November 15, 2012
Julie A. Riess, Ph.D., is a consultant on Child Development and Education at Families and Work Institute. She is a developmental psychologist and the director of the Wimpfheimer Nursery School at Vassar College.
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal by Gannett Publications on November 19, 2000.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, we may find ourselves reflecting more often on how to raise a thankful child. At first glance, parents might think about how to teach the social scripts of thank you. Should a two-year-old be forced to say “thank you” to Grandma for a gift? Should a four-year-old sign a thank you note for a birthday present? Should a six-year-old show appreciation for a large helping of spinach and cranberry sauce on his or her Thanksgiving plate?
Parents often have the best intentions of raising a thankful child as part of their parental job descriptions. We tend to use the social graces of “please” and “thank you” as one index of raising “a good kid.” Indeed, manners such as these are important tools for getting along and working together with others in our society.
November 02, 2012
Julie A. Riess, Ph.D., is a consultant for Child Development and Education at Families and Work Institute. She is a developmental psychologist and the director of the Wimpfheimer Nursery School at Vassar College.
This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal by Gannett Publications on October 26, 2008.
I have a campaign message for parents: Vote early and vote often.
Although this may sound like a suggestion to become parents who are role models in corruption of the political system, it is actually a message about the important role parents play in the political socialization of their children.
October 15, 2012
By Ellen Galinsky
When I left the Education Summit
everyone seemed to be talking about developing life skills, not just basic academics, in children as a way to ready the workforce of the future. That's a good thing. What's not so good is the perception that such skills, including self-control and taking on challenges, are soft, or non-cognitive skills.
These skills require intellect and are indeed cognitive skills as much as they're social and emotional skills.
If we don't get the language right we risk seeing the focus on skills end up as an education flavor of the month.
Part of the problem may be all the recent hype around the premise of Paul Tough, author of a new book titled "How Children Succeed
." Tough, who has been showing up everywhere lately, including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and at last week's Summit, is promulgating the idea that skills, including self-control and persistence, are non-cognitive.
He argues against what he calls the "cognitive hypothesis" where what matters most is stuffing information into children's brains. Instead (the operant word), he calls for developing different qualities:
..a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as non-cognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us sometimes think of them as character.
I, too, have been investigating these issues for the past eleven years by reviewing longitudinal studies from numerous academic disciplines. I have found that, in fact, there are a group of skills that predict school and life success, and many are similar to Tough's. These include focus and self control, perspective taking, communicating, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and being a self directed learner. This is the list of skills I would argue are most important because they are based on numerous studies that follow children as they grow up.
Using the list of skills I identify, it is clear that they are indeed cognitive. They are also social and emotional. All of these skills are based on executive functions of the brain. These are the brain functions we use to manage our attention, our emotions, and our behavior in pursuit of our goals. Adele Diamond
, one of the foremost researchers on executive functions, finds that they predict children's success as well as--if not better than--IQ tests, as she explains:
Typical traditional IQ tests measure what's called crystallized intelligence, which is mostly your recall of what you've already learned--like what's the meaning of this word, or what's the capital of that country? What executive functions tap is your ability to use what you already know--to be creative with it, to problem-solve with it--so it's very related to fluid intelligence, because that requires reasoning and using information.
The skills I think we should promote are not only cognitive-social-and emotional, they reap cognitive results. As just one example, a new study by Megan McClelland of Oregon State
University and her colleagues found that one aspect of executive function skills in four-year-olds--what the researchers call "attention-span persistence"--is strongly predictive of whether or not these same children graduated from college when they were 25-years-old. The researchers define attention span-persistence as "the ability to focus, attend to relevant information, and persist on a task."
All this dovetails nicely into the key theme from last week's Summit. Amid the familiar educational rhetoric, it became clear that the concept of an achievement gap has evolved into the notion of a workforce readiness or skills gap. Three prominent CEOs--Ellen Kullman
of DuPont, John Noseworthy
of the Mayo Clinic, and Eric Spiegel
of Siemens made this point loud and clear at the Summit, reinforced by many prominent educators, the current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and several of his predecessors, researchers and case studies.
There was the predictable search for a magic bullet to move the United States ahead from its slipping international standing in educational attainment and in workforce readiness. Is parent choice the answer, Common Core State Standards, higher expectations, teacher quality, or parent engagement? These debates were often tied to current events (the Chicago teacher strike, family poverty, etc.) and just as often turned into posturing blame games about who's really for kids--teachers (as represented by unions) versus parents versus school boards versus business. To use a tag line from the 90s: "who's for kids and who's just kidding?"
By rallying around the importance of teaching life skills to our youth we can all say we're for kids. But we're all just kidding ourselves yet again if we end up putting key intellectual qualities in a "soft skills" education bucket.
We need to take the essential life skills I've identified seriously and realize children need both content and skills. Content is the "what" of learning, content is also the "how."
October 09, 2012
By Eve Tahmincioglu
A New York Times article published this morning on how kids without attention disorders are being giving medications is already one of the top emailed stories on the publications website.
It’s gotten lots of people up in arms that doctors are prescribing Adderall, a popular drug to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to low-income children as a way to increase focus and self-control.
This quote from Michael Anderson, an Atlanta pediatrician quoted in the story:
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice. We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”
Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.
Comments about the story are already flowing into our Facebook page this morning. It’s clearly gotten many parents and educators up in arms on social media.
But are there alternatives to drugging up kids when it comes to teaching even the poorest children out there essential life skills?
"We're not going to get into the debate about medication versus non medication but there are other ways for parents and teachers to promote focus and self control," stressed Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind In the Making.
Here are some tips on how to promote focus and self-control in children:
Encourage children to pursue what interests them. When children have deep interests, they become more motivated and pay more attention to what they are learning.
Play games that require children to pay attention, remember the rules and follow directions – I Spy, Red Light/Green Light, Simons Says.
Have children (preschool age or older) play sorting games where the rules change: first ask them to sort by color, then sort by shape. This game has children remember the rules and then resist the temptation to go on automatic and keep doing what they were doing.
Play other games where children (preschool age or older) can’t go on automatic: for example, ask them to say ‘night’ when they see a picture of the sun and to say ‘day’ when they see a picture of the moon. These games help them gain more self-control.
In addition, computer games that promote focus and TV shows that age appropriate and meaningful can also help children with these skills.
And as Galinsky stated in her book:
“Keeping the fire in children’s eyes burning brightly and keeping their engagement in learning strong are what is most essential to me.”
September 10, 2012
Teaching kids to communicate is more than flashcards. Ellen has gathered the dos and don'ts of other experts to share with you. Here's an excerpt from Ellen's book, "Mind in the Making".
Read the rest at KIDSDISCUSS.com (special thanks to Jean Tracy)