Smart Kids, Not-So-Smart Parents and Achievement

December 13th, 2007

It’s not technically winter, but it feels like it now. The low over the next twenty-four hours may be less than 20 degrees F, with snow on Saturday. Which I’m ready for… I love the different seasons, but wet, soggy days are not very fun. If it’s going to be cold, bring on the fluffy white stuff! Otherwise like so many of you, we’re catching up for the season. The school year is winding down for the kids and Christmas is just around the corner (I’m not ready!).

Speaking of catching up, I’ve been making the rounds of a few blogs. I’ve always found ongoing themes of synchronicity in life, and the world of blogging is no exception. Pablo at Roundrock Journal always shares some interesting thoughts and links to other sites. Yesterday he pointed me towards Ron at Homesteading Hickory Hills. Ron wrote about a great article he found called The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. The article and his thoughts struck a chord personally for a variety of reasons I’ve been contemplating over the past couple of years.

We love to praise our kids and see them succeed… but when is praise too much, or inappropriate? Why should telling a child they are “smart” not help them? And how do we balance that with constructive criticism for helping them “get things done” so they grow up understanding what “trying hard” can accomplish? Many questions that Ron is also thinking about, and the article examines in detail. Each child is unique, yet some do not seem to understand or find value in task accomplishment, while others have much greater “stick-to-it-iveness”… something educators call intrinsic motivation. Certainly much relates to maturity at a given age and personality, and parents may or may not have a great influence on child development, at least for a time. Hopefuly parents help more than hinder development… one of the reasons poverty is so damaging in society, but that’s for another discussion.

But I love to see our young one living “in the moment” and displaying the epitome of childlike wonder for so many things. His joy and excitement is like an incredible elixir that I can hardly get enough of… it helps me remember my own joys for the moment.

Our Tiger Cub recieved his Bobcat Badge last month- the first achievement in Cub Scouts. He was very proud.

Boy receving his Bobcat Badge- the first Cub Scout achievement

Sometimes it seems as we grow we have to set aside that living “in the moment” to gain a larger persepctive for accomplishment. Too often we lose that childlike wonder, so focused on getting things done that we don’t appreciate the moments that pass. But ideally we help our kids grow in a constructive, supportive environment where they don’t lose that sense of joy, but become motivated to accomplish, contribute, and achieve along the way… it’s so many things that I can hardly articulate. Cub Scouts for example, provides many opportunities for achievement and fun.

“People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift. Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort. Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.” Secret to Raising Smart Kids, Scientific American, December 2007

But it’s a very interesting article… and I hope to continue focusing on themes of dedication, working toward success and accomplishing things along the way with our young one. Heck, a lot of us know this from personal experience… and personal frustration. What are some of the most rewarding memories you have? For me they have to do with accomplishing things that I really wanted, but also that really took a lot of work and discipline… where I almost surprised myself that I could do it. I guess it should be no surprise then as a parent, that helping our kids develop a positive work ethic and a sense of achievement should be a foundation for learning and growth. Now, how to balance and structure that approach is the question… any tips?! :)

Practically speaking, simply being a smart kid isn’t really enough. And no one ever said smart people had a lock on common sense. Sometimes it seems quite the opposite… living in the country you meet people who display a sense of rural intelligence that is beyond any measure of academic knowledge for how to live and succeed in the world. So maybe I like to think “being smart” encompasses a lot more than just book knowledge over time. And hopefully our young one will go way beyond the limitations of parental ignorance as well! Of one thing I’m certain… there’s always a lot more to learn.

2 Responses to “Smart Kids, Not-So-Smart Parents and Achievement”

  1. I wish I knew the secret to good parenting. Our kids seemed to grow in to compassionate, high-achieving adults despite my influence.

  2. :) I’m sure that influence was so tremendously important in their lives, and it’s a testament to you, their parents, as they grow and succeed in life.

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