People With THIS Personality Trait Have Kids Who Do Better At School

Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex writer and editor. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Washington Post, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

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Most people know from anecdotal evidence that children pick up personality traits from their parents, whether that's something passed through genes or just from observing those qualities throughout their childhood and mirroring it. But a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that one particular personality trait mothers have can actually create large ripple effects in their children's lives—and even affect their academic performance.

In science terms, this personality trait is related to what's known as locus of control. To understand what this refers to, ask yourself this question: Can you influence what happens to you? Or do most things in life have a set path, and we must simply learn to accept them?

People who believe in an internal locus of control believe that a person can influence their lives and the outcomes of events happening to them through one's own actions. People with an external locus of control, on the other hand, believe life is dictated by external forces like luck, chance, fate, or other powers.

The researchers surveyed over 1,600 soon-to-be mothers about their outlooks on life and found those who believe they do have control over what happens in their lives tend to have children who are better at math, science, and problem-solving.

Why? The research found these mothers who believed in their ability to affect life's outcomes were more likely to provide their children with a healthier diet that would promote better brain development, read stories to them, and care about their schoolwork and grades. 

"Internal parents believe that they have behavioural choices in life," said Stephen Nowicki, Ph.D., an Emory University psychology professor and one of the study authors, in a news release. "When [parents] expect life outcomes to be linked to what they do, their children eat better, sleep better, and are better able to control their emotions. Such children later in childhood are also more likely to have greater academic achievements, fewer school-related personal and social difficulties, and less likelihood of being obese."

Your outlook on the world doesn't just affect you—it affects your entire family, especially your children. Having serenity about that which you cannot change is pivotal to leading a balanced, peaceful life, but that isn't to say you shouldn't try to change that which you can. Having a positive, empowered attitude toward your life allows you to think hard about your decisions, make better and healthier choices, set your priorities well, and work hard at goals that are important to you—and inevitably will allow you (and your family) to reap the rewards of all that.

"It is possible for a parent to change their outlook; we've demonstrated in the past that parents who become more internal (i.e., learn to see the connections between what they do and what happens to their children) improved their parenting skills, which would have a positive effect on their children's personal, social and academic lives," Dr. Nowicki said.

If you're a parent who has adopted more of a let-it-be attitude toward your child's habits and academic performance, consider thinking about ways in which it might benefit your child if you were more involved and proactive. You never want to overstep your boundaries as a parent or push your child too hard (play time is still extremely important for a child's growth), but you do want to parent from a place of mindfulness: recognizing that each of your interactions with your child does have meaning and being aware of the behaviors you directly or indirectly encourage in them.

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