Tuesday, September 17, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "How Children Succeed"

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
By Paul Tough
Copyright 2012
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

This one was recommended to me by a friend who happens to be a school teacher.  I was looking for some way to encourage my daughter to be a little more focused on the important things in life and she told me about this book.  Interestingly enough, the principal at my daughter's middle school also mentioned this book at Back to School Night, which was another good recommendation!

I started off with the expectation that I would find ways in this book to help my daughter be successful.  Instead, I found some fascinating information, based on case studies and real life examples of Paul Tough's main assertion, which is that success is based more on a child's character rather than their intelligence.  Skills, such as optimism, perseverance and "grit", are more likely to lead a child to success than just simply being smart.

Tough asserts that parents are more influential with these characteristics than anyone else.  Studies show that children who come from stressful backgrounds (abject poverty, divorce, chaotic homes) have altered brain chemistry that makes it more difficult for them to form and keep the character skills necessary to be most successful in life.

Schools are leaning on this research as they add more intensive character-development programs to their curriculum to give children additional support in developing these important characteristics.  But it really comes down to the parents.  Do you hug your child every day?  Does your child feel safe?  Does your child feel loved?

This book explained a lot of my own characteristics, but also helped me to see that the best ways to help my daughter be successful may not be by pushing her to study more, or work harder, or be more organized (as much as my OCD-self would LOVE for her to do those things!)  It comes down to making sure she has a safe environment, doesn't feel threatened, and has the security to be able to devote the portions of her brain necessary to develop good character.

How Children Succeed was a great book, but it had a few too many anecdotes and not quite enough "what to do about it" stuff.  With a little more "how to", it may have gotten 5 bookmarks.  But still, a very important read for anyone who has children or works with children.  Read this one!

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