Cathy Arnst

I've written a few times about how we parents are not raising children, we're raising future adults. Two new studies reported by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research back me up. According to the 30-year-plus studies, conducted in the U.S. and Finland, children's social behavior as early as age eight is a powerful predictor of how well they will do in middle age. Aggressive and unpopular kids grew into unpopular adults who lagged both educationally and professionally.

Bottom line: Don't assume they'll grow out of it.

The researchers in both studies asked children's peers to describe how they behaved by circling the names of those who pushed, shoved, said mean things or started fights about nothing. They were also asked to circle the names of those they'd like to have as best friends and sit next to in class.

"Even when we controlled for the influence of their family's socioeconomic status and their own intelligence at the age of eight, we found that children's social behavior at age eight and into adolescence, as rated by their schoolmates, was a strong predictor of their educational attainment in young adulthood, and then of their occupational attainment when they were in their 40s."

We all know kids who behave badly, and parents who do nothing about it. I can't tell you how many times I've heard excuses made for children who can't share, or hit, or throw tantrums when they don't get their own way. It's never the child's fault of course--he or she is overexcited, or hungry, or tired, or doesn't respond well to being yelled at, etc etc. They aren't doing their kids any favors with these excuses, of course. Sure, all kids get tired and cranky, but I've never understood parents who let them get away with such bad behavior. I don't think 8 is too young to learn that just because you're tired, you don't take it out on the people around you.

It's particularly difficult when these are the children of friends and family. How do you avoid them? My own daughter does not like getting together with close friends of mine because she thinks their 8-year-old daughter is mean. So already the fallout from bad behavior starts.
If anyone has any tips on how to handle other people's badly behaving children, or how to rectify the problem behavior of our own little cherubs, please share!