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Whilst I am not suggesting you entirely change your approach to parenting this book highlights how much of the current focus on cognitive stimulation provides an initial advantage which is not sustained. The author shows that other aspects of the child’s upbringing and skillset are just as important; that teaching perseverance and conscientiousness can be more important.

We are shown how all manner of programmes and reforms targeting improving results from schools in disadvantaged areas failed and that the child’s upbringing was a key factor. We are told that a traumatic childhood can have a lasting negative impact and that children are especially vulnerable to stress. Indeed that stress hormones can take a toll on the brain causing a lack of impulse control leading to high risk behaviours which in turn can alter the trajectory of the rest of their lives.

The good news is that parents can negate or reduce the effects of stress by being especially attentive and nurturing. So rather than focusing purely on cognitive stimulation providing a safe platform from which to learn can be significant.

Another study shows that while high school graduates (it is American) do better than drop outs later in life is not because of intelligence but because of higher perseverance, so teaching aspects of character can be as important as cognitive skills in predicting future success.

Schools which have begun teaching “character” including things like self regulation and an energetic and excited approach to life have seen promising results.

And now the shock and wake up call. It is not just children from disadvantaged families who may suffer from poor parenting; it just manifest in different ways. Children from wealthy families can suffer from parenting which is over protective but creates a lot of performance pressure. This creates a fear of failure and a low tolerance for dealing with adversity – not what is needed later in life.

I wouldn’t suggest you stop with baby Einsteins or the Kumon if that’s your thing but these insights provide a basis for developing rounded resilient individuals. At the end of the day there is only so much we can do and our children have to find their own way in life. Building their character may just be the gift that keeps on giving.

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