A message for modern Greenwich parents (and elsewhere)


Will it fit the whole family AND the life coaches?

Little Professor dvd’s and professional pre-nursery school coaches aren’t helping your child succeed.

At the root of this parental anxiety is an idea you might call the cognitive hypothesis. It is the belief, rarely spoken aloud but commonly held nonetheless, that success in the U.S. today depends more than anything else on cognitive skill—the kind of intelligence that gets measured on IQ tests—and that the best way to develop those skills is to practice them as much as possible, beginning as early as possible.

There is something undeniably compelling about the cognitive hypothesis. The world it describes is so reassuringly linear, such a clear case of inputs here leading to outputs there. Fewer books in the home means less reading ability; fewer words spoken by your parents means a smaller vocabulary; more math work sheets for your 3-year-old means better math scores in elementary school. But in the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate group of economists, educators, psychologists and neuroscientists has begun to produce evidence that calls into question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.

What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years of life. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us often think of them as character.

Hmm – self-confidence, curiosity, grit: aren’t these characteristics being washed out of boys by massive doses of Ritalin and the continuing war on boys?  That aside, read the whole article or, better, pass out copies  in the Whole Foods parking lot. – it probably won’t deter a SUV Mommy from her destructive behavior towards her children, boy or girl, but at least she may feel bad about doing it.


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8 responses to “A message for modern Greenwich parents (and elsewhere)

  1. Walt

    Dude –
    I respectfully disagree with your hypothesis.

    What is wrong with Ritalin? If the little bastard, be it boy or girl, is acting up, what are your choices? Tie them to a lamp post or medicate them. Right?

    I prefer the lamp post, because it is cheaper, but sometimes a dog pisses on the little bastards, and then you have to deal with that.

    So I tend to go with Ritalin. You stuff two down their throat, toss them in the trunk, and you are good to go. Head off to Beamers, find the big titted stripper, and toss some Ruffies down her gullet.

    Back seat fiesta with that hose bag, the kids are fine, home in time for dinner. So what is wrong with that?

    You agree, right?
    Your Pal,

  2. Anonymust

    genetics is by far the #1 determinant of success

    you can’t be a master of the universe in any of the top professions if you don’t have the intellectual horsepower

    • Department of silk purses, sows’ ears. But I know plenty of people, and I’ll bet you do too, who aren’t necessarily the sharpest pencil in the box yet have built businesses and prospered through hard work, grit, persistence and, certainly a good measure of brains but not top-of-the-class level.
      I’d say a good IQ is a necessary but not sufficient element for success.

  3. Anonymous

    The book the WSJ article references (How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character) is well worth a read, especially for parents of young children. It was just published September 4. Good mention Chris.

  4. Anonymous

    I’ll take a pass on the little professor DVDs, but I won’t be reading about personality traits either. Am I the only parent who is so sick of being told what is wrong (or right) when it comes to child-rearing? I’d like someone to publish a bit about how it is ok to go with your gut and try your best without worrying about every darn parenting move. I’d read that one.

  5. I believe that plain old playing is of the most importance from birth through preschool. If you really wanted to or were required to, you could find some ed psyche jargon to justify the good in many types of imaginative play and use of hands-on toys. (Problem solving, pre-physics, etc,)
    In the end, just simply encourage children to play.
    I feel exposure to nature is also of the utmost importance.
    I have felt heart broken lately at how some of our most successful products of schools end up so imbalanced. Very recent cases include the local Tarrytown or Ossining girl who killed herself during her first week at Columbia. She was the valedictorian last June. Of the book-smart guy who recently let loose in Colorado.
    More common are just the highly intellectual kids who haven’t blossomed into caring people. One of my friends always focused on getting her son to become a doctor, and he did. he is now wildly successful, but can’t stand to visit his parents because his father has become very handicapped and is often drooling. At least he makes so much money that since he doesn’t want to visit his elderly parents even though he lives nearby, he can afford to have other people come and check on them. That’s what their doctor son’s money has gotten them… a cold man who pays others to check on them while he drives by and has parties but doesn’t invite them.

  6. Anon

    to add to what Anonymous @7:31 said> this morning on one of the local news channels, there was a segment on packing school lunches for the kids. In itself, nothing wrong. What made me laugh, and think of your comment: the last lunch bag they showed had post-its all over it, words of encouragement from the parent to the child. Again, nothing wrong there…until the announcer said there was a BOOK for sale with ideas of notes to write. I thought, brother, the parent who buys that book is in big trouble if they can’t think of anything to say on their own. Below is the link to the book and if you scroll down, you’ll find a whole host of similar book titles…pretty sad.

  7. Anonymous

    Another book I won’t be reading!