EACH year, it seems, a new book emerges to capitalize on the parental insecurities of Americans. Last year it was Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” This time it’s Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bébé.”
But rather than trying to emulate the strict discipline supposedly instilled by child-rearing techniques in other countries, it may be more useful to consider the science of successful parenting in general. Like their Chinese and French counterparts, American parents can make a child’s mind strong — by enlisting the child as an ally.
In any culture, the development of self-control is crucial. This ability, which depends on the prefrontal cortex, provides the basis for mental flexibility, social skills and discipline. It predicts success in education, career and marriage. Indeed, childhood self-control is twice as important as intelligence in predicting academic achievement. Conversely, poor self-control in elementary school increases the risk of adult financial difficulties, criminal behavior, single parenthood and drug dependence.