A report card adorned with ‘A’s will elicit an admiring, “Wow, your child is really smart!” Sure, grade count, but there is more to being smart. A smart child interacts positively with others, is able to cope academically, is mentally and physically healthy and is willing to explore the world. Every parent wants a ‘smart’ child. Here is how you can start nurturing yours:
Make the conscious effort to teach your child every skill that you want him to learn – whether it is purchasing an ice-cream cone at the shop, making a new friend or writing the alphabet. Show it to him and explain how it is done. Do not expect him to acquire skills out of nowhere and do not assume he will learn it on his own somehow. If you do not teach him, who will?
Help your child understand why you are teaching him certain skills. What does he get out of it? Explain it in terms he can understand: for instance, he learns about money and denominations so he can buy things; he learns colours so he can identify his favourite sweet at the shop.
Find opportunities for your child to practise the skills you have taught him. Have you taught him how to order a drink at the restaurant? Bring him there and let him order it on his own. Have you taught him how to telephone his grandma? Hand him the phone and let him make the call.
Discipline means the ability to listen to and obey instructions. Be firm and clear with your child. He must understand that refusal to obey will lead to consequences such as no TV after dinner. But just as you punish disobedience, make sure you reward obedience as well.
Proficiency is the sharing of knowledge. Your child has truly learned a skill when he can successfully teach it to another child. Encourage him to do so with his friend, sibling or cousin. Observe your child and his “student”. If the latter does it right, then you know your child has truly mastered the skill!
DO YOU EXPECT TOO MUCH OF YOUR CHILD?
Do you only reward your child if he performs academically? Do you criticise more than you praise? Do you constantly compare your child with other children? Do you make your child “put on a show” to impress guests when they visit your home? If you do, you may be one of the many Malaysian parents who have overly high expectations of their children. Do not turn your child into a ‘token’. The most effective way to nurture a ‘smart’ child is to, above all, accept and treasure him for who he is.