Is nature or nurture more influential on your child’s disposition? The question remains controversial among scientists; however, a recent study adds support for the importance of parental nurturing.

The study, published online in the journal Translational Psychiatry, found that when parents are positive and supportive, kids are more likely to feel and maintain happy emotions.

Study Results

Researchers studied nearly 1,900 children between the ages of nine and 15. Each of the children in the study possesses a gene variation that predisposes them to lower levels of serotonin in the brain, the likelihood of lower moods, anxiety, and depression.

The study found in three separate experiments that these “genetically susceptible” children who experienced unsupportive parenting showed fewer positive emotions than children who experienced a supportive parenting style.

Benjamin L. Hankin, author of the study and an associate professor of clinical child and developmental cognitive neuroscience psychology at the University of Denver, notes that because the same result was found in all three studies, the findings are more meaningful. “As scientists, when something happens three times in a row, we start to believe it,” Hankin said in a article.

The study lends support to something that you may have known all along: good parenting matters—a lot. Now you know just how important it is in determining your children’s level of happiness. Keep the following ideas in mind and your kids will reap the benefits of a warm and supportive upbringing.

Be Attentive

Giving children attention is imperative, no matter their age. However, the type of attention your child needs will change as their maturity level does. For example, you can give young kids attention by showing interest in their projects and creations.

Whether they’re showing you a sandcastle they built or their latest finger painting, it’s important to make your child feel special by noticing their efforts. Your physical presence at athletic events, school plays, or band concerts can make a big difference in older children’s emotional well-being.

It’s easy to get distracted by your responsibilities as a parent. Make a consistent effort to tune in to what your child is saying. Avoid being visibly distracted or, worse yet, ignoring your child’s attempts to communicate with you.

Show Respect

It will become increasingly important for your child to feel that you respect them. That doesn’t mean granting their every request. Sometimes, you may have to make an unpopular decision. Be sure to take the time to explain your viewpoint, rather than simply commanding.

Although your child initially may be upset about your decisions, they should come around when you show respect and concern for their well-being. Stay in the role of parent rather than friend and help steer them toward healthy choices. If they don’t appreciate it now, they certainly will later.  

Offer When Asked

It’s important to guide and advise younger children; however, the role of support changes when they become teenagers. It continues to evolve after kids have moved out of the house. Offer advice and opinions to older kids only when they’re solicited to ensure that they feel respected and supported.

Unless your child is in danger or putting their health and safety at risk, you must trust that you’ve raised them to have good judgment and make good decisions. Avoid criticizing their decisions—even if you disagree with them. If you must comment on a choice that you don’t agree with, give them a nonjudgmental perspective. Emphasize that you’ll continue to support them, regardless of their personal decisions.