If scientists can land a robot on Mars, why can’t they help us get our kids to be polite, and clean their rooms? Well, they’re working on it. In fact, these 4 parenting tips are based on the latest scientific research:

  • First: Lighten up. Child psychologist Dr. Elena Hoicka says that joking with your toddler sets them up for social success, because it fosters creative thinking and improves language skills.

  • The next scientific parenting tip is for moms: Be good to your sons. Long-term studies show that boys who feel like they can talk to their mothers are less likely to have behavior problems in school, and they also tend to grow up to be good husbands. Researchers at NYU found that among couples reporting the highest levels of marital satisfaction, the husbands had close relationships with their mothers.

  • Another scientific parenting tip: Let go. A study of college freshmen found that students with helicopter parents were more anxious and self-conscious than kids whose parents knew when to back off.

  • And this last bit of parenting research should comfort anyone with a teenager: Be grateful for backtalk. University of Virginia researchers found that teens who talk back to their parents are better at resisting peer pressure to drink, do drugs, and become intimate. That’s because using Mom and Dad as practice sparring partners makes it easier for them to say, “No” to their friends.