Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to raise a smart, happy kid

Wouldn't it be nice if there was some formula parents could simply follow and -- presto! -- you'd have a smart, happy kid? But there isn't -- despite what all those parenting books and psychologists and now Tiger Moms* have to say.

Think about it: We all know people whom we think are wonderful parents who have an unhappy kid or a kid who doesn't do well in school (or worse).

And we all know people we think are awful parents ("I would never treat my child like that") whose kid winds up being the class valedictorian and/or the most popular kid with tons of friends.

So clearly, a part of having (notice I did not say raising) a smart, happy kid is luck. (That is, some kids are just born having sunny dispositions and/or an aptitude for learning, while others are wired to be unhappy or due to some chemical or congenital or genetic malfunction have difficulty learning.)

That said, there are things you as a parent can do to help your kid get better grades (without doing the work for her) -- like surrounding her with books, reading to and with her, fostering good study habits, helping her study for tests, and encouraging and rewarding good grades (though not with bribes or coercion).

And there are things you can do to help your child be happy, or at least feel good about herself -- like spending time with her, doing things she wants to do or introducing her to things you think she might enjoy; telling her "I love you," every day, and meaning it; being a good listener; encouraging her passions and praising her (real) accomplishments; and not belittling her and telling her she's stupid or fat.

But there is no "formula" or book that can make your child class valedictorian or the most popular kid at school.

*Btw, I keep saying "smart, happy" because while I think it's important to cultivate a love of learning in your child (which IMHO I believe is the key to long-term academic and professional success), I think it's equally important for children to enjoy life, and to be able to do things that make them happy. Unfortunately, I have encountered too many parents who don't give a hoot about their child's happiness, just their grades (see Mom, Tiger). And what's the point of being "smart" if you are effing miserable?

Disagree with me? Leave a comment. But please keep it civil or I will delete it.


Kendor said...

Two key ingredients to our child's very high self esteem and self confidence:

1-Watched lots of Teletubbies. She was late to that party, but enjoyed many a Teletubby book, video, online video, and of course the figurines (and the Tinky Winky Halloween costume).

2-Spent many hours online exploring the University of Wisconsin's Bock Labs Virus World, where she admired such happiness inspiring images as the Human Rhinovirus 14(common cold).

A great formula don't you think?

J. said...

@Kendor, you forgot about all those games of blackjack and Yahtzee we played with her. ;-) (And here I thought it was all that breast feeding and kisses and hugs and telling her stories and reading to her eight hours a day.)