Why Children Need Parents Who Provide Guidance

In the Magazine
Cavan Images/Getty

A strange notion fashionable in the 1990s held that parents—or at least parenting—didn’t really have much to do with the way kids wound up; genes determined just about everything. It was, to say the least, a controversial thesis based on selective research, but like most fads that allow people to sidestep responsibility, it gained an enthusiastic following. Today such genetic absolutism has gone the way of the dodo and the dotcom bubble, and parenting is once again understood—and this should come as no surprise—to be a key element determining the future success or failure of children. In a new study for the Brookings Center on Children and Families, Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard sum up research showing just how advantageous it is for kids to grow up in homes where, for instance, they are exposed to thousands, rather than hundreds, of words a day. The children of strong parents who offer constant attention and guidance are much more likely to succeed in school and their careers. The authors argue that, given these findings, too much government policy is focused on finding ways to educate young children despite parental shortcomings, rather than educating parents to help them do a better job raising their kids.

Join the Discussion