A child is parents’ ultimate legacy and it is important for the parents to make decisions that encompasses all the possibilities which their child’s future might encounter. For a parent, future prospective and well-being of their child is not the end or limit of their responsibility, but also how learned, accomplished and responsible a citizen their child develops into. Thanks to some relevant studies in psychology and much required deep reflection, the task has long become less intimidating than it sounds. But fewer parents are taking advantage of that than today’s world necessitates. Here is the rekindling of that intellectual parental responsibility: the place where the world gets its leaders and thinkers and professionals.

As much as any successful person might like to call themselves self-made, parental influence cannot be brushed off so easily. In fact, parenting is evidently the foundation on which a person’s skills and ambitions grow, upon which the child decides which responsibilities to helm and which to pass on.

What intellectual responsibility?

An extensive study in 2002 on parental involvement in children’s reading skill shows that there is an unprecedented advantage that children gain from regular exposure to new and exciting learning material with parental involvement. In fact, this is something that is focused in several research contexts and a lot of China’s modern parental tradition, especially the upper-middle class is built on this notion. Development in areas like health and nourishment, language, motor skills etc., are just as important as a child’s intellectual development (literary, academic, professional and much more) which parents are just as equally responsible for. Several Chinese parents take this to another level by augmenting the learning process for their children in many ways with a particular focus on academics to essentially mould them into capable professionals. While this practice is questionably motivated by economic factors parents can opt for a more subtle approach to lead their children into a future with purpose and prosperity. Practices that can be catered to are;

The Importance of Reading

One of the ways in which a parent can do this is to encourage reading early in life among other things, specifically as there is less and less ready incentive for kids to pick up books in the age of smartphones. Students today have decreased attentions span.

It is in no way an entertaining sign that a teenager, for instance, might complain about the length of a book of a couple hundred pages. It is in the hands of the parents to instigate a growth mind set. Children should know that nothing is constant or needs to be constant and that everything can be improved and evolved, including the scope of their intellectual interests and competence. This idea must be etched in their mind from a very young age. It is one of the main reasons for success among winners and achievers and therefore a great idea to inculcate in your child’s mind as they’re growing up. Raised like this, a kid in elementary or high school might just devour a book taking it page by page, rather than being overwhelmed by the length and frown at the number of pages they have to read.

Patience’ and ‘Process’ over ‘Product’

The second mind-set that is important to help children develop into a cultured individual, is valuing process over product. Often we find that the patient task of sitting down and reading for a set period of time is usually under-appreciated by kids not only because they are physically or mentally active but also because they are lazy. Parents are so used to giving the children what they want either for the purpose of calming them down and while this can hardly be questioned, we must understand that today the accessibility of technology has increased along with its grandeur, and that our children are being born into a world where a million different services also work to give them what they want. Hence we must ready them to want carefully. And what if this ‘product over process’ ideology, that a lot of the content and media in the world represents, finds itself appealing to a child? He or she just might find themselves in a position where they are likely to be greeted with disdain when they are out in the open. It is required to keep in mind the notion that your child will grow up to be a part of the society with certain responsibilities and a parent must, besides the health and well-being of their child, also work for their intellectual readiness.

For example, parents might establish a reward system for their kid to get certain necessary things done, like a meal, chores or homework, depending on the age. It is important to make the kids independent. When parents face friction in such tasks, they tend to associate rewards as incentive. It becomes a habit for the kid to associate the cue of a task with its reward… and not with its process or sense of duty.

One of the first principles that we must instil in the mind of our child is to regard the process of doing something as more important than the result that it generates, which can also be instant gratification.

So right from when they have to eat to when they have to study, a composed and learned way of looking at the processes is that it’s not about ‘finishing the food’, but eating it; it’s not about the grades, it’s about comprehending and adapting skills and information and not about becoming successful, but it’s about gathering the tools that help you deal with most situations that life can present to you. This approach to doing things is what we must ensure is prevalent in kids.

Critical Thinking

‘Deep thinking’ is a definitive ability that has become increasingly rare but valuable, in the words of author Cal Newport. Putting aside the obvious implications, such as language interpretation, logical ability, etc., the more important consequence of what is seemingly too much to ask is critical thinking—an ability to navigate and operate on the complex world that these children inhabit. Its importance becomes undisputed only too late into the journey of life.

Do we really need to emphasize the growing need to educate children early on about the social and emotional issues that they have to deal with in modern day manifestations— ranging from social media and entertainment to school?

Children are eager to learn and the kind of content they tailor from the plethora of media available is often questionable, and we must filter the constant stream of information for any errors. Parents too can make errors as a part of basic human nature, but it must be made sure that the kids exhibit an adequately inquisitive nature to naturally look for the right answers. This happens when parents actively reinforce critical thinking in their children through discussion, storytelling or any fitting engagement corresponding to age.

Sleep and Exercise

There is vast amounts of literature on the benefits of aerobic exercise on the brain that warrants for it. But to put it quite simply, encouraging kids to be up and about regularly is one of the first steps to take in creating a life of health. For example, when we look at geriatric but rock star mathematician Roger Penrose being as sharp as he is for his age (or any age for that matter), we understand what fruits there are to be harvested in mind, body and spirit.

Lastly, parents need to dig reasonably deep into material on cognitive growth and learn about concepts underlying different areas from working memory and intelligence to sleep and achievement. One will be surprised to find just how much accessible content is out there about developing kids from a cognitive and intellectual standpoint. It is exciting for both parent and child to promote achievement.

From a 21st century perspective, a child is an infinite potential waiting to be tapped. And what a delicate but rewarding duty it is to augment that process.

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