Get Ahead of the Ennui

Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential by Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Mark S. Lowenthal

Non-fiction

smart-parenting

Overall Rating: 4.5

Quick Summary: Smart kids are a blessing, but sometimes they can be driven to excel in school due to unrealistic or unbalanced reasons. Sometimes they are driven by fear of failure or insecurity, sometimes they are driven by perfectionism and sometimes they are so driven to succeed that they have a difficult time relating to their peers. This book addresses different problems smart kids can face and provides concrete steps to help your child achieve a healthy balance between wanting to be academically successful and personally happy.

I have read a number of parenting books on a variety of topics: Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina, The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, and Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. While I enjoyed them all, this was a particular topic I was concerned about because so often in my professional career I met students who were naturally smart but didn’t seem all that interested in working hard. Putting your full effort into an activity was a way of life for me growing up, and I often wonder about how to raise my children to have that same sense of dedication. This book had the most practical advice on how to help your children realize a sense of purpose and achievement in the process of learning, rather than being exclusively results driven. Often times these parenting books deal in abstract ideas, but this one gave examples that I related to, even though my oldest child is only 4.

This book is really geared for those with children ages 6-12. The authors explain that this is the sweet spot in influencing your child’s perspective on life. While I wasn’t able to implement any of the ideas right away, since my son isn’t in kindergarten yet, it helped to shift my mindset to encourage the effort my children put into an activity, rather than praising the end product. Since my children are very well loved, they often get told by well-meaning friends and relatives how smart they are and how special they are, which they then turn around and brag about. For example, my 4 year old is convinced that he is the fastest runner in the world and the smartest boy in the world. Where he got these ideas I have no idea, but he is absolutely convinced. This can make him a bit of braggart when it comes to running around outside and I can’t imagine it’s going to win him very many friends if he continues to laud himself in such a way. But I try to turn it around and emphasize that he needs to practice running and that there is more to learn. We talk about outer space (since he is constantly curious about planets) and how he can be a scientist and learn more and more about the planets and stars. I try to tell him that even if you’re an expert at something there is always more to discover.

Will this help in the long run? I don’t know, but reading this book made me more optimistic that praising the efforts of my children will lead them to a lifetime of learning and happiness rather than apathetic and cynical.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $10.99)

If you have a child in this age range and are particularly concerned about this issue, then I think it’s worth the money to buy it. If you’re like me and you’re not quite there yet, then borrow the book from the library like I did. It’s too early yet to know if my children will struggle with some of these issues, so I’m not ready to make the full investment, but in a few years if I find that I am still concerned about these things, then I’m going to buy it myself.

Something else you might enjoy:

If you have a younger child, say an infant, then you might enjoy Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina. It has similar advice to Smart Parenting, but it is geared for parents of babies who are not yet in school. I thought it made some really good points about how we overemphasize “smarts” and underestimate the value of relationships in building a happy life.

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