Following in the Footsteps of Steve Jobs

Have you seen the February issue of Parenting Magazine?

Splashed on the cover is a picture of a young boy, with glasses, and a thoughtful yet mischievous expression on his face.  I guess you might say he is the “stereotype” of an “intelligent” child.  The lead article in this issue is entitled, “Raise the Next Steve Jobs…or at least a really, really bright kid”.  (Click on the link and it will take you to the entire article on CNN.com) 

Parenting’s senior editor, Christina Vercelletto, did a masterful job of pulling together the opinions of experts along with a mountain of research and contributions from colleagues Lois Barrett, Stephanie Eckelkamp, Beth Weinhouse and Stephanie Wood, as she focused on revealing “what makes a child grow into a brilliant adult”.

The feature recounts how Steve Jobs dropped out of college, but went on to change the world with his Apple computer.  The article examines topics like “genius defined”, “the lowdown on testing” and “the power of a parent”.

I was honored to be a contributor to that article.  Asked what I thought about the validity of IQ and standardized tests and whether they should be used to determine a child’s potential for success in school and later in life, I responded that I believe there are many factors that can affect the score of these tests.  “What if the child didn’t get a good night’s sleep or is getting over a cold?  Maybe the room is too hot or the kid next to him is fidgeting and distracting him.” 

The Parenting Magazine article emphasizes several things that parents can do to encourage school success and greater enthusiasm for learning.  These echo the suggestions that are found in my Show Me How book, where I provide activities and concrete examples for parents of young children.

1.      TALK, TALK, TALK…about anything and everything.  Engage your child in conversation at the breakfast table, while shopping, in the car, on a walk.  Ask open-ended questions like the one given as an example in the article, “What would happen if we stopped for ice cream on the way to the beach?” And don’t talk down or baby-talk to your children…your children will learn whatever you teach them.

2.      READ, READ, READ…anything and everything.  Picture books, comic books, travel guides, atlases, cookbooks…children have more of a chance to succeed in school when they have access to books and someone who reads to them. 

3.      PRAISE RESULTS…mastering tasks and skills motivates children to seek new challenges.  Chapter One in my book, I Can Do It Myself, encourages parents to allow children to try to do things on their own, even if they fail in the beginning.  Give praise for problem-solving and good effort as opposed to blanket praise.  True self-esteem is built on a basis of self-worth.  We feel good about ourselves when we accomplish our goals.   We all need a cheering committee…and parents are a child’s most important fans!

4.      CELEBRATE CURIOSITY…very young children are almost always curious.  But something often happens as they get a little older…they stop asking questions and begin to operate within the confines of what is considered the “norm”.  Parents need to encourage their children by sharing their passions…art, music, sports, carpentry.  And they also need to observe what special talents or strengths their children have and show an interest in those…even if it is watching an anthill or making intricate mud-pies.

5.      SEIZE TEACHABLE MOMENTS…encourage observation of detail and build vocabulary, math and money skills while shopping, driving or doing just about anything with your child.  Parents can engage young children in conversation about the shapes and colors of fruits and vegetables….and older children can discuss where the foods come from and how they are grown.  And that advice brings us back to number 1: TALK, TALK, and TALK.

I don’t know if you want your child to be the next Steve Jobs.  But I do know that every parent wants their child to have a positive self-image and thrive and be happy and succeed in life and in school.  Look back over the five points above…they are simple steps you can take that have big results: Talk with your children; read with your children (join my reading challenge…you might be the lucky winner of a picture book for your child); praise your children; celebrate your children’s curiosity and seize teachable moments.

18 thoughts on “Following in the Footsteps of Steve Jobs

  1. Thanks for sharing your great insight & knowledge with us. What I am understanding you to say, is to let your kids be kids and tell & show them eveything you want them to learn!
    TALK, TALK & TALK!

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    • So glad you stopped by, Sherryl. I think we get so busy with all of our responsibilities, we sometimes forget that simple conversation with our children is more valuable than a bucketful of toys. They really just want our attention, respect and time…and will give us theirs in return. 🙂 Hope you come back and visit again.

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  2. I think children mimic us as adults and to watch what we say and do. Kids today really are smart…what is crazy is with the economy I get paid so little as a parent…and my daughter will prob make more than me

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    • Jackie…what you said is golden! You are right…our children mimic us…I shudder when I think back to some of the things I did when my kids (especially the first, when I really didn’t know any better, even though I had a masters in early childhood education and had been a kindergarten and Head Start teacher for many years). We have a home movie from way back in the early 70’s…I smoked at that time…and there I am, at a BBQ, with toasted marshmallows on a stick, offering this sticky gooey mess to my little one, with a cigarette dangling from my fingers. 😦 😦 😦

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    • Hey Nancy, thanks!
      Yes, I was thrilled that my comment was one of those chosen…and I have to admit, being in Parenting Magazine, even with those few lines, really has had an impact on the buying decisions of parents…in the last 4 days, almost 2 dozen copies of Show Me How have sold on Amazon. 🙂 I’m so happy the book is finally getting into the hands of parents so they can use it…all the points that the article suggested parents should be doing with their children to encourage love of learning…my book has been recommending the same things for over a year. 🙂

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  3. Unfortunately our educational system does everything to crush the spirits of our little innovators. I see it every day with my five year old, and he’s only in kindergarten! At the beginning of the school year, his teacher told me he couldn’t draw in class during independent study, because it was “academic” enough. Wow. Go tell that to all the designers, engineers, architects and artists. I can’t believe it’s up to us parents to undo the harm of this rigid system that doesn’t recognize the skills that will help our economy down the road.

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    • You are right…something happens when our kids get to school. As a former kindergarten teacher, I sympathize with many of the teachers these days…in fact, that’s why I wouldn’t go back to teaching now. I just enjoy the story and craft programs I do. There is so much red tape and testing…because of liability issues and state and government funding. In some cases, the teacher’s hands are tied and they must insist the kids conform to rigid time schedules and lessons.
      I can see why many parents decide to homeschool…some communities provide alternatives with charter schools. I really don’t know what the answer is other than for a parent to stay on top of what is happening at school and also to provide as much creative time as possible. It’s so difficult, with many single parent households or both parents working…everyone is stressed and tired and overwhelmed…and the kids are the ones who suffer, unfortunately.
      I guess we just need to be as positive and loving and compassionate as possible…with our kids and their teachers. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Stacy…I was thrilled! And have Sandy Beckwith to thank because she encouraged us to register with sites like Reporter Connection and HARO…journalists are always looking for “experts” in different fields. Of course, there was luck involved as well…I happened to see the request and had some time to research it and fill it out.

      The best thing is it makes me realize what a little publicity in a trusted media outlet can do…book sales on Amazon have been lovely. 🙂

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    • Yes, eliz. And I loved that the simple steops they listed were the same things I have been saying for years…and that form the basis for my book: talk with your kids (engage them in conversation), read with your kids, priase your kids, spend time participating with your kids!

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    • There are several sites that will send you free journalist (and other) requests…you can narrow it down to the categories you have an interest or expertise in. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is another…I had subscribed (free) but my mailbox was getting overloaded, so I stopped that one.

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  4. Very, very great insight about encouraging child’s development, curiosity etc. I do believe on all the pointers you have listed and I myself, try to do this for my child. Although somehow, the I sense a little pressure about the cover of the magazine to the parents or the kids. There are parents that gets too obsessed for their child to become “advanced” or “smart” or “intelligent”. While I agree about encouraging kids about learning at a very young age, we must also remember that kids need to be kids and enjoy their being children. I’ve met some parents who are pushing their kids so much about learning things that kids are not enjoying what they are learning anymore. They want their kids to be very competitive and the parents themselves are trying to be competitive with other parents about who’s child would learn this and that first.

    I guess the key is for parents to encourage children to learn a lot with normal conversations, reading with them and most of all have fun with the children 🙂

    Spanish Pinay

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    • I agree with you 100%!!!!!
      There is definitely a fine line between encouraging a child to participate in different activities…and overscheduling or pushing a child into activities they absolutely don’t want to do. Just taking a walk, reading a book…as you say, engaging in conversation…that is what parents can do…without smothering or pressuring.
      I didn’t write the whole article. 🙂 Just was quoted about testing in it. 🙂 But I did like her simple steps for parents…talk, read, praise, encourage curiosity, participate with them. 🙂

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  5. Congrats on getting in Parenting magazine! I am so glad your book sales have jumped up, too. I think I’ll get one for my time with me grandchild. I love my time with him but sometimes it’s strained because I don’t hear from him for so long in between visits. I have forgotten how to parent.

    Saw your comment on Spirit lights the way and found my way here. You are a multi faceted woman. 🙂

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    • Hi Clar,
      Thank you for your kind words. I’m going to New Hampshire in April to visit with my daughter and her family and will be having the care of my 3 year old grandson for 5 days while she and her husband go on a little vacation. I am SO excited…can’t wait to read and craft and cook with him. Yes, the activities in the book do make it easy…all laid out…the story suggestion, the simple craft project and the easy cooking activity. But Clar, I’m sure you would do just fine without it…I think it is like riding a bike…you may be a little rusty for a minute or two, but then it all comes back. 🙂

      I love Nancy’s blog…her posts always make me laugh or cry or look inside myself…often they do all three. 🙂

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