Back to School Challenge: Enter to Win!

 beyond intelligence all wrapped upWe’re giving away 48 author-signed copies of Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids to schools across Canada and the United States. We invite parents and teachers to send us an email addressing the topic, “How my school will benefit from Beyond Intelligence.

Many groups of parents and teachers have used Beyond Intelligence to spark lively discussions about a variety of topics that matter to them, including how to support children’s creativity, intelligence, productivity, and self-confidence. Other areas of interest include, bullying, advocacy, resilience, emotional intelligence, the importance of unstructured playtime, and ideas for establishing a healthy life balance.

We’ll select the 12 most compelling responses to our back-to-school book giveaway challenge. Each of the winning schools will receive 4 complimentary copies of the book. Where possible, one of us will deliver the books in person, and be available to answer questions. For the schools we cannot get to, we’ll arrange for delivery, and create an online discussion forum.

We look forward to hearing from parents and teachers, and to sharing with you our secrets for raising happily productive kids.

The details:

Deadline for entry: October 1st, 2015

Maximum 200 words responding to: “How my school will benefit from Beyond Intelligence

Please send your email to

Winning entries will be posted to (unless you request otherwise)

Photo by B. Wiseberg

How Parents Can Help Their Child Build Self-Confidence

superkidSelf-confidence is a worthwhile goal for parents to hold for their kids, and while parents are right to think they can have an impact on their kids’ developing self-confidence, there are two widespread misconceptions that can stand in the way of that:

Misconception # 1. People are either confident or insecure. In reality, very few people feel good (or bad) about themselves in every area of life. A child who feels confident in her social abilities, for example, might feel insecure about her athletic or musical ability.

Misconception # 2. Praise helps people feel confident. In fact, hollow praise actually diminishes a person’s self-esteem. A strong sense of self is built on feeling genuinely competent in areas that matter to the individual, whether sports, painting, academics, social popularity, or something else.

Not everyone is skilled at everything they do, of course, and certainly not right at the beginning. Sometimes what’s required is more effort, guidance, or assistance. A child’s lack of self-confidence can indicate problems with goal-setting, such as figuring out what he wants to invest his energy in, or persistence, which involves staying engaged with a pursuit long enough to have fulfilling and confidence-building experiences.

Here are some practical tips for parents who want to help their child or teenager develop self-confidence:

  1. Unique ability profile. Encourage your child to appreciate her uniqueness—what comes easily, and also what’s harder for her to learn—and to understand that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Incremental learning. Celebrate the small steps, and help your child see how those steps are required for larger achievements. Say ‘I admire  how you stayed with that picture. Those flowers make me feel happy when I look at them.’ Not, ‘You’re just like me, not very good at painting,’ or, ‘You’re a terrific artist!’
  3. Engagement. Help your child discover learning opportunities in his areas of interest. His confidence will build through experiencing activities he enjoys.
  4. Availability, especially through change. Be available to encourage your child as she considers her options, reviews her goals, and adjusts her efforts to adapt to changing demands and circumstances.
  5. Growth mindset. Show your child how to face setbacks with a positive mindset, seeing difficulties as ways to learn, not as insurmountable obstacles. Help him understand that everyone experiences problems during the course of learning anything that’s worth learning, and encourage him to take pride in overcoming hurdles.

Working together with children and adolescents to bolster their self-confidence will stand them in good stead at the outset of the school year, during the months that follow, and beyond.

For additional information on this topic and more see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014), and visit the authors’ website at for articles, blogs and resources.

For more on this topic:

Aamodt & Wang, (2012). Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows from Conception to College. London: Bloomsbury.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House. 

Foster, J. F. (2015). Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. Tuscon: Great Potential Press. 

Smooth Transitions During Times of Change


The beginning of the school year means new classrooms, friends, programs, expectations, and more. Here are some tips to help parents recognize and address the complexities of change, setting the tone for successful outcomes for their children.

Published at The Creativity Post – Aug. 24th, 2015

Parents cannot possibly anticipate all the changes that occur in a child’s life. Change might be expected or unexpected, big or little, painstakingly slow or lightning fast. Sometimes close friends move away, a new sibling arrives, or family problems arise. It helps if parents think about the transitions occurring within their child’s world—along with potential implications.

School-related change may involve new teachers, a switch from public school to homeschooling, relocation to a different neighborhood, or transfer to a specialized program. For children, these kinds of changes can be worrisome, pleasant, motivating—or no big deal.

Chat with kids about the reasons for a change, what will likely occur (academically, emotionally, or socially), and how to chart a sensible course of action. If you think a change may be unsettling for your child, discuss ways to make it happen smoothly. Get creative! Perhaps it’s possible to adjust the extent, pace, or nature of the process. Children who feel comfortable about a change are better able to handle it.

Most changes can be managed well with preparation and guidance. We all have times of uncertainty when we lack confidence about our capabilities, or are concerned about what might happen, or question how (or if) to proceed. Help kids appreciate that as they get older they will continue to develop a better understanding of what they can do well, what they need to work really hard at, and when they have to make the best of a situation by finding ways to deal with it.

Parents can help children develop adaptability and resilience during times of change. Here are six tips:

1.) Knowledge is empowering. Take careful stock of the change, and share information about it with your child. Better yet, teach her how to acquire her own knowledge about the situation.

2.) Reflection is constructive. Think about the implications of the change, including potential risks or benefits. Take into account your child’s comfort level, and help him understand his feelings.

3.) Support systems can lighten the load. Check out support services at school and within the community, including people involved in planning and implementing changes, and any others who might provide assistance.

4.) Complexities can be simplified. Can the situation be altered to be more accommodating of your child’s individual needs? Do you foresee any adjustment problems that can be offset?

5.) The unexpected is inevitable. Pay attention to unexpected factors and outside influences. Encourage your child to do the same, and to be flexible. Change might offer new possibilities!

6.) Professional help is available. Seek professional advice if it becomes apparent that your child needs increased support or coping strategies. For example, if she can’t sleep, won’t eat, loses interest in friends, or experiences some other unusual problem, this may indicate a need for assistance.

Children can learn to size up a change, and decide what and whom they can rely upon when adjusting to it. Parents can revisit the six reference points to help kids surmount difficulties, feel more confident, and sustain positive momentum throughout the year.


For additional information:
Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2015).

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014)

Make It a Happy Start to School: Our Top Ten Secrets by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (See our blog)

Helping Kids Thrive in Middle School and High School by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (See our blog)

For articles and blogs on this topic and more visit

This article appears at:

Helping Kids Thrive in Middle School or High School: Parenting through Opportunity and Challenge

girl looking into cameraSo much is changing all at once for teenagers—their bodies, feelings, brains, perspectives, identities, relationships with others, and more. During early adolescence most kids begin to spend more time with friends than with family. They can appear to reject their parents’ values, and seem not to need or want much by way of their parents’ time and attention.

Early adolescence (11-14) is a time of vulnerability and possibility, and whether they realize it or not, young people need their parents as much as they did as toddlers. Kids are moving toward independence, but parents still have an enormous role making sure they are safe, and increasing their chances of creating happily productive adult lives for themselves. Here are ten suggestions to help your teenager flourish:

  1. Be available. The transition to middle school or high school can be tricky, and your child may need more reassurance than usual. Be available to listen, spend time together, provide quietly invisible support, or actively engage in addressing his concerns.
  2. Establish and enforce reasonable guidelines. This is a period when your child’s ego is fragile. Treat her with respect and understanding, but also be ready to stay firm, and keep her safe if she goes off the rails.
  3. Yield control. You can avoid power struggles by allowing your tween or teenager to make as many decisions as possible. Unless you anticipate serious long-term consequences of an impending decision, provide guidance only as requested.
  4. Allow your child to suffer the natural consequences of his actions. This can be hard for parents, but is essential if you want him to grow into a responsible, competent, confident adult. For example, accept that he’ll fail a course if he doesn’t do his homework.
  5. Support her developing intelligences. Middle school is a time of rapidly changing, often confusing, and steadily escalating intellectual, social, emotional, and sexual demands. Encourage your teen to process her experiences with others, and help her make sense of what’s happening. Be alert to the possibility of bullying, whether online or in the real world.
  6. Help your child develop good coping strategies. Be honest about what works for you, and what doesn’t. Help your child identify when he’s feeling stressed, and chat about options he might find useful for dealing with his stressors.
  7. Make time for physical exercise and outdoor activities. Exercise and time outdoors are two of the most valuable tools for physical and psychological health. Encourage your young person to integrate these into her schedule.
  8. Support extracurricular interests. Whether it’s music, public speaking, volunteering in the community, athletics, or something else, pursuing an interest can provide excellent opportunities for developing competence and confidence.
  9. Help your child find balance. Be a positive role model, and support your child in establishing better habits concerning sleep, nutrition, recreational activities, and social media.
  10. Be a thoughtful advocate. The more your teenager can take on her own advocacy role, the better. Allow her to solve the problems she can, but be ready to work together to resolve troubling situations at school, home, or elsewhere.

We address all of these ideas in detail in Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (House of Anansi, 2014), as well as in our blogs and published articles. See

And for additional information:

Inside Your Teenager’s Scary Brain, by Tamsin McMahon (Maclean’s, January 4, 2015)

Age of Opportunity: Lessons Learned from the New Science of Adolescence, by Laurence Steinberg

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, by Jessica Lahey

Kids Now  A Canadian organization offering extracurricular skill-building programs for students in middle schools.

Make It a Happy Start to School: Our Top 10 Secrets

girl with ipadAs children think about starting back to school, they often have questions, and so do their parents. Here are some ideas that will ease your child’s return to the classroom at the end of the summer.

  1. Plan ahead for the basics. Make sure your child has what he needs for school success: the necessary supplies, a quiet place for homework, good sleeping and eating habits, and ample physical exercise.
  2. Listen and be observant. Know what’s happening in your child’s life. Listen carefully to her worries and concerns. Think about the highs, lows, and rollercoasters of previous years, and how they might have an impact this year.
  3. Nurture creativity. There are many ways you can foster your child’s curiosity, encourage his imagination, and support his critical thinking skills. (See Beyond Intelligence for ideas about how to do that.)
  4. Be reassuring. Provide the reassurance your child needs as the school year begins, as he encounters different academic challenges, and makes new friends. Help him learn to trust that (with your support) he can find his way through tough times.
  5. Make real-world connections. Your child will be more engaged in learning if she sees the relevance of what she’s being asked to do—that is, why it matters—to herself and to others.
  6. Encourage exploration. Look together for ways to expand your child’s world, whether it’s sports, reading genres, cultural activities, second and third languages, museum trips, or something else. Encourage him to ask questions, and to find answers from various sources, including people, books, online, or elsewhere.
  7. Support good work habits. Now is a great time to focus on building a strong foundation for learning, including organizational and time management skills, effort, and persistence. (And of course, the best way to teach these habits is to model them yourself!)
  8. Make time for play. Unstructured play is where children consolidate what they’re learning and discover what they’re interested in. Talk together about how to make sure there’s enough time for free play in your child’s schedule.
  9. Find a healthy balance. Kids need challenge, stimulation, and a broad range of physical activities and learning opportunities. They also need time for reflection and daydreaming, even if that means limiting their time with technology.
  10. Advocate as needed.Thoughtful advocacy can go a long way toward making good things happen at school. By building bridges with your child’s school, you can ensure that meetings with teachers and other professionals are as fruitful as possible.

We address all these ideas in more detail in Beyond Intelligence, Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (House of Anansi, 2014), as well as on our blogs and in our published articles. For more, see