Why kids who misbehave end up earning more than those who follow rules
Go ahead, kids, break the rules.
Rule-breaking, defiant kids often end up richer than their more responsible peers, according to a recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychology. The study examined characteristics (including parental socioeconomic status and IQ) and behaviors (including inattentiveness, impatience, pessimism, rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority) of a set of more than 700 kids at age 12 and then followed them through the age of 52 to determine their career success and income.
Indeed, the rule-breaking, defiant trait among children was “the best noncognitive predictor of higher income” even after you control for the influence of IQ, parental socioeconomic status and educational attainment, the study showed.
Other studies seem to support the conclusion that going against the grain can give you a career and/or income boost. A 2001 study showed that disagreeable people — as opposed to those who tried harder to prevent conflicts and issues with others — were more successful in their careers, and a 2005 study showed that these people made less money.
As parents, these results can be troubling: After all, a kid who breaks rules and can be disagreeable towards others can be hard to manage — and get into plenty of trouble. So Marketwatch asked experts: How do you raise a child who will break the rules when it makes sense — and when it can be to her advantage — but not become a delinquent, pain in the butt?
The answer: It’s hard, but possible. “There’s a balance that requires preserving that spirit while allowing them to understand the consequences to behaviors,” says relationship expert and advice columnist April Masini. She suggests talking through examples with your children on things like when and how it’s OK to challenge leaders like teachers or other adults — and what the consequences of doing so might be. The goal is to show them that sometimes rules should be broken and boundaries pushed, but that this behavior has its risks.
It’s also important to let kids practice these kinds of things in the real world, says parenting blogger Cherie Corso. “Let them have challenges,” she says. “If there is a rule that is stopping them from reaching their goal, let them figure it out … maybe they can figure out a better solution than staying within the boundaries.” And discuss the decision-making process and results with them, she says, remembering that “as parents, don’t be so quick to try and fix it, listen and advise, but they have to make decision and deal with choices.”
And, of course, it’s essential that you be a role model for them, Corso says: “Show the kids how to navigate through the tough situations that make them feel like they have power and success when it works.”
But psychotherapist Holly Parker, who lectures at Harvard on psychology topics, cautions that parents shouldn’t pressure themselves into feeling like they need to foster rule-breaking, especially considering that research shows that plenty of other traits foster success in life, including conscientiousness. “Give yourself permission to simplify things just a little bit and focus on encouraging positive qualities, while also remembering that you don’t have total control over the process,” she says.