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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Five Ways to Grow SMART Kids

Let me start this by saying that I truly think ALL kids are WAY smarter than we parents realize. They don't think learning is boring! When I used to work at a daycare preschool many moons ago, I remember being astonished at how much those 3 year-olds could do. And then, when I had my first babies, being astonished at how much a 1 year old could do! And then a 2 year old! Wow! Kids are amazing!

Sometimes it seems like we, the parents, are slowing them down, simply by not expecting very much from these little people. Here are some tips for getting the most from your kids' potential:

1. Answer Your Kids' Questions with Truth and Detail -  Answer EVERY SINGLE ONE. Don't ignore the questions. Don't give them a babyish answer or a funny one to make other adults snicker. Give them more information than what they asked. Flood them with knowledge. Talk clearly and explain and elaborate. Why are you stopped at the traffic light? (talk all about traffic rules and light colors and the importance of safe driving, etc.). Why can't we buy those cookies? (explain about healthful eating, about shopping on a budget and making good choices). How does the bank give out money? (talk about working and getting paid and keeping money safe and only spending what you have). If they are too little to ask questions, point out and explain things anyway: "See that big tree over there? That's an oak tree! It's changing colors because it is fall. The acorns are dropping down. Let's see what color leaves we can see...etc."  Great things happen when you respect the questions of a child. They CAN handle the truth :)

2. Expect Good Behavior - Let your kids have a "bar" to reach. They may surprise you.  If you expect a tantrum, you will likely get one. Instead, expect them to sit still. Expect them to behave. If they don't, be shocked and punish swiftly (however you and your spouse agree: timeout, no sweets, etc.).  Babying and coddling is NOT the same as loving and cuddling. Raising expectations creates maturity, and mature kids are ready to learn.

3. Feed the Sponge - Start phonics early. Read. Use correct words - don't dumb it down. Read some more. Follow their interests. If your boy loves trucks, teach him "excavator" and "combine harvester"  - no need to call it a "dirt digger upper."

4. Laugh! - Jokes and silliness and good-natured ribbing create wit and zip and energy in children. A good attitude is key to learning, and humor can alleviate the most stressful of situations. Comedians are some of the cleverest people. Read Shel Silverstein together and explain WHY it is funny stuff.  Foster it and see the lights go on!

5. Faith - In this secular world, oftentimes people of faith are looked down upon as being somehow ignorant and naive. On the contrary, teaching children that they are loved and protected by a higher power builds security and comfort and peace. How many times have we heard that public schools need to be safe in order for children to learn? I proffer that the same holds true within the home. A crippling fear of the dark or of death or of robbers will hold back your children from embracing knowledge. Teaching them that their soul will live forever is a beautiful gift.

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