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

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Someday, my daughter will kill me for this one, but it is a story that will vindicate parents everywhere.

Researchers in the United Kingdom state parents’ super-high expectations for their teenaged daughters–particularly if they remind them always of these expectations–are one of the most significant factors in predicting whether young women will grow up to become successful women.

Teen women more likely to succeed when they’ve pushy mothers.”

Naig more, fail less.

The researchers in the University of Essex found that women whose “primary parent”–that is usually the mother–constantly exhibited high parental expectations were much less likely to fall into the traps which made the women less likely to be successful in life.

Specifically, these women were:

  • Less inclined to become pregnant as teens.
    More inclined to attend college.
    Less inclined to have prolonged periods of unemployment.
    The researchers, led by PhD candidate Ericka G. Rascon-Ramirez, analyzed the experiences of over 15,000 British women aged 13 and 14 within a 10-year period.

Naturally, avoiding the prime pitfalls does not automatically indicate that women are destined to become the Sheryl Sandberg, Katie Ledecky, or Sara Blakeley of the time. But it does mean they will be more likely to preserve their chances to succeed later.

And that, dear parents, is the stage where your job is done–if your kids ‘ achievement becomes much more a factor of their desire and work ethic than yours.

Rolling eyes? That means it is working.

Wonderful study, some readers may answer. News flash: Whether we are talking about girls or boys, it might quickly deconstruct into a cacophony of eye rolls, door slams, and sullenness.

It’s not lots of fun, I am sure.

But parents can take solace in 1 thought the researchers entertained: The longer it sounds hectoring them is like pounding on a brick wall, the longer it may be working.

“In many instances, we succee[d] in doing what we believ[e is] more suitable for us, even if this [is] contrary to our parents’ will,” writes Rascon-Ramirez. “But no matter how hard we tried to prevent our parents’ recommendations, it’s very likely that they ended up affecting [our] choices.”

To put it differently, if your tween or teenaged girl rolls her eyes and says something like, “Arrrrggghhh, Mom, you are so annoying,” what she really means, deep down within her subconscious mind is: “Thank you for your useful advice. I shall endeavor to behave accordingly.”

Stacking the small voices.

There is also some piling happening, meaning if you set expectations in brothers’ heads that they need to go to school AND they shouldn’t become pregnant as teenagers, they are more likely to make it to age 20 with a kid than they would have been if you had only pushed the “do not have a baby until you are old enough to be ready” message.

“Sure, with a healthy sense of self-esteem and presuming that you have choices is great, although not becoming pregnant just because you ‘do not need to hear it’ is fine with us, too.

I don’t know about you, but even as a guy in my 40s, I occasionally hear my parents’ cautionary words–as well as my grandparents’–when I go to do something I probably should not. My grandfather passed away in 1984, but if I actually uttered it on dessert, it is his voice that I hear calling me out for this.

And supposing this study retains value for boys too–there is no reason to think it would not–which means I have my parents’ habit of consistently expressing their high expectations to thank, at least in part, for my own success.

So thanks to the nagging, Mom and Dad.