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Raising Smart Kids

A new school year is here. To teachers, it means new students to mold into productive citizens. To parents it means delegating some of your job to another adult for several hours a day…unless you are homeschooling.

It’s about training children to be thoughtful, wise, compassionate –and hopefully, smart.

So, how do parents and teachers go about reaching these goals? As unbelievable as this seems, it can be accomplished the same way people train dogs.

Don’t shut me down yet. You may be surprised.

I read a magazine article for dog fanciers which, if followed, could shed light on child training. Although the writing was for trainers of canines, several principles apply to both children and dogs.

The subtitle of the article was “When it comes to training, you and your dog are what you think.” The insightful thoughts were written by a psychology professor who trains Australian shepherds. She cited a study performed on humans and the results were fascinating.


In this study of children, teachers were told that specific students in their classrooms had high potential for academic success based on standardized tests.

Actually, the children were just as average as those around them. To those conducting the study, however, amazing results occurred.

The students who had been labeled as “having intellectual potential” showed great gains in the standardized tests administered a year later. The children did not know they had been singled out for academic excellence; they simply responded to the teachers’ positive bias toward them.

In simple terms, expecting a child to perform well academically actually produced children who did well.

Could this be transferred to parents in the day-to-day raising of offspring?

If we expect children to behave certain ways, they probably will. And if we invest time into training them during those fleeting years they are under our care, it will pay off.

We discovered this accidentally. As a young mother I read to our children several times a day while feeding babies. Our toddlers learned to sit still and listen for several minutes—which helped tremendously when we took them to church.

Another benefit was that two of our children taught themselves to read at age five. We expected them to love words—and they did!

While this is a simplistic illustration, it applies to our job as parents and grandparents raising children to succeed as they grow.

Of course, there are variables. Just wishing for something doesn’t make it happen. And not all children will be in the gifted class, nor could they be expected to perform as such.

But to those parents willing to put down their cell phones and limit social media, spending time with children produces amazing results.

  • Bring them into the kitchen and let them help prepare meals instead of shooing them off to the living room to an electronic babysitter.

  • Talk to them while they stand on a chair beside you at the sink, rinsing dishes.

  • Sing songs together.

  • Tell them stories about what life was like when you were a child.

  • Answer their childish questions. Our youngest used to ask, “Do earthworms have backbones?” and “Do rocks grow?” We fed his curious mind constantly.

  • Teens usually talk about important things if they don’t have to sit facing their parents. Working alongside someone in the kitchen provides that opportunity.

They’re only young once. Let’s give our children ourselves and our time.

Expect great things; receive great things.

What about you? Any thoughts on raising children? Use the comment box below.


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