As the nation celebrates a day honoring mothers, it’s a great time to recognize both the immediate and long-term benefits that their involvement and investment has on their children’s well-being.
Moms’ care and concern impacts virtually every aspect of their children’s lives—from academic success to psycho/emotional health and behavior—all of which play a role in the trajectory of not only children’s futures but the future of communities and the nation.
The sensitivity that moms bring to their interaction with their children from infancy through pre-school years is a strong and consistent predictor of the social skills and behavior that they will exhibit throughout childhood. Mothers’ involvement is, likewise, inversely related to the likelihood of preschoolers’ hyperactivity, while kindergarteners who have a positive relationship with their mothers are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems and tend to have greater academic achievement in their middle school years.
The behavioral and social benefits of mothers’ care continue through the teen years. Simply asking about their children’s lives, encouraging their interests, and spending free time with them is associated with a decreased likelihood of adolescents’ behavioral problems, and youths who feel a close bond with their mothers are less likely to engage in violence. The frequent experience of family dinners, likewise, is linked to a lower risk of substance abuse among teens.
In terms of cognitive development and success in school, a mother’s involvement also makes a difference. Children whose mothers read to them in their preschool years tend to exhibit higher levels of cognitive development. Adolescents who describe their parents as highly responsive and willing to help them with their problems typically have higher levels of academic achievement, while children whose parents are more involved with their education when they are in elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school.
And, just as a mother’s care and love influences her children’s well-being, so do the standards and values she conveys. Children who do well in school are more likely to report that their mothers are not only warm and supporting but also firm. Adolescents whose mothers monitor their behavior are less likely to use alcohol, and those whose mothers discuss the social and moral consequences of being sexually active are more likely to remain abstinent, as are those whose behavior is more closely monitored.
The benefit of a mother’s nurturing increases a child’s likelihood of success and promotes his or her becoming a contributing and valuable member of society. Far more important than devising programs for children who are failing academically or suffering behavioral and emotional difficulties is to recognize and facilitate the natural root of their healthy development and well-being: the nurture and care of a loving mother.
Gratitude goes to the moms of America for their investment of care and guidance and for the “many happy returns” on that investment.