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How to Raise a Smart Kid

How to Raise a Smart Kid

Every parent dreams of nurturing a curious and intelligent child. But beyond inborn talent, there's so much you can do to cultivate a love for learning and unlock your child's full potential. Let’s unveil practical strategies that go beyond textbooks and test scores.

6 Everyday Ways to Raise a Smart Kid

Soccer was supposed to be fun. Yet, there I sat in my car with my sobbing second grader. The reason? She didn’t want to go to practice. By three weeks into her first season, she begged to call it quits. It was harder than she thought. But giving up wasn’t an option. So, I told her to muster up her courage and head to practice. She needed to learn she could overcome challenges.

After finishing the season, she never put on cleats again, but she does keep putting on perseverance, a skill she started to pick up on the pitch. Later, I discovered perseverance is a better predictor of school success than IQ. Making your kid stick with something that’s hard isn’t the only way to support her academically. If you’re wondering how to raise smart kids, here are 6 parenting choices you’re probably already making that support your child’s development.

1. When You Make Her Go Outside and Play

As moms, we make our kids play outside for many reasons. They’ve been at school all day and need fresh air. Or we’re tired of them staring at their screens or coming to us proclaiming that they’re bored. Or maybe they’re playing too rough or we need to clean the house. So, outside they go.

Sending your kids outside to play works great for those reasons, but it’s also good for their brains. In Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. John J. Ratey, explains, “It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.” Or, to put in non-PhD terms, physical exercise gets your child’s brain ready to learn. 

2. When You Read (or Listen to) Books Together

The power of reading books with kids is not a secret. It’s on everyone’s “How to Raise Smart Kids” list, including ours. Reading or listening to audiobooks together boosts comprehension, listening skills, and vocabulary. Plus, stories featuring characters, settings, and situations different from your own expand your child’s understanding of the world and support empathy development, all of which help your child succeed in school and relationships.

3. When You Make Him Go to Bed at a Decent Hour

For many moms, those sweet, sweet hours between our kids’ bedtimes and our own become the moments when we can reconnect with our husbands, watch our favorite shows, or catch up on our to-do lists. We need our kids to go to bed for their sake and ours!

But a good night’s sleep helps them in school, too. In NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, the authors reveal that children receive an hour less sleep today than 30 years ago. Those 60 minutes negatively impact IQ points. The book quotes a sleep study on elementary students by Dr. Paul Suratt, who found that “sleep disorders can impair children’s IQ as much as lead exposure.”

4. When You’re Picky About Her Friends

The older kids get, the more influence peers hold over them. Friends mimic each other’s behavior, language, and dress. Your child has probably already repeated things that had you asking, “Where did you hear that?” While you aren’t with your kids during the school day, you can still help them choose friends wisely by teaching them the qualities of a good friend and the social skills they need to make friends. You can also encourage friendships with kids who share your family’s values. 

5. When You Help With Homework (or Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences or Volunteer in the Classroom)

You know all those times you helped your kid with homework (even if it felt like a battle)? Or the field trip you chaperoned or the times you volunteered in the classroom? It’s all worth it to see the smile on your child’s face (or that good grade on the math test)! 

The research shows it’s worth it for other reasons, too. The American Psychological Association found conclusive evidence that helping children with homework, attending parent-teacher

conferences, and even volunteering in the classroom boosts children’s grades and overall interest in school. And, hey, grab the Teacher Conference Worksheet printable to guide you through making the most of your one-on-one meeting.

6. When You Send Her to Her Room to Calm Down
“Go to your room and get yourself together” became a common directive in our household for many years. Our girls needed to learn how to cool off during a heated moment instead of having an emotional outburst or resorting to physical displays of non-affection.

When you send your kid to her room to calm down, you give everyone a chance to step away and chill. That also teaches your child to practice self-control, which is what stops her from saying or doing whatever she wants even if it isn’t a wise move. And it’s an attribute of a smart kid. Study after study shows kids with a good grasp of self-control do just as well in school as those kids with higher IQs. But they also have fewer absences, procrastinate less, and spend more time studying.

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