Parenting is a tough job today, isn’t it? Add to that, pretty much every mom wants her kid to be a genius. If you are one of them, I don’t blame you. For today’s kids, the present is cut-throat and the future is uncertain. Can we be censured for wishing the best for our kids?
However, Camilla Benbow of Vanderbilt University has a different opinion. “Setting out to raise a genius is the last thing we’d advise any parent to do,” she says, citing findings from the University’s research. “Focusing on genius can lead to all sorts of social and emotional problems.”
That said, an effective way to help your children get stand out is to foster a flexible aptitude and creativity in them (both of which come naturally to kids). But hey, wait a minute – why do moms or parents need to do that? Isn’t that what we send them to school for?
Unfortunately, school education hasn’t kept up with the pace of innovation that has transformed other spheres of life in the past couple of decades. Traditional K-12 education, while now enhanced by iPads and laptops in the classroom, is still heavily dependent on rote learning and outdated standards of literacy.
So how can you – a super mom (or super dad) – take matters into your own hands and aid the all-round development of your kids? Are there any well-trodden paths to help them turn out to be scientists, entrepreneurs, or aces in whatever vocation they choose? Here are five tips from my experience in early education and child literacy.
Speak to Kids about Anything and Everything
Parents have no inkling of the immense learning potential of young children. Infants and toddlers can’t understand the words or sentences we speak, but their hearing pathways are in the process of significant development. Putting words in their ears, so to speak, enhances their comprehension and vocabulary down the line.
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
~ Thomas Alva Edison
Children thrive on routine. And discipline is not to be confused studies or chores without playtime. Think of it not as a punishment but as a gift that you’re giving your children. Kids need clarity of thinking in their early years, and a timetable or routine for work, play or screen time sets them on the right path.
In order to help them develop discipline:
- Structure their days but allow for plenty of free time.
- Don’t just say “You have to do this because I said so.” Explain why you’re saying so.
- Explain to them the consequences of sticking to the plan as well as deviating from it. If there are natural consequences, point them out. If there is going to be a punishment, warn them.
Emphasize STEM Education
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. It is an integrated learning method focusing on teaching kids these subjects together as a unified theme. A STEM-based learning approach lets kids “experience” these topics with simple activities and experiments, transforming them from passive listeners into proactive learners.
Logical analysis, inquiry and project-based learning are the keystones of STEM education. This is a paradigm shift from traditional education to an ongoing process that boosts children’s curiosity and hands-on knowledge.
Consider these stats:
- According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17% while others are growing at less than 10%.
- Price Waterhouse Coopers reported that 75% of the fastest-growing companies are looking for people with STEM skills.
- People with STEM-related skills earn 26% more on an average than those who don’t.
Find out how much emphasis your kids’ school is putting on STEM education.
Because an emphasis on science, tech, math and engineering is coming straight from the White House!
Value Effort Over Outcome
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
~ Albert Einstein
Commending the child’s effort and rewarding them for a job well tried encourages them to experiment without fearing failure. So just praise your child for who they are. Don’t make successful outcomes in everything they attempt – or happiness, for that matter – a big deal.
On the contrary, you should let them fail and even put obstacles in their path. Often, parents shield their children from failures to safeguard their emotions, but instead encourage them to analyze their failures. They’ll learn faster and much more from failures than victories.
Success comes and goes, but genius stays forever.
Smartphones Won’t Make Them Dumb
There is increasing concern about kids’ use of mobile phones, laptops, and exposure to media content. Internet moms that I know of want to limit and even eliminate screen time altogether for their kids.
Their concerns aren’t completely baseless, of course. However, while I reserve my comments (and judgement) about the benefits of video games and animated/cartoon TV series, I’m all for letting children make limited, regulated use of mobile devices and computers for learning (and playing, if it comes to that). A smartphone is an inseparable part of human life now, and will be much more so in the future. If we as parents need to use it, our kids need it even more, regardless of their age.
While you certainly don’t want screen-time eat into their family time or “outdoors time,” do give them access to websites and apps that can potentially make them better informed. Khan Academy, National Geographic Kids, and a few others are great substitutes for school work. The videos and other resources pique kids’ curiosity in the world around them, and let them learn science, technology, literature, and other stuff at their own pace.
Shreiya Aggarwal-Gupta is the owner of the early education startup Kidpillar, which aims to provide developmental opportunities and resources for young children in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) via kid-friendly journals, practical DIY-kits, and simple project-based learnings and workshops. Shreiya is also a passionate blogger, computer science engineer, finance whiz, and “perfect mommy” to her son.