I recently found out that I’m going to be a new mom this fall. Maybe it’s the hormones or maybe it’s the big life changes headed my way, but I’ve definitely been more reflective lately.

One of the bigger concerns that I’ve been going over –and one I’m sure I share with many moms-to-be and any new mom– is what I want to teach my children. More than just academics, I want to pin down a set of tenets for living our lives that I can pass on to them. Hopefully, I’ve gathered some good tools from my psychology background and by working in early childhood. The list is not definitive by any means, but I’ll try to keep honing down what I value and what I want my kids to live and learn.

Guidelines for a new mom

Here’s a current set of ‘rules’ –I’m sure there are many more, but these are the first three on my list and the ones I’ve given the most thought to!

Intelligence and talent are not fixed, but malleable. 

Carol Dweck (Stanford professor well-known for creating and championing the importance of growth versus fixed mindset) in her Ted Talk The power of believing that you can improve emphasizes that both kids and adults who believe intelligence or any talent is like a muscle –if you work at it, it becomes stronger– are more likely to try harder, and therefore, to succeed. 

Intelligence is not the most important thing to be successful.

I’ve become intrigued by all of the research that points to the importance of non-cognitive factors for success. Math and reading are important, but the so-called “soft skills” are even more important. Being able to work with others, create lasting friendships, and form strong relationships does more for a person than academic skills. Also, these non-cognitive skills have shown a positive relationship with school performance in the future. While kindergartens have become more and more academic, we’ve been reducing the opportunities for kids to learn the lessons that really matter. To get inspired, I recommend reading Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed.

What is success anyway?

Our generation grew up hearing that being happy is what is most important. But according to a 2012 study by the American College Counseling Association, rates of depression in college-aged students are soaring. Millennials might believe that pursuing happiness is the answer, but it seems it’s not giving positive results. I’m sure that how I end up educating my children will be in direct response to finding that the pursuit of happiness is not all there is. However, this is where I’m still trying to formulate the best way of ensuring my kids are prepared for future obstacles, while also finding the time to enjoy the many positive things in life. For more thinking on this topic, I recommend reading The Moral Bucket List article by David Brooks.

Have you ever thought about these ‘life rules’? Please comment below if you have any other or tips for new (or not so new!) parents!