RAISING SUCCESSFUL CHILDREN
When I spoke about popularity and sales I was invariably surrounded by people at the end of my presentation and half of them asked questions about their children. Since popularity was a central theme of my presentation, they usually wanted to know what they could do to make their children more popular. So I started researching popularity and children. One of the ways I conducted my research was I piggybacked it on corporate jobs. Often when a corporation had me research a topic they did not want the people answering the questions to know what they were looking for, so they had me add questions which would disguise the object of the research. Since my books were based on research I used this opportunity to research subjects which I might turn into a book. I would like to point out I never negatively impacted the primary goal of the research to collect information for myself.
Since I was being asked almost on a weekly basis about children and I understood as an ex-teacher that our educational system is going down the tubes I decided to write about educating children, so I started to research the subject.
I began by looking up educational theorist. There were a few who were considered influential by most leaders in the field. In my opinion, a number made their reputations by giving pseudo-scientific terms to practices that every school teacher and parent already knew. For example, Lev Vygotsky used “The Zone of Proximal Development” to describe subject matter that was just beyond the reach of the children. If you are teaching them to read give them a book that they cannot fly through. If they are assigned a text with a few words they have to look up and others they find difficult to pronounce they will learn more quickly. Bloom does something similar when he refers to “Bloom’s Taxonomy” to describe the hierarchy of learning skills with creativity at the top of the list. Since the study of creativity has been my hobby for most of my life and I’ve taught courses on creativity to working engineers with positive results, I think he misses the point. Most teachers are not creative and are not capable of teaching creativity. While most of their information was useful it was not presented in the correct manner. The first rule in teaching anything is keep it simple stupid. The best example of this of this is EJ Skinner the behaviorist, who is my personal favorite. He says if you want good behavior, praise it and if you wish to stop bad behavior, punish it. Which is the simple truth, he states in a simple and unambiguous way. Of course, he is absolutely right.
Which brings us to the subject of punishment. I spoke to parents when doing this research who said that children actually said they would turn them into the police if they struck them. Believe it or not several parents said they never struck their children and that was one of the reasons. They expected if they did they would be in serious trouble. I was amazed. However, in a politically correct world I feel obliged to start by telling you that physical punishment is not something that I believe in or practiced. I think at this point I should tell you I struck my son only once when he was a child. I did it when I looked over and he was going to place his fingers in an electrical outlet. I said don’t do that but he proceeded to go closer to the outlet and I moved over and slapped his hand. Since he had never been struck before he was surprised and I think angry and he walked away with his head down. The next morning he walked up to the same outlet with a smile on his face, took his two fingers and started moving them slowly toward that outlet. When I saw him do that I raise my hand again. He smiled and walked away with a grin on his face. At that point I knew two things, he had gotten my message and I certainly hadn’t destroyed his ego.
I’m going to tell you now that you should work with your child at the kitchen table. If you monitor him his marks will most often go up a full grade. If you sit with him and work with him they will go up a grade and a half or more. If at some point your child defies you and tells you he’s not going to work the way you want him to work, and you give him a SWAT it won’t do him any real harm and he will learn. I did volunteer work in Harlem and I assure you almost every kid in my fifth grade class could read better than 3/4 of the kids in high school in Harlem. The reason they did so well is the nuns would give them a SWAT or two if they didn’t do what they were told and it worked. They became doctors, lawyers, policeman, plumbers and everything else under the sun because the nuns taught them to work and they worked all their lives. The second politically correct myth is you mustn’t tell your child he or she has done anything wrong. Praise them no matter what they do. If you praise him for doing the wrong thing he will continue to do it. The third myth is whatever you do don’t make them feel guilty for doing less than expected, it will hurt their self-esteem. That’s nonsense.
Oriental mothers, many of whom were raised in houses with dirt floor, in one generation put their sons and daughters into the best schools in America by working with them, created the formula for raising successful children . If that child came home with a B they were disappointed because he didn’t get an A, their children as adults said they were made to feel guilty so the next time they got an A. That created high expectations and those high expectations extended to the schools they were going to get into and the positions they would hold in the future. They also insisted that they go to schools where they taught only English and that the children read, read and read some more.
When you ask kids in the neighborhood where I grew up who was there, some would tell you it was half Irish, half-Jewish and half everyone else. Their math was not good but you knew who was there, so I knew a lot of Jewish kids. Some of their parents referred to their children not as students but scholars and they were expected to work longer and harder than everyone else and most did. I remember a phrase that Jewish parents often used, ‘That is not a job for a nice Jewish boy.” Translated loosely it meant you are better than that, so they gave their children high expectations. I also saw Jewish kids reading books while waiting to be chosen for games so I knew they were readers. As a group they were far more successful academically and in life then the other two groups in the neighborhood.
If you see a similarity between their approaches to education you’re right. Copy that approach, it works.
Next week, I will cover the specifics of early childhood education, particularly how to make your child a reader.
In the meantime, I suggest you read my earlier blog on stopping bullying especially if your child has never been bullied. If you are interested in your child’s success, it is probably the most important article you will ever read because if your child applies to most colleges, their application will not even be read if it states anywhere on their record that he or she was a bully.