|NUMBER 310||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||NOVEMBER 2011|
Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids, David Walsh, Ph.D., Free Press 2011, 292 pages, $25.
Can parents really raise their kids' IQ? Scientists now estimate that the genetic, hard-wired component of IQ is only 50% at most, providing parents with a tremendous opportunity to help kids develop their intelligence to its greatest potential.
There are two major things parents can do for children up to age three to give them the best possible start, according to Dr. Walsh. First, parents should nurture a warm, supportive, and caring relationship with their child. Second, parents should talk to young children as much as possible. Those interactions provide the connections between sounds and words that young brains need to form the building blocks necessary for speaking and reading. "It's parents and caregivers spending time interacting with kids in the real world that really helps kids grow better brains," explains Dr. Walsh.
As kids get older, one of most important things parents can do is teach them the importance of hard work, persistence, and patience. As it turns out, the skills of self-discipline and self-management are twice as important as intelligence in predicting school success.
Walsh also advises parents to praise their kids for working hard rather than telling them they are smart. Why? Studies have shown that kids who are told they are hard workers tend to choose more challenging tasks, which they learn and grow from. In contrast, kids who are told they are smart choose easier tasks to avoid possible failure and losing their status as a "smart" kid.
What about a kid who can spend hours playing a video game but can't stick with his math homework for 10 minutes? Playing video games requires only reactive attention, which responds to stimuli such as movement or emotion automatically and instinctively.
In contrast, "focused attention" is activated only when we decide to pay attention. This part of the brain is necessary to learn things that aren't naturally stimulating, like second-grade reading skills or college-level physics. Developing focused attention requires lots of practice, and Walsh suggests numerous ways parents can encourage that skill.
Each chapter includes a helpful list of parenting tips and strategies on matters including stress, play, exercise, technology and emotional intelligence.