Science Says Pushy Parents Raise Kids with Less Anxiety

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One unexpected byproduct of becoming someone’s mom is gaining the ability to literally feel your child’s feelings (watch out, Long Island Medium).

When your kids get rejected on the playground, you wince. When they pursue another kid’s Thomas like it was the last open table at a packed brunch venue, you yearn right along with them. And when they’re worried—whether it’s about walking into a new classroom full of strangers alone, or climbing a two-story jungle gym (who decided those should always be made of rusty metal, anyway?)—well, you might as well just start popping beta-blockers immediately.

But a new study offers a counterintuitive counter-measure to childhood nerves: Encouraging kids to take risks.

Researchers who studied hundreds of preschoolers from England, the Netherlands and Australia found evidence that parents who “encourage children to push their limits are likely protecting their children from developing childhood anxiety disorders.” And the pushier the parent, the psychologists found, the less anxious the kid. They noticed a direct correlation between “the extent to which [parents] encourage their children to venture beyond their comfort zones” and reduced anxiety.

Examples of this limit-pushing parenting included “engaging in rough and tumble play…letting [children] lose a game, as well as encouraging them to practice social assertion and confidently enter into unfamiliar situations.”

Fun fact: Dutch parents excel at this. Yet another reason their kids are reportedly the happiest on the planet.

Stitches, bullying, screaming meltdowns over a Connect Four game gone wrong—it seems what parents should really fear is fear itself.

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