Help Your Child Become a Competent Adult

All parents love their children and intend to help them become competent, successful, self-sufficient and emotionally resilient adults. Not all parents are clear about how to facilitate these transformations.

Untested theories have previously posited that children’s innate nature, cognitive capabilities and personality structure were the primary contributors to youngsters’ ultimate success in life. Though these factors are important in child development, extensive research has documented that the child’s innate predispositions can be greatly enhanced by effective parenting

Advanced technological tools enabled researchers to observe the neurological activities in the brains of infants and garner new data as to how young brains mature. Research also studied the role of parents in facilitating the cognitive and emotional competencies of their children.

Mary Ainsworth wrote, “Infant competence is embedded in the caregiving system, where the infant is competent in securing what he or she needs by influencing the behavior of a responsive mother.”

Ann Masten of the University of Minnesota and J. Douglas Coatsworth of Miami School of Medicine add, “The caregiving or attachment system is widely believed to serve multiple functions beyond physical care, including the soothing and stimulation of emotions by the caregiver who is helping the infant self-regulate emotions, and securely explore his/her environment.”

The authors add, “There is evidence that the quality of these relationships has a predictive significance for success in late developmental tasks, such as better problem solving in toddlers and better relations in middle childhood.”

They summarize, “Children who do well have adults who care for them, brains that are developing normally, and, as they grow older, the ability to manage their own attention, emotions and behavior…  Compliance, pro-social behavior and personal control are self-regulating fundamentals enabling success in life. Failure to develop compliance in the early years of life may seriously compromise later social functioning at school and with peers.”

Interestingly enough, researchers report, “Self-control that is a necessary precursor for rule governed behavior, begins to emerge in the second year of life, as does expressed concern for others.”

“Children learn about socially appropriate behavior from parental rules and expectations and from teachers’ expectations about conduct in the classroom and the playground.

These findings underscore the essential role of parental involvement with children from infancy on. Every exchange you have with your baby, young child or adolescent helps or hinders his/her development of basic life mastery, judgment, self-control and social skills to master competency throughout life.

This awareness should encourage all parents to intently focus on their offspring and model the behaviors that are going to enhance their children’s present and future lives. How parents follow rules, model competence, manage emotions and act with compassion towards others gets permanently imprinted in their children’s brains


  • Realize that your impact on your children’s development starts in infancy and lasts into their adulthood.
  • Understand that your loving attention, playful exchanges, healthy guidelines, modeling competence and concern for others, enhances your children’s success in life.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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