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Giving All Kids a Head Start in Life: Tackling the Parenting Gap

Parents spend a lot of time worrying about their kids’ schools. Yes, school matters, but what happens at home matters more. According to Parenting, Politics, and Social Mobility, a new report by the Brookings Institute (a Washington think tank), we’re not paying enough attention to the ‘the parenting gap.’ The parenting gap is even more powerful than the school-based reasons for the academic learning gap between kids growing up in families with more and fewer advantages.

Some recommendations that emerge from Parenting, Politics, and Social Mobility:

  • Time spent with kids matters. Parents who spend more time with their children, especially in the preschool years, give their kids a big advantage in learning and subsequent achievement.
  • The quality of the time spent with kids matters. Kids respond well when they grow up in a home characterized by warmth, acceptance, sensitivity, stimulation, and engaged conversation. 

Read more

Challenge and Effort: A Mindset Perspective

By Joanne Foster, Ed.D.

In this blog I review my thoughts about an informative presentation, and share some insights about learning.

Last year I had the good fortune to meet renowned psychologist and researcher Dr. Carol Dweck, and to attend a presentation she gave to parents and adolescents at Branksome Hall, an independent girls’ school in Toronto. I was pleased to hear what Dweck had to say about mindsets and intellectual growth—and delighted to observe the rapt attention of the audience. Hundreds of people filled the auditorium and it seemed to me that everyone left with a more positive attitude about learning, a better understanding of brain-related functions, and a deeper appreciation of the power of persistence. Dona Matthews and I often refer to Dweck’s work in our writing, and as I think back upon that presentation, I appreciate how informative and affirming it was to hear first-hand about her ongoing research.

Dweck discussed the difference between a fixed mindset (intelligence seen as a fixed trait), and a growth mindset (intelligence seen as a malleable quality that can be developed). She said that intelligence is “a platform from which you grow”—and went on to explain how neural plasticity affords us the ability to learn more and more over time. The key is to acquire and sustain a growth mindset. It’s also important that adults model growth-mindedness for their children. To that end, Dweck laid down three basic rules.

 Rule #1: Learn at all times. Try to think deeply about things, and pay attention to what you’re experiencing. Figure out what you don’t know, and need to know. Participate in study groups, find a mentor, attend meetings and conferences, and find other avenues for learning. Don’t worry if you don’t look smart. It’s OK to make mistakes. See them as opportunities to learn.

Rule #2: Work hard. Effort is what takes you to the next level, allowing you to use your capabilities, and strengthen them over time. Practice and commitment matter. Struggling can be beneficial. It’s good to stretch systematically, by building upon what is known and pushing past traditional comfort zones. This leads to personal growth.

Rule #3: Confront deficiencies and setbacks. Don’t perceive them as humiliating, but rather as challenges. Find ways to capitalize on circumstances (strategize!) and turn them into avenues for learning. That’s how people become resilient, able to recover from failure and improve themselves.

Dweck closed the presentation by reiterating that when it comes to developing a growth mindset, everyone should take a close look at his or her own personal value systems. By learning to see that what’s easy is boring and a waste of time, and that what’s more difficult is interesting and worthwhile, individuals become energized, put forth the necessary effort, and become much stronger as a result. Brainpower intensifies; confidence, motivation, and effectiveness increase, and there’s no limit to what people can achieve. In other words—in fact, in Dweck’s words—“Always challenge yourself!”

September: Changes in the Air

By Joanne Foster, Ed.D.

This is a blog that I actually wrote a couple of years ago but that I think bears repeating. Every September, countless parents revisit the challenges of kids returning to school, while other parents experience this “rite of passage” for the first time. Perhaps the information that follows here will be helpful during Sept. 2013, and beyond.

September is traditionally the time when children start a new school year. Many kids navigate the change from leisure to learning without a hitch, whereas others find it more difficult to settle into “back to school” mode. Parents often ask us, “How can we help children during this transitional period—and through the months ahead?”

Here are four tips for success:

#1 – Be attuned to what’s happening in your children’s lives. Listen. Observe. Don’t be pushy or annoying. (Kids HATE that!) Do make an unobtrusive effort to be more “in-the-know” about the highs, lows, and rollercoaster moments in their lives. Parents who stay on top of things are better positioned to advise, guide, and trouble-shoot more effectively.

#2 – Respect children’s views, honour their interests, and try to accommodate their learning preferences. Children learn in different ways. However, they learn best when they are happy, appropriately challenged, and motivated.

#3 – Give children access to relevant, stimulating learning opportunities—along with whatever else they might need to enable learning to happen as seamlessly as possible (including materials, work space, ample sleep, and nutritional food).

#4 – Be available to offer reinforcement and encouragement. Acknowledge children’s efforts, and help them see the value of a strong work ethic.

As September morphs into October, and the school year revs into full gear, be both watchful and wise, and be ready to advocate for your children, if necessary. (More on that elsewhere. See the resources page at www.beyondintelligence.net and blog postings at www.beyondintelligenceblog.wordpress.com)

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Seven Ideas for Encouraging Your Child’s Productive Creativity

Creativity is more accessible (and more effortful) than most people realize.  Most parents want their kids to experience the joy and fulfillment that come from productive creativity–the kind of creativity that makes a difference.

Here are seven ideas for parents who want to support their children’s productive creativity:

1. Curiosity. All kids are born curious. They want to understand more about the world around them. Support your child’s curiosity, and you’re taking the first and probably most important step toward him discovering the joys of productive creativity.

2. Passion. Support your child in finding out what she wants to learn more about. Whether it’s musical, artistic, athletic, intellectual, domestic, scientific or something else, follow her curiosities, and help her think about possibilities for further exploration. A passionate desire to go farther is at the heart of productive creativity.

3. Opportunities for learning. Productive creativity is built on knowledge and understanding. Your child needs something with which to be creative. Help him find opportunities to learn and to experience challenge in his areas of keen interest. Productive creativity happens in all domains–a scientist or a chef can be as productively creative as a musician–so help him feel free to follow his interests wherever they take him. Read more

Seeing Beyond the Distraction of IQ

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In our work with families and schools, we’ve noticed that people sometimes confuse encouraging the development of children’s real-world intelligence—that is, raising smarter kids—and raising their IQs. It’s a distinction worth noting. Here’s why.

Intelligence is so much more than a score on a test. Secrets for raising smarter kids include keeping the emphasis on thinking, learning, challenging, creating, finding balance, playing, working hard, collaborating, persevering, and becoming wise. Boosting a child’s real-world intelligence may boost his intelligence test score, but not necessarily. And vice versa. Read more

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How Comforting Kids When They Fail Can Rob Them of Motivation to Learn, by Luc Kumps

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Teachers’ attitudes can have a powerful effect on kids’ motivation. Comforting students when they don’t do well can rob them of their motivation to learn, reduce their likelihood of taking on challenging courses, and lock them into low achievement.

If you believe talent is something a person is born with, or not, you’re more likely than others to give up when faced with difficulties. You’ll think that setbacks indicate the limits of your ability. People who think this way—sometimes called having a ‘fixed mindset’– avoid investing a lot of effort in a task, since effort exposes their lack of natural ability. Read more

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Music and Intelligence: Nothing Activates More of the Brain than Music

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Although wild claims about ‘The Mozart Effect’ have been debunked, it’s true that music education—when it’s done right—can foster the development of intelligence. 

Scientists and intelligent consumers are justifiably sceptical of claims that music increases children’s intelligence. ‘The Mozart Effect’—claims that listening to certain kinds of music, such as Mozart’s sonatas, made children smarter— became wildly successful several years ago, and then was roundly refuted. Listening to Mozart’s sonatas was shown to have very short-term effects (15 minutes) on one form of intelligence (spatial reasoning), and not to improve children’s intelligence in any useful or practical way. Read more

Boredom and Frustration Help Kids Learn

child buildingKids do better when they have to work hard, and get to experience working through challenges on their own, or with minimal help. Boredom and frustration (in balance!) can be good.

In this article, entitled ‘Raising Successful Children,’ Madeline Levine makes the point that parents should not do for kids what kids can do (or almost do) for themselves.  She also makes the point that it’s important to kids’ eventual well-being and success in all that matters (careers, relationships, health, etc.) that their parents are living lives that they (the parents) find interesting: ‘One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.’

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/opinion/sunday/raising-successful-children.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=general&src=me

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Are Some Kids Born Smart? Or Do They Become Smart?

Are some kids born smart? Or do they become smart? Is there anything parents and teachers can do to help kids become more intelligent or use their intelligence more productively?

Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets is part of a transformation in progress concerning how people understand giftedness, and how gifted education is delivered. In this article published in the Growth Mindset Blog, we think about some of the myths that are being challenged by recent findings on mindsets and intelligence.

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Reassurance, Coping Skills, Action, and Resilience: How to Handle Tragedy with Kids

mother comforting son

All children have worries. But worries can intensify when they hear alarming radio and television broadcasts, and adults talking or—worse—whispering about random shootings, floods, evacuations, and other frightening events. Children can find it difficult to put their own apprehension into words, get past a sense of isolation, or calm the feeling that the world is out of control—especially if adults exclude them from conversations about what matters. Read more