Raising strong-willed, defiant kids can be harrowing, that’s for damn sure. My headstrong kid probably aged me 10 years in just his first year of life, and he continues to challenge my patience and strength in ways I never thought possible. And yet, there’s a sparkle in his eye, and a brilliance in him that is just as much a part of him as his iron-clad will.
Almost every parent of a strong-willed kid I know has found that duality inherent in their kid: an unyielding, stubborn AF streak, coupled with a passionate and driven, “I’m gonna take over the world someday” spirit that can be downright inspiring.
Well, it turns out our stubborn, strong-willed kids aren’t just going to rule the world someday, but they’re going to get rich doing so. Yep, a 40-year study published in Developmental Psychology found that the kids who are most willing to break the rules are also the ones most likely to earn the highest incomes when they grow up.
Who the heck knew.
Starting in 1968, the study researchers began following a group of 6th graders. They noted the characteristics of each participant, including their behavior, intelligence, and socio-economic status. In terms of behavior, they looked at whether students were rule-followers, or more defiant. They also noted whether they were viewed as more studious and attentive, or more rebellious and likely to question the work they were assigned.
It turned out that the students who were considered defiant or “naughty” were the ones who ended up earning the highest incomes as adults. And although the more studious kids were more likely to land the more prestigious jobs, they were out-earned by their rebellious, spirited peers.
WELP. I guess there really is some “payback” for having difficult children, although it’s not exactly the payback that we all expected.
Just as interesting as the research results are the hypotheses the study authors make as to why defiant children are likely to earn more. According to Inc., the authors surmised that one of the reasons these kids ended up earning more was because they weren’t afraid to ask for more money in whatever job they had, or to negotiate higher salaries.
Additionally, rule-breakers tend to enjoy competition, and generally don’t give two shits of what anyone else thinks of them. You can say that again.
As for the notion that the rebellious kids were actually earning their keep via shady means, the authors considered this, but didn’t actually find any proof of this happening. “The authors couldn’t rule out the fact that some of the high-income earners could have been earning a living unethically,” Inc. reports. “But the study didn’t find any evidence that participants were engaging in this type of behavior.”
As Inc. points out, other studies similar to this one have also backed up the claim that rule-benders tend to more readily climb up the earnings ladder. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that more complaint people tend to earn less than their non-conformist peers.
And a study that looked at valedictorians found that although these top-performing students often went on to perform well in college and land prestigious jobs, they were not necessarily the ones in their graduating classes most likely to be bringing in the biggest bucks.
Bottom line? Our strong-willed kids can be real pains-in-the-asses, but we need to hold tight, because potentially amazing stuff is yet to come. These kids may be giving us hell now about whether they are willing to wear pants outside the house (ummm, of course not!), but in just a few years, they may be raising just the right kind of hell that will earn them promotions and top salaries.
And as for what we can do to survive these kids in the meantime, we need to find ways to have patience with them, provide clear boundaries and discipline, but also take care never to squash their spirits. Because it’s that innovative, impassioned spirit that is going to bring our kids (and us!) more joy and plenty than we thought possible.