.
A study at the University of Essex tracked the experiences of over 15,000 British girls aged 13 and 14 for six years. Researchers found that high parental expectations led to adolescent girls’ success later in life. In fact, when the “main parent”—usually the mother—set steep standards for their daughters’ education, those girls were more likely to attend college, take better-paying jobs, and avoid teen pregnancy.
Why? Experts say that communicating high expectations to your child will make them feel more inclined to live up to those standards. On the other hand, if no one pays attention to their performance, they are more likely to slack off.
“In many cases, we succeeded in doing what we believed was more convenient for us, even when this was against our parents’ will,” Dr. Ericka Rascon-Ramirez, who led the study, said. “But no matter how hard we tried to avoid our parents’ recommendations, it is likely that they ended up influencing, in a more subtle manner, choices that we had considered extremely personal.”
Another study in Pediatrics found similar results, though they weren’t specific to just mothers and daughters. The study assessed how various factors, including parental expectations, influenced children’s rates of success. When it came to standardized testing, 96 percent of the high-scoring students had parents who expected them to attend college; only 57 percent of the lower-scoring students could say the same. As one of the study authors, Neal Halfon, summed up, “Parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets.”
Of course, strong test scores and going to a good school don’t guarantee that your daughter will become the next Google executive. But making your expectations for your child’s success known certainly seems to set the stage for success down the road. Looks like nagging just became one of the essential rules for raising teenagers, boy or girl. After all, a little “I told you so” never hurt anyone.
Of course, though, there is still a reason nagging has a negative connotation. “There is a difference between [incessant nagging and] imposing rules, setting guidelines, teaching values, [and] establishing goals,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York City neuropsychologist. “When parents nag too much, children decide they can’t do anything right so they might as well stop trying…Children and teens will make mistakes. If you must nag, pick your battles carefully.”
So while some nagging behaviors might be beneficial, make sure you’re mixing it up with these little ways to encourage your child every day.