How you respond when your child asks you a question will effect whether or not they become successful in life, according to researchers.
In the book, “Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children,” it’s revealed that handling sensitive moments in a curious child’s formative years contributes highly in his or her development.
“What we do with little kids today will matter in 20 years,” said Temple University professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, the book’s co-author. “If you don’t get it right, you will have an unlivable environment. That’s the crisis I see.”
Hirsh-Pasek and co-author Roberta Golinkoff from the University of Delaware, who are both distinguished developmental psychologists with several years of experience, are aiming to help parents understand which skills children need cultivated to be able to better succeed in the future through their book.
“We live in a crazy time, and parents are very worried about their children’s futures. They’re getting all kinds of messages about children having to score at the top level on some test,” Golinkoff told NPR in an interview. “The irony is, kids could score at the top and still not succeed at finding great employment or becoming a great person.”
Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff point out that the current educational system, which allows kids to absorb and regurgitate information, lacks the tools to let kids get better at being “citizens in a community”. The two is hoping to change how success is defined in and out of school.
A revised grading system, which the researchers called the 21st-century report card, contained what they think are the most fundamental tools in development: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence:
“The first, basic, most core is collaboration. Collaboration is everything from getting along with others to controlling your impulses so you can get along and not kick someone else off the swing. It’s building a community and experiencing diversity and culture. Everything we do, in the classroom or at home, has to be built on that foundation,” said Hirsh-Pasek.
“Communication comes next, because you can’t communicate if you have no one to communicate with… Content is built on communication. You can’t learn anything if you haven’t learned how to understand language, or to read. Critical thinking relies on content, because you can’t navigate masses of information if you have nothing to navigate to. Creative innovation requires knowing something… And finally, confidence: You have to have the confidence to take safe risks,” she added.
Highlighting the opportunities to cultivate those skills, the researchers advised parents and teachers to be extra careful in responding to a child’s question.
“So, if you’re going to have a kid who engages in critical thinking, you’re not going to shut them down when they ask a question. You’re not going to settle for ‘because.’ You’re going to encourage them to ask more. And you want them to understand how other people think,” said Golinkoff.
Hirsh-Pasek further explained how parents need to supplement what going on in school.
“One of the biggest concepts is breadth. Learning isn’t just K-12. It starts prenatally. If you get a bead on what your children are and aren’t being exposed to at school, that will suggest the kinds of experiences you want your children to have outside of school,” said Hirsh-Pasek.
As a “collaborator”, Hirsh-Pasek suggested a parent should effectively relate learning in social environment. “What do I want for my child? Where is my child now, and how can I build an environment in my house that will enable the child to grow up with these different skills?”
“The other thing I think is crucial to notice is that we’re talking about doing things in the moment with your child. Notice we’re talking about buying nothing, signing up for no classes, and no tablets. Not that we’re Luddites, but we’re talking about how the crucible of social interaction between child and parent really helps set up the child for the development of these skills,” Golinkoff added.
Highlighting the importance of confidence in the child’s early years, Golinkoff said: “At school, when kids are being encouraged to get the one right answer and fill in that bubble, people can do things that enable their children to solve problems in multiple ways: ‘Can you think of different ways to make the bed?'”
“It costs nothing, and the child is learning, ‘I have good ideas, I can be creative, and I can show you that I have confidence'” she concluded.