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.