Everyone wants his or her child to be smart and successful. But, many disagree on which factors actually make that possible. Parenting styles certainly have changed over the years. For example, some argue that the focus on participation is more important than effort. Jake Neuberg and Ramit Varma strongly disagree. They are the founders of Revolution Prep, the leading provider of high quality tutoring in the United States and more than 30 other countries.
Neuberg and Varma, both members of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), are world-renowned nerds. They have been at the forefront of educating children to achieve the best results that predict future success. The foundation of their successful programs is based upon helping children develop their natural competitive nature into highly effective performance. Here are Neuberg and Varma's tips on how parents can raise their children to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.
1. Your kids only think they are good multitaskers.
One of the most common complaints many parents make about their kids' schools is that the kids have too much school work. Many complain that six hours of school work each night is robbing the kids of their childhood. "The reality is more likely that your kids don't have six hours of school work; they have two hours of school work, but it takes them six hours to do it because of all the time lost multitasking and most significantly the time spent transitioning and refocusing between tasks," explain Neuberg and Varma. "The solution is not to take away these distractions, like TV and social media, but to permit dedicated time for children to enjoy being kids and do their favorite things without school work getting in the way. Then, dedicate time for school work with the phone out of the room and the other distracting technology disabled. This takes serious discipline on the part of the student and the parent, but the results are better academic performance, less stress and more sleep."
2. Praise kids for hard work, not by labeling them as smart.
This may seem counterintuitive for building confidence, but there is solid science behind this approach. Varma and Neuberg explain, "A body of research called Growth Mindset, led by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, has proven that how you praise kids has a significant impact on their performance. Experiments on middle school students showed that students who are praised as smart see a slight dip (from 58% to 53%) in performance on challenging math exams. Meanwhile, students who are praised for trying hard see large increases (from 58% to 75%). So what is a supportive parent to do? Instead of praising your kids for being smart or for getting a good grade, praise the effort and tie it to the positive result. Instead of saying: 'I am proud of the A you got in math, you are so good at math.' Say: 'I am so proud of how hard you are working in math, and I can really see it paying off in your results.'"
3. Focus on the right things.
Neuberg and Varma point out that many parents focus on helping their children memorize formulas, words or dates. Children should be doing much of this on their own to develop their own patterns for memorization. Neuberg and Varma suggest alternatively that parents discuss and analyze more relevant information to help the child develop a nuanced perspective. "So if the topic is Pearl Harbor, it is less important for a parent to help their child memorize that it happened on December 7, 1941 and more important to help the child understand the importance of this event on the outcome of World War II and current international relations," explain Neuberg and Varma. "These conversations are also much more interesting to have with your children rather than simply hammering facts into their heads."
4. Worry less about grades, except in math class.
High-achieving parents tend to put a tremendous amount of pressure on students to get A's in every class. This can create stress and frustration for the student leading to the opposite effect. Neuberg and Varma believe that A's are not crucial in any particular subject, except one. "Not all subjects are created equal," they assert. "It is more important to get an A in every year of math than it is to get an A in any other subject. This is because math builds on itself, more than any other subject. Think of your math knowledge as a brick building. Even a few missing bricks here and there can cause the whole building to come crumbling down. If your child is struggling in math, it is important to do something about it right away."
5. Accept no shame for getting help.
You may feel societal pressure centered on parents' bragging rights. But Varma and Neuberg insist that many of your friends are likely lying about how well their kids are actually doing at school. They see it everyday. Some parents believe having a tutor is a badge of failure, but Varma and Neuberg emphasize this is a narrow and destructive viewpoint. "Parents are so blown away by the growth their children experience after working with our tutors at Revolution Prep that more than 90% of them say they would gladly recommend us to a friend. Yet many of them never do. When we ask the parents why they don't actually recommend us, we hear one answer more than any other: 'I don't want my friends to know that my kid needed a tutor.' Getting help from a tutor is crucial to understanding where the gaps in the learning are and what areas can be strengthened. And certainly more important than the judgment of others not involved."
6. Get kids to think critically.
Reading has little value if a child cannot retain the information and use it to engage in dialogue. Neuberg and Varma explain the proper approach taken by their tutors. "We encourage students to ask questions in their head about the reading and then to answer those questions. What is the point of this paragraph? What's the tone here? How does this connect to what I just read? Why is this important? These are all questions students are asking naturally quite often. We encourage them to ask these and other questions and try to answer them as well, while they read. It helps keep kids focused on the reading and to read more critically."
7. Most tutors do more harm than good.
A lot of tutors are knowledgeable but simply not at the level of what is needed to help children grow. "Education is different from many things in that almost everyone has been to school and feels he or she can effectively teach others. Many people think that because they can do math, they can be an effective math teacher. But you don't see people getting off a plane and saying, 'I got this. Next time I should be the one at the controls,'" Neuberg and Varma clarify. "Teaching something effectively in a way that increases a student's confidence, grit and inspires their desire to learn and take on challenging work requires more than just knowing the subject matter at hand." Ultimately, they recommend parents seek out a tutor who gets the student to do more than half the talking. This allows students to not only hear the concepts but also understand the concepts well enough to explain them, which is essentially what they will need to do on exams.
8. Failure is the single most important ingredient in success.
Most successful people learn the hard way on their way to success and undoubtedly look to avoid the same hardships for their children. The result? Many children are now afraid of failure, whether it be a desire to live up to their parents' standards or simply not knowing how to cope with it. "This fear can prevent kids from trying things that are hard and thus reducing their growth and likelihood of success," note Varma and Neuberg, before offering up tips on how to get kids over this fear. "You can share with them your failures and how you learned from them, grew from them and even sometimes turned them into success. Second, you need to let them fail so they can learn how to do it, recover and grow from it. By the time they get to college, they won't fear failure because they will have failed so many times on the way to a successful and happy life that they will see it as a useful part of the success process."
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside the Young Presidents' Organization, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.