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Be curious. Have grit. Read more.

Dr. Paul Schwartz gives parents the recipe to help kids live up to their potential

Curious kids are successful kids

Success itself can be defined in multiple ways. Whenever we speak of a child's success, it's important to keep in mind that every child has a multiplicity of strengths and aptitudes but also weaknesses. Obviously, not all children are equal in all areas, so we'll use the term success as defined by a child reaching his or her potential, intellectually, artistically and interpersonally.

Curious kids are successful kids
Curiosity appears to be an important trait of all successful intellectuals. I don't think you can find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person. Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein to name a few, are all curious characters.

Curious children ask questions and search for answers in their minds. The mind is like a muscle, and the mental exercise caused by curiosity makes your child's mind stronger.

When a child is curious about something, her mind expects and anticipates new ideas. Without curiosity, the ideas may pass right in front of them and never be recognized.

A curious child will be able to see new worlds and possibilities which are normally not visible. It takes a curious mind to look beneath the surface and discover these new things.

The life of a curious child is far from boring. There are always new things that attract their attention, there are always new 'toys' to play with. Instead of being bored, curious children have an adventurous life.

READ MORE: 5 ways parents can help kids succeed

Got to have grit
In the New York Times bestseller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, pioneering psychologist, Angela Duckworth, shows anyone striving to succeed, the secret to outstanding achievement is a special blend of passion and persistence she calls "grit," otherwise known as perseverance.  

Life is full of challenges and struggles. Perseverance is the drive that helps successful individuals get past hardships and reach their goals. It is the ability to access self-control and to work through challenges, in part, by accessing physical, mental and emotional abilities.

Perseverance is key
Students with an attitude that makes them persevere will do better academically. A student's self-perception in school is called academic mindset. This includes how they view themselves as learners in relation to their school setting and includes beliefs about abilities, value of education and disposition towards completing work.

Successfully maneuvering tedious or challenging tasks is important for reaching long term goals even if the short term seems too difficult. Children who are able to build self-control are happier and less stressed.

Skills to deal with difficult situations are often not innate. Actionable steps to take when stressed, overwhelmed or feeling out of control sometimes need to be taught.

READ MORE: Encourage your teen to read

Don’t forget to read

Another key factor in success is reading. Hooking children into reading opens access to many of their uncharted passages in life.

Reading provides exposure to new information which helps young kids broaden their understanding of the world around them. They are prepared for action on a new task because their brain has been exercised through reading and has developed critical neuropathways.

A successful child is creative and uses their imagination. Reading boosts this and provides opportunity for self improvement.

Start early and read to your child often to develop their love of reading. Young children will begin to follow the flow of a story and understand that print has meaning.

As they develop the language skills, ask questions about what was read, what they think might happen and how this story connects with something that they already know.  As they become more comfortable with reading, allow them to reread books they are familiar with to deepen their understanding and build their fluency.  Maintain reading as part of a daily routine.  Provide access to reading material, including trips to the local library.  

The parents’ responsibility
A successful child has an involved parent. Enforce other healthy habit like clean eating, physical activity, consistent bedtimes and limited screen time.   

Routines are vital so parents need to establish and stick to an easy to follow schedule that their kids can be responsible for. Visual aids help encourage maintenance of a new routine and help kids gain independence. Checklists are a good tool.

School related stuff should have a designated area. A distraction free homework space and a staging area for the morning rush is beneficial.
Studies show children aren't getting enough practice with handwriting at primary school, which can severely hamper their progress later on. When a child writes slowly, it shows that they still have to think about the act
of writing, leaving less room in the brain for content.

Encourage your child to practice writing. Create lists and write letters. Make the practice fun so it seems less daunting.

READ MORE: How to fire up your reluctant reader

Expect success, get success
Speak and listen to your child in a way that fosters conversation. Ask specific questions about their day. If you start with "What did you do in school today?" you're likely to be met with the response, "Nothing."

When your children do respond, make sure your express interest. Phrase your responses in ways that show you expect success from them and that you have their growth in mind.  

Let your child know that you expect them to do "their best" so that they'll be proud of what they can accomplish.  When an outcome is not as hoped for keep language and thoughts positive.  

Approach this new school year with a new found perspective on how to raise a successful, well-rounded learner. Find and encourage your own curiosity and grit. Read. Talk about reading. Write. Finding your own abilities will allow your children to take on a new perspective of what can be achieved.  

Paul Schwartz, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College.

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