Raising Smart Kids

Smart young boy stood infront of a blackboard

This blogpost has been reproduced from the Parent Edge blog with permission. Parent Edge is a leading Parenting Magazine in India.

The world overvalues smartness and undervalues hard work and effort. So, you would be surprised to know that research done at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, tells us exactly the opposite.

Dweck’s book Mindset talks about two kinds of attitudes with which individuals approach situations- fixed and growth.People with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They spend time in holding on to their intelligence rather than developing them. More importantly, they believe that talent alone creates success.

People who adopt a growth mindset on the other hand believe that ability can be developed and strengthened through hard work and effort. Talent you are “born with” is just the starting point. This view creates a love for learning and equally significantly resilience.

Now why is this so important for parents and society at large? Because unwittingly or deliberately many of us subscribe to the fixed mindset worldview- and how does this manifest?

By holding “bright” children in high esteem, secretly wishing our kids are tagged the “super smart” or gifted, applauding our children when they figure things out quickly, and also believing that talent is the biggest determinant of success.
Even last week end, when I was anchoring a discussion with parents, one of them said, my son is average in everything he does- he is not exceptional in any area- what does the future hold?

As parents, we categorize our children quite quickly and, as a consequence, we do not do what it takes to motivate them continuously.
If we subscribed to the growth mindset, on the other hand, we will encourage or children to keep trying, praise effort rather than outcomes, motivate them when they are struggling, share with them stories that so called genius is a product of at least 10000 hours of hard work, and inculcate an attitude that effort counts as much, if not more, than innate intelligence.

According to Dweck, the mindset shapes a child’s attitude towards learning and expanding one’s horizons. In life these are attributes that often determine success. An experiment carried out by Dweck among school children showed that a “smart child” with a fixed mindset is reluctant to take on risks, is afraid of failure, and so is unwilling to try the hard problem whereas the child with a growth mindset, even if he is not as smart, is willing to try the same problem, and does not worry as much about not being able to get the right answer.

No prizes for guessing which of the above kinds of children will grow up to be a Rahul Dravid ( someone whose performance has far outstripped his innate talent)!
Ps: I stole the title of this post from that of an article written by Dweck for the Scientific American!

(written by Sudha Kumar)


Too much choice?

image-20150303-31835-kbn4ubIn the good old days when I was growing up in the India of the 70s and the 80s, we had very few career choices.  You either chose science and became a doctor or an engineer, or took commerce and became an MBA, a CA or a banker.  I don’t remember any of us bemoaning the lack of choices – most likely because there weren’t any, but also maybe we were too young and un-exposed to really know what we wanted?

Fast forward to our children’s generation, where they are faced with a bewildering number of choices. And Indian universities are still a little behind their western counterparts – here, the enormous range of courses a kid can study in college, and the ability to mix and match courses to create a unique degree of your own, is mind-boggling.  As my son gets closer to going off to college, the brochures landing in my mailbox make my mouth salivate – wow! this college allows you to mix a minor in liberal arts with a major in engineering! That college has a wonderful co-op program, that helps you work and study from the second year itself!

But while I am drooling over these options, I see the opposite reaction in my son, and his many other friends.  Faced with so much choice, they are bewildered and confused and don’t know what to choose.  So in some ways they are on the other end of the spectrum from their parents – we had so few choices and they have so many – but on the other hand, it is the same conundrum –  are the kids too young to be making career choices at this age?

There are various studies showing that too much choice confuses the consumer. One of the best books I have read is The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar. Her research shows that  we can handle more than a few choices, but an overabundance can paralyze us.

So, what can we as parents do?  For one thing, along with my son, I am doing detailed research on the various courses available, and how they will fit in with my child’s interests and abilities.  So much has changed between our generation and our children’s that it is important we find out as much as we can about the various options.  At the same time, education has become expensive, and the world intensely competitive, so it is also important to find out the career prospects and employability of these courses – this is something I find kids are too young to have a good perspective about. And again, because you as the parent know your child so well, it is important to ask the right questions to understand why your child is interested in a course – is it really his interest, or is it because all his friends are talking about it?

As parents, there is a strong a role we play in our children’s career choices, and it is important that we play it well.  For more details on this, do our read the article, “A Parent’s Role in Career Choices,’ in our latest issue of ParentEdge.  You will learn a lot!

This blog has been reposted with permission. Written by Gayatri Kulkarni for Parent Edge (http://parentedge.in).

A Gift to Mothers: A Life Beyond Motherhood

lbm_smallBeing a mom is no cakewalk. People might claim to understand that, but only moms know what the journey is like. A mother needs to be on her toes, literally and figuratively, 24x7x365. It is only natural then, that many women, after attaining motherhood, tend to immerse themselves in their new found world and the expectations that accompany it so much so that they tend to forget their original self.

Self-preservation is a critical part of being an effective parent. At the end of the day, how your child experiences you depends on how you feel and what you do. Only mothers know how guilty they might feel when they unconsciously hold a grudge against their child for having taken their past life away from them. The sense of freedom and being carefree is gone. It is important to deal with the fact that the situation has changed in the absence of which, somewhere along the journey of motherhood, existential questions surface. What has happened to me and to my dreams? Is this really all I should be doing? How do I get back to being who I was? Is it selfish to want to do something for myself? Will there be a day when I am able to sit back and relax?

A mother who might be caught up in these questions every day, might find it tough to think about parenting at a conscious level on a daily basis. Remember the time when you tried to reach out to your mother or father or spouse to discuss something of utmost importance and you realized they were so caught up in resolving their own issues that you refrained from communicating with them? Hopefully your child would not experience the same. It is, hence, important to shift the focus of your unconscious mind from yourself to your child. That would happen only when you are able to make a conscious effort to be at peace with your life or to make some fundamental changes that result in a happier and more peaceful state of mind.

Many women around the world traverse the same journey and hopefully, you would feel better knowing that you are not caught alone in this quagmire. Also, know that there are professionals who are trained and specialized in helping you work through your unique situation so that you can carve out a life that is designed to realize your dreams. These professionals are called ‘coaches’. Life Coaches work with you to address aspects of your life that are intertwined with a few others and not limited to your profession or your relationships.  Coaching is goal based and action oriented and is different from counseling or therapy.

To know more about what coaching is and if it is for you, visit http://lifebeyondmotherhood.com or email to me at namrataa@lifebeyondmotherhood.com. You can avail of a Mother’s Day special complimentary trial session till 8-May.

This Mothers’ Day, gift yourself a new life – YOUR life – a Life Beyond Motherhood.

This blogpost is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge (http://parentedge.in).

Quit smart

aid1794110-728px-quit-a-job-while-on-maternity-leave-step-17With the kind of stress that corporate jobs tend to create, many men and women are choosing to opt out of the rat race to lead better lives. Studies have shown that one of the primary reasons that many women tend to opt out of their careers post having a child is the lack of support from the husband and the family in raising the child. Interestingly, there have been many cases recently, wherein women are moving to full time careers post having children while their husbands are choosing to take on parenting as a serious responsibility.

It is interesting to note that there is no longer a taboo associated with choosing to lead a life that allows one to focus on parenting. This holds good for both the parents. With the kind of changing climate conditions which bring with them new age diseases including many learning disorders, parents are left with limited options and are happy to move out of their full time jobs. Making such a fundamental shift, which impacts your day–to-day life, does entail some unique challenges. If you are such a spouse, who has chosen to take the plunge, you might fear that your decision could adversely impact your relationship with your spouse, albeit temporarily.

Some things that you can do to ensure that you preserve happiness are:

a) Make a list of all the things you and your spouse have wanted to do but have not been able to for lack of time. Include the mundane tasks, of course but also add some exciting ones, like planning a vacation and starting a fitness drive at home.

b) Find productive ways to be engaged through the day. Productive may not always mean you earn money out of it though it is hopefully something that will enable you to earn some money at some point in time. It is ok to invest your time to learn more about something that you want to do.

c) Make time for your social life. It is now time to contact all those long lost friends, meet your relatives and just hang out at some interesting networking events.

d) Don’t shy away from spending within a budget. Agreed that you are no longer in a full time job but denying yourself small pleasures can pull you down. If heavy expenses are something you would like to avoid, indulge in the less expensive things. Go low on money and high on time.

e) Pat yourself on the back for having made a tough call. Remind yourself every day why you chose to give up your job and do something to prove to yourself that you made the right decision.

At some point in time in our lives, the family we hail from, the premier schools we went to and the fat pay cheques we used to get, all seem irrelevant. What matters, at the end of the day, is happiness and peace and anything that leads us to that is justified. What say?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column on ‘Relationships’ in The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Get a life, parents!


b22f9bd6899daf47eac5fef391ecef7cAs parents we are always scrambling to find ways to keep our children occupied- are there week-end classes, what are the latest books for my kids to read and, if you are a teen’s parent,  is there any quick project that my daughter can work on? Sounds familiar? Parents, especially the involved ones, are so busy trying to optimize their children’s lives that they often miss out on doing the same with their own.

In my case, between managing a full time job and raising two kids, I believed that I had no time to pursue my own interests or to do fun things. In the last couple of years however, I have done some introspection: how easily I give my children fundas on time management?  And how often have I spoken to them on exhibiting a lifelong learning attitude?  How about applying these ideas to myself, I thought? And so I revived my interest in cooking and baking, began reading a lot more widely and regularly and, more recently, started to do a bit of gardening.

Now, when I look around me, I find many others I know being much more than “parents”. My husband, for example, has always found the time to do what interests him; other friends are passionately pursing everything from photography and writing to cycling and music.

As parents, by continuing to develop our own interests, we demonstrate to our children that learning need not stop at any point in time. It can continue forever. More importantly, it helps us develop a sense of balance. Rather than make our children’s lives and hence their achievements our top and most often only priority, if we set aside some time for our own interests, it helps children also get the much needed breathing space. Doing your own thing is obviously a lot of fun too. Last, when it is time for children to set out to chase their own dreams, we have something to fall back on.

So, time to get a life?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge (www.parentedge.in), a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.


tumblr_o8et6avllt1qdjbb7o1_1280I need to tell the maid to come an hour earlier tomorrow..I have to remember to give my child the second dose of medication when she is back from school…I have to call for some groceries in an hour from now when the store opens…I only have 10 minutes to get ready and get going…(door bell rings – it’s the milkman). ‘Please come tomorrow for the payment’. I have to think about what to wear for that evening with friends tomorrow…Why won’t a plumber come in time to fix this leaking tap?..(phone beeps…it’s a friend). ‘Will get back to you by tomorrow’. I need to buy a pair of gloves for my daughter…All these, in a span of 5 minutes. This is just a trailer from 1 day of a working mom’s life.

If you are a working mom, you know what I am talking about. You go through these moments day after day after day, hoping that things will get better…hoping that soon, you will have half an hour to yourself or that you will be able to enjoy an evening out with your friends…and in that hope, life goes on and on and on. If that moment does not come soon, some of us might fall prey to our deteriorating health or friends and family who seem to be drifting away…or is it that we are drifting away from them?

In the effort to hold on to our strongest anchor, our child and our family, we might find we are slowly drifting away from our vision of our lives and how we had wanted it to be.

The good thing is, we know it when this is happening. We choose to live in that knowledge everyday, day after day. Sometimes, we reach a point when we do not know where our roots lie. We think we don’t have time for ourselves post having a baby when the truth is, we need to be rooted, in ourselves, more than ever. It is because we now have someone else to provide roots to.

The good news is that our roots are still with us. We have just gone adrift and lost touch with them.

You can choose to find your roots again and lead a sane life, just the way you would like to.

Life coaches can help you re-establish your connect with yourself. How? Sign up for a trial session free of charge and experience how it can help you.

Just send an email to namrata.arora@growth-cube.com.

Your life is yours to choose.

Happy New Year!