If you've ever felt so frustrated when dealing with a stubborn toddler that you thought your head might explode or wanted to throw your hands up in surrender when talking to your strong-willed tween, the good news is that their defiance may just be an indication of their future success.
A study published in Developmental Psychology found that children who were deemed the troublemakers, or who broke the rules and didn't listen as much were the ones who made the most money as adults. The study began in 1968 with a group of 745 12-year-olds in Luxembourg. Researchers looked at their grades, characteristics, their behavior at school including how defiant they were or how entitled they acted as well as their parents' socioeconomic status. Researchers followed up on the same participants 40 years later, when the group was 52, to determine if behaviors present when the children were 12 could predict career success in adulthood.
Not surprisingly, the students who were described by teachers as "studious" were definitely successful in the workforce, yet although they tended to have the most prestigious jobs, they weren't the highest earners in the study. That accolade went to those who were deemed the 'rule breakers.' The study found that kids who were deemed to have the characteristics of “rule-breaking and defiance of parental authority” were the highest earners.
The researchers behind the study did admit to being surprised by the findings but suggested that there are reasons why it may be the case. "We might assume that students who scored high on this scale might earn a higher income because they are more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures such as when negotiating salaries or raises," and that those deemed to be naughty or defiant as children "also have higher levels of willingness to stand up for their own interests and aims, a characteristic that leads to more favorable individual outcomes—in our case, income.”
Still, they admit that those who were defiant as kids may come by their success in less than honest ways. “We also cannot rule out that individuals who are likely or willing to break rules get higher pay for unethical reasons,” the study stated, although there was no proof of this in the current study.
So the next time you find yourself in a standoff with your toddler who only knows the word 'no', dealing with an epic meltdown in the aisles of Target or arguing with a 10 year old who refuses to listen to reason, remember that it's exactly those traits that could help them become successful and wealthy as they grow in to adulthood.