Parenting Tips from the Professionals: Raising a Smart Child

Parenting Tips from the Professionals: Raising a Smart Child

What does it mean to raise a 'smart' child?  This is a question I have often grappled with as a school teacher, mother of 4 and in my work supporting thousands of families through 'Educating Matters'.

Parenting has become a competitive sport!  How can you encourage your child to do their 'best', be successful but not be defined entirely by results?  I passionately believe we should put as much effort into strengthening our children's core qualities such as resilience, moral compass, creativity and kindness as we put into academic or athletic performance.

Intelligence is not dominated by a single general ability. The ‘Theory of Multiple Intelligences’ highlights: musical, interpersonal, linguistic, mathematical, naturalist, spatial, kinaesthetic and musical.  However traditional IQ tests only measure linguistic and mathematical abilities.

'Learning how to learn' effectively through good study techniques is also key to academic achievement.

Carol Dweck has undertaken fascinating research indicating that giving children the label 'smart' is actually counter-productive. The child thinks that if they are ‘clever’ they don’t have to work too hard.  Parents need to encourage more of a 'growth' rather than 'fixed' mindset.  Intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. Children with a growth mindset embrace challenges, learn from criticism or mistakes and persist despite obstacles.

Parents can foster this by the use of 'descriptive praise' - the most powerful motivator I know. Focus on what your child does right, notice and mention every tiny step in the right direction. Praise their effort, attitude and strategies rather than the outcome. Be specific: "I am impressed that you sat down to do your homework without being reminded, that shows self- discipline". Rather than 'evaluative praise' e.g. "You are so clever" or "That was amazing".

'Emotional intelligence' (arguably more important than IQ) can be nurtured in our children by accepting, acknowledging and validating their feelings.

Love and accept your child unconditionally, focus on your relationship and connection.  This will provide the right environment for them to become 'smart'.

Rachel Vecht is Director of Educating Matters  who deliver seminars, webinars, workshops, clinics and telephone consultations in the workplace, schools and homes for families. They cover both education related topics and more general ‘Positive Parenting’ skills.

Released On 11th Dec 2015

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