It is so easy to treat our children as if they are born with a fixed mental ability, and that there is nothing we can do about it. Easy—and wrong! Our genetic inheritance only partly determines our level of achievement. At least as much is the product of our experience, especially their childhood experience. See how you can help raise children with brighter minds.
The most formative relationship of your children’s lives is with you. On that relationship largely depends the realization of mental potential. It is important that they know you believe in them, and that you are proud of them, whatever they do. Happy, confident children are children who have an extra capacity to learn.
They also need you to challenge them to acquire new skills—sticking at difficult things is more important for success than natural ability or intelligence. Learning to cope with failure, to get back up and try again is something that smart kids can miss out because they fail so rarely.
Do as much as you can to be alongside them as they learn. Read a lot, but don’t always let them just sit and listen—engage them with the words by talking together about what is on the page.
Make every shared experience a learning experience, by turning it into a learning game. For instance, when cooking, laugh together as you make a mess, while talking about measurements, quantities, heat, solids and liquids—at the end there is a greater reward than cookies.
Exercise and Diet
Older people are often advised that an essential component of a healthy mind is a healthy body—the same goes for children. Your responsibility starts in pregnancy, avoiding toxins and eating a healthy diet.
As children grow, insist that healthy food is always on offer, even if they won’t eat it.
Exercise is essential for the developing brain. Set an example by being active yourself, and get your family to join you on cycle rides and walks. Dancing with younger children is fun—until they start to get embarrassed by you!
Work With the School
Take every opportunity that is offered to discuss your child’s progress with teachers. Between you, you can spot potential gifts and plan how to develop them. You can also spot problems and nip them in the bud.
You may think that your child would benefit from being on an advanced program. If so, they may be asked to sit a WISC test. These tests do not test knowledge or traditional skills, but are designed to assess a child’s capacity for reasoning. Practicing for this sort of test may not improve capacity, but it will at least help your child not to be fazed by an unfamiliar approach.
A Lifelong Process
Some children are born with a smart advantage, but they are not always the ones who use their brains smartly. If you stick with your children, you can help them to develop the strategies and habits of learning and creativity that will take full advantage of what they are born with. Now that is smart.
Lonnie Gibson is a teacher as well as a parent. He encourages parents to take an active role in their child’s education, and to devise extra activities for them out of school to educate them in ways that being in class can’t. Look out for his articles online.