Making our Children Better

We’ve all made mistakes as parents and wish we could have a do-over. The sad truth is children aren’t born with owner’s manuals. And unfortunately some wouldn’t bother to read them if they were. The Harvard Graduate School of Education recently did a study on parents and caretakers and produced a sheet of seven strategies and tips for raising children. Its as close to an owner’s manual as you can get.

The full study, including tips and why they are important, how to implement them and steps to try, can be read here. By following these steps as a parent, children will have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness.

The study encourages us to ask question of our children such as:

  • “What was the best part of your day? The hardest part?”
  • “What did you accomplish today that you feel good about?”
  • “What’s something nice someone did for you today? What’s something nice you did?”
  • “What’s something you learned today—in school or outside of school?”

It provides tips on how to be a strong role model and mentor and how to teach children to think of how their actions affect others. By encouraging kids to honor commitments. For instance, before letting your child quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend, and encourage them to work out problems.

There is also a briefer summary of the survey here, though I encourage all parents to read both. I’d like to think my kids have turned out pretty well, and much in the survey my wife and I have done without having the benefit of the “manual.” But there are many other pointers I wish I’d had twenty years ago. We all want our children to be the best they can be. And being better teammates, better friends and generally better people – having strong relationships with their parents and others – makes a happy life more likely. And if this quick read can help us achieve those goals, it makes me happy to be able to pass it on.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at He can be reached at