A lot of parents have big dreams for their kids. But while wanting to raise accomplished, successful children is a well-intentioned thought, it can also backfire and cause more harm than good by creating a high-pressure environment that has a negative impact on children’s well-being (which then carries into adulthood). So when it comes to raising a highly intelligent child, keep in mind that some parenting habits are more constructive than others.
“Setting out to raise a genius is the last thing we’d advise any parent to do,” shared Camilla Benbow, dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with scientific publication Nature. According to her, that goal can lead to social and emotional issues.
So if setting out to raise a genius is not advised, what can you actually do to support your child’s intellectual development? Here are five of the most important habits of parents who raise highly intelligent kids’ practice.
They are caring and nurturing
A mother’s love can literally make a child smarter. A 2016 study showed that maternal nurturing during preschool years helped boost hippocampal growth — the area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotional regulation — in children. On the other hand, researchers saw significant differences in the brain scans of kids whose mothers were not supportive during those early childhood years. So if you want to promote healthy brain development in your kids, make sure to nurture them very early on.
They avoid tuning out
The amount of time children should spend in front of screens regularly gets debated. But it turns out parents should be equally concerned about how much time they spend in front of their own devices. Child development is relational, meaning it’s informed by the complexities of social relationships such as the parent-child dynamic.
Things like language and communication are key for the healthy evolution of cognitive abilities, so it becomes problematic when a parent is continuously distracted by their smartphone, according to The Atlantic. Plus, if you want to get your kids to spend less time on social media in favor of more intellectually-stimulating pursuits, it makes sense to lead by example.
They keep their kids challenged
A long-standing study of exceptionally gifted kids emphasized the importance of not only identifying markers of high intelligence early on but also providing an environment where that potential can be developed further. According to the study, giving kids who show intellectual prowess access to extra challenges can have a positive effect on their success later in life. So if your children are eager to learn more and a little bored in class, doing things like encouraging them to try their hand at more advanced academic material can help them flourish.
They read to their children
Want to give your kids a little cerebral boost? Read to them when they’re young. A 2017 study concluded that reading books to children in early infancy can enhance vocabulary and reading skills by the time they start elementary school. The kids in the study were between the ages of 6 months and 4 and a half years, so it’s never too early to start. And both quality and quantity mattered, so it’s a habit that you’ll want to practice often — and you’ll also want to have fruitful discussions about the books (that’s how the quality of reading was gauged in the study).
They foster critical thinking
Critical thinking is a crucial cognitive skill that can prepare children for facing complex, real-life challenges they weren’t taught about in school. Parents who want to raise highly intelligent kids can foster critical thinking early on by asking their kids questions — and encouraging kids to ask questions of their own, according to insights educator and teacher trainer Brian Oshiro shared in a TED talk. Go beyond what and how and prompt your children to think of why. Encourage them to understand different perspectives from their own and ask them questions about how to solve various problems.