In a recent issue of


magazine, Charlotte Alter interviewed nine families. All the children are now extremely successful adults, each in different ways, and none as the result of great wealth or fortune but through their own efforts.

They come from all across America, and they're leading their fields in a wide range of endeavours including medicine, politics, music, law and architecture.

Alter's aim was to discover the secrets of these "super-sibling" families. She spoke with the parents and their children both together and alone, and came up with six qualities these families share.


Among the parents, they include immigrant status and teaching qualifications - eight of the families had at least one parent who was an immigrant and/or an educator - and a tendency to become involved in political activism. From the siblings' viewpoint, almost all recalled being given great freedom by parents, feeling highly competitive with brothers and sisters, and having at least one direct experience of death or violence growing up.

Do these qualities suggest some best parenting guidelines? When combined with clinical experience, I think they do. Here are six factors that I believe will give your children the best chance of fulfilling their dreams and ambitions.

Teaching your children to read at an early age is a key precursor to success.
Teaching your children to read at an early age is a key precursor to success.

1. Grit

These parents recalled having to fight for what they achieved, and they expected no less from their children. Many struggled against the odds, raising their children in tough neighbourhoods where the children learnt first to survive, then to go on to succeed.

2. Self-belief

The parents all held clear beliefs and values, and were unafraid to stand up for them, even at considerable risk. This show of confidence and forthrightness made them great role models.

3. No limits

The parents assumed that they - and their children - could succeed at anything they chose. They encouraged them to better themselves and allowed them to compete within the family, but not to allow externally imposed standards to limit them. They also held the belief that, whatever the odds, change is always possible.

4. Trust

These parents believed that their children could discover for themselves their talents. Their role was not to define success, but to allow their children to discover what success meant for each of them.

5. Empowerment

Parents of successful children did not ask for gratitude, nor did they achieve satisfaction by doing "for" their children. Instead, they encouraged their children to do for themselves.

6. Early education

Although their ultimate aim was to raise fiercely independent children, than to get a head start, they must invest huge time and effort early on, particularly during preschool years. They taught them from an early age to be literate and articulate.

Easy? No.

Worthwhile? The results speak for themselves.

• Linda Blair is a clinical psychologist and author of The Key to Calm