What Is A Happy Genius?
Here at How To Raise A Happy Genius, we do not define a genius by a specific level of IQ (which is, after all, a fairly dubious measure of actual abilities in anything other than being able to do IQ tests!) Instead, we define a genius as anyone who has reached their full potential in whatever they decide to do in life, whether that is in academia, the arts, business, music, entertainment, sports, design or any of the myriad of other possibilities that are out there. Thus, a happy genius is someone who has not only fulfilled their potential in life, but who is also happy with how their life has turned out (or who has the right skills to do something about it if, at any point, they find that they are not). So, now you know what we mean by a happy genius, what is the How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy? Well, just keep reading to find out.
The How To Raise A Happy Genius Philosophy:
The How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy is to help every child meet their full potential and become the person they want to become by ensuring that they develop the essential core skills they need to succeed, no matter what field of life they choose to enter, and by giving them the widest variety of opportunities and experiences to help them discover what they want to do with their lives. This gives them the flexibility to change fields, or take advantage of new fields that may open up in the future, rather than remaining on a single, inflexible trajectory throughout their entire life. After all, none of us know what the future may hold, and we need to ensure that we equip our children to be able to respond positively to whatever new opportunities it may hold.
We also firmly believe that the best way to help children develop these core life skills, and so meet their full potential, is not by pushing them in the direction that their parents think they should go, or by forcing them to spend long, tedious hours doing things that they don’t enjoy (which, many will know from their own experiences, is the best way to put any child off doing something for life!) Instead, we think a better approach is to communicate and educate them in a way that is open-ended, so they can decide on the direction they take, and that is as fun as it can possibly be. This ensures that they not only meet their full potential, but that they develop into happy, healthy, well-rounded adults. After all, there is no point in being a success at anything if it doesn’t make you happy!
Finally, we believe that the teaching of many of these core life skills is too important to be left to schools alone. In particular, while schools may be good at teaching traditional academic life skills, such as reading, writing and maths (although we would argue that for some individuals, they are actually pretty bad at this because they do not take into account the different ways in which different children may learn the same skill), they either fail miserably at teaching other types of core life skills, or even worse, fail to even attempt to teach them in the first place. Thus, in order to produce a happy genius, many of these core life skills need to be taught to children alongside traditional education by adults other than their school teachers.
Now, this may sound like a lot of hard work, but there is another aspect to our philosophy. This is that much of this teaching can be done in short bursts, especially at key moments in a child’s development, and that if done correctly, these can have dramatic, life-long impacts on a child’s life. This is based on a concept called Wise Psychological Interventions, but it is something that many people will already have experienced in life: that brief moment when they discovered something that changed their lives forever.
There is nothing particularly new or ground-breaking about this philosophy, but you would be surprised at how many people have either never thought about it, or who do not have the skills to put it into action in a meaningful and effective way. This is not a failure on their part, but instead, it usually reflects how they themselves were raised. In addition, in recent years there has been an increasing movement away from people teaching their own children anything. Instead, they are encouraged to leave all types of teaching to their school teachers. While this may be fine for academic skills, it means that kids are missing out on important life lessons in other crucial areas, and this is something that we believe needs to change if we wish to raise a generation of happy geniuses.
The Six Key Tenets of the How To Raise A Happy Genius Philosophy:
The How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy can be summarised by six key tenets. These are:
1. Above all else, teaching your kids core life skills should be fun: There are many studies that have shown that children learn better when they are having fun, and preferably laughing, too. In addition to this, the time spent with parents (or guardians, grandparents and so on) is not school, and should not be treated as school, or even as an extension of it. Instead, it is about spending quality time with a child which, when grown up, they will look back on fondly. This means that they should be in charge of what they do and when. If you try to force them into doing something they don’t want to, they will push back and won’t enjoy it. Don’t make learning a chore, and indeed if you think back on your own life, you’ll realise that the best learning happened when you were so busy having fun that you didn’t even know it was happening! In particular, you have to be careful that you don’t develop the habit of turning potentially fun things into a boring learning experience. Instead, aim to change potentially boring learning experiences into things that are fun.
2. Go for quality over quantity: The learning of core life skills is best done in short bursts with specific and clear achievements. Specifically, spend a short, pre-determined period of time doing a specific training activity, and then swap to doing something else so that your child does not become overwhelmed or, worse, bored by it. If you feel that more work needs to be done on that specific topic, you can always come back to it later, and indeed repeatedly revisiting the same core life skill using different activities is a great way to re-enforce any learning outcomes. These can be conducted regularly, and ideally at least once a day, but remember to give your child plenty of time off in between to enjoy just being a kid. After all, while it is important, childhood isn’t all about learning. So how long should these short bursts be? Well, as a general rule of thumb, spend one minute per year of a child’s age on a specific training activity (e.g. two minutes for a two-year old, or ten minutes for a ten-year old), although, while this is a good starting point, it can vary depending on the child and the exercise.
3. Training should, wherever possible, be a one-on-one activity: To allow learning to effectively be carried out in short bursts, training in core skills is best conducted on a one-to-one basis. This means that the individual child has your full attention for that period of time and you can adapt any activities to their individual requirements (see tenet five below). If you have more than one child, try to make time each day (no matter how brief) to spend one-on-one with each one of them working on a core life skill. You might think that this will be difficult to fit in, but with a bit of creative thinking, you’ll be surprised at how many spaces there are in your day where you can fit in a short burst of fun learning. For example, while it might not work for everyone, I am a big fan of using car journeys (especially to and from nursery/school) as opportunities for a bit of fun learning. It’s certainly more useful to your child’s development than simply playing a DVD to keep your child quiet in the back seat (although even I will admit that there are times when this is the best thing to do for both your child, and you!).
4. Every child is unique: Just as every adult is different, so is every child, and each will need their own strategy and way of dealing with things, and just because something has worked for one child, it does not mean it will work for every other child. This is because everyone’s brain works differently (some much more differently than others!), and everyone’s perception of the world is unique. This means that you need to do a lot of listening to your child about what they enjoy, and what they don’t, and talking with them to try to work out how exactly they perceive the world (this can be very difficult if it is very different from the way you perceive it). Once you understand this, you can plan how you are going to teach them a specific core life skill in a way that is compatible with how their individual brain works. The other side of this coin is that you need to be constantly on guard for things that are not working as planned, and change your approach accordingly. This is because it is important that you don’t keep trying to teach something in a specific way if it is not working, on the assumption that the child will eventually get it. They might, but if, as is more likely, they don’t, then you will just put them off trying to learn that specific core skill for a very long time, and possibly for life. After all, how often do you hear people say that they just can’t do maths, when what they mean is that they have not been taught maths in a way they can understand?
5. A child needs to develop a wide range of core skills in order to become a happy genius in their adult life: If you help your kids develop the right core skills, it will give them the basis on which they can build success in the rest of their lives, but you cannot just focus on one or two of them (which is often the case with traditional educational approaches). Concentrating on a few, or worse, a single core skill too early in a child’s life results, more often than not, in high-achieving, but unhappy, adults. Instead, you need to try to develop as wide a range of core skills as possible. After all, the aim here is to provide your child with as many options as possible so when they are older, they can choose to do what makes them happy. In this respect, it is worth remembering that the world you are training your kids to live in is not the one you grew up in, or the one they were born into, but the one they will be spend their adult lives in, and that world will not come into existence for another twenty years or so. When it does arrive, this future world is likely to be very different from the current world and they may well end up doing jobs that don’t even exist now. As a result, you need to provide them with the core life skills that will allow them to survive in any world they find themselves in, not just the current one (again this is a problem for many traditional educational approaches as they tend to concentrate on teaching what is important right now and not what may be in important a few years in the future).
6. In order to work out what they want to do in life, a child needs to be exposed to as many potential career paths as possible: The bottom line here is that a child cannot decide what they want to do with their lives if they don’t know what opportunities are available to them. This means that children need to be exposed to as many potential career paths as possible. Only then, will they be free to decide what they might want to do (rather than being pushed in a specific direction by their parents). However, it is also important to let children know that they are free to change their minds at any time, and that if, for whatever reason, it turns out that they do not succeed at a specific career path, that others are still available to them. Similarly, it needs to be made clear that in almost all cases there are multiple routes to get to the same end, and while some will be more difficult than others, this does not mean that their opportunities are automatically closed off if they do not succeed at that easier, more usual career path.
Now, you are probably thinking that these six tenets are all well and good, but how on earth can you go about implementing them? After all, you are busy parents, and spare time is not something you really have. Well, this is where How To Raise A Happy Genius is here to help. Across the posts on this website, we will provide help, advice and information about what core life skills you need to help them develop, how to make learning these core life skills fun, how you can effectively fit this learning into short bursts, where you can find the time to do it, and also how to work out exactly how your child’s brain works so that you can implement a learning strategy that is best suited to them as an individual. In short, there is lots of useful information here (or at least there will be as this site grows over time). Even if you don’t believe in our philosophy (or don’t quite believe all of it), you are likely to find some useful stuff here, so feel free to pick and choose the bits that you want from all the information provided here.
What are the How To Raise A Happy Genius core life skills?
I’ve mentioned core life skills a number of times, but so far, I’ve not said anything about what they are. Core life skills are easy to define: they are the basic skills you need to lead a happy and successful life. This is simple enough to say, but it can be difficult to identify every possible core skill that a child needs to develop. It is, however, much easier to identify basic types of skills, and in the How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy, there are seven sets of core life skills. These are: Intellectual skills, financial skills, critical thinking skills, intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, physical skills and practical skills.
While the actual skills in some of these skill sets will be relatively obvious, others will be much less intuitive, but you may be surprised as to how important they are in raising a happy genius! So what exactly are the core life skills in each of these skill sets? Well, let’s take at look each skill set in more detail:
1. Academic skills: Academic skills are the most obvious skills that a child needs to learn, and these are the traditional skills that are taught in schools (although you shouldn’t rely entirely on schools for teaching them, particularly if the way they are taught does not fit well with the way your individual child’s brain actually works). These skills include things like reading, writing, Interpretation of the written word, maths, understanding how the world works, and a basic understanding of science and the scientific method.
2. Financial skills: Financial skills are all to often overlooked, but it is a lack of financial skills that causes many adults to be unhappy. In fact, I suspect (but have no evidence for!) that in the developed world, this is ones of the biggest underlying cause of adult unhappiness, alongside feeling unfulfilled with how your life has turned out. This is because even if they may be very academically intelligent and end up in jobs that earn large amounts of money, many adults remain on a financial knife-edge for their entire lives. Teaching children good financial skills from a young age is critical for ensuring that this does not happen to them. The core financial skills are quite straight-forward to identify and at their most basic consist of an understanding of how money works, and the closely related how to handle money (or how to run a budget). Yet, these highly important skills are rarely, if ever, taught in schools, and it is a skill that many parents lack too, so there is little opportunity for kids to pick these skills up without specific training. This means that poor financial skills perpetuate through generations causing a continuous cycle of unhappiness. Yet, with some basic training, children can be taught these financial skills and this cycle can finally be broken.
3. Critical thinking skills: Critical thinking skills are classified separately from academic skills because they are so important not just for learning, but for everyday life. Good critical thinking stops people being able to take advantage of you, whether that is in your job, in your personal life, or when assessing what is the best thing to spend your hard-earned cash on. These core skills include assessing evidence, problem solving, lateral thinking, a more detailed knowledge of the scientific method as a way of working out what the best thing to do in a given circumstance is, and working out why people (others and yourselves) do what they do in response to specific situations they may find themselves in.
4. Intrapersonal skills: Intrapersonal skills are those skills that relate to how you, as an individual, deal with life, and all that it has to throw at you. There are many of them, but probably the five most important are: delayed gratification and self-control, self-confidence, persistence, coping with failure and keeping yourself safe. Some of these may seem to be fixed personality traits, but they are not, they are all learnable, and generally we only assume that they are fixed traits because they are skills we learn (or fail to learn) at a very young age. As a result, they are some of the most important skills to teach kids from a very young age. Of these five, the most important is delayed gratification, and the extent to which a child has developed delayed gratification at a young age is a more important determinant of their success in later life than almost any other known measure. Yet, this is a skill that few are ever encouraged to work on because most people do not know about or understand its importance.
5. Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are those skills that relate to how you interact with the world around you. They are the ones that control how much you contribute to your wider community, whatever that may be, and how that wider community impacts your life. They include: empathy and respect for others, awareness of the world around you, an understanding of how politics (of all kinds) works, and how to spot and avoid interacting with people who do not have your best interest at heart.
6. Physical skills: Physical skills are all too often ignored during a child’s development. It is not just a matter of whether a kid is sporty or not, but rather it is about ensuring that they know how to look after their bodies and how to get the best from them. These are not about developing the skills required for a specific sport, but rather it is about developing the baseline set of skills required to allow a child to compete in any sport, should they choose to do so. Even if they don’t, they will none-the-less be better able to cope with the world. These core life skills include the development of coordination, flexibility and core body strength, and healthy eating.
7. Practical skills: Practical skills are those skills which enable you to actually get on with life, but they are also the ones that will change most frequently as the world, and society, changes over time. This makes them some of the hardest skills to teach your children. Luckily, though, these are often also the easiest skills for children to pick up (as can be attested by the many adults who have to consult their younger relatives to help them with modern technology!) The key element here is that you need to be constantly aware of what is coming over the horizon and ensure that your child learns any new core practical skills as they enter their world so that they don’t get left behind. This is especially important when it comes to practical skills related to technology. At the present time core practical skills include things like how to cook a healthy meal, basic first aid, how to drive, how a car works, how a computer works, how the internet works, how to use tools to fix things and how to read a map.
You can find posts about specific core life skills and how to teach them to children here.
Parental skills you need to have or develop to successfully implement the How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy:
As well as developing your child’s core life skills, you will find that there are certain skills of your own that you may also need to develop, especially if you were raised by parents who did not follow a child-raising strategy similar to the How To Raise A Happy Genius philosophy. These include how to use praise to help your child learn persistence (and it’s not how you would think!), how to effectively use rewards to encourage your child, how to use nudges to change your child’s behaviour, what wise psychological interventions are and how to avoid accidentally creating unwise ones, how to deal with money in front of your child, how to deal with other people in front of your child so that they learn how to interact with others in a positive way, how to encourage them in a way that is appropriate to your child (remembering that each child is different!), how to listen to your child effectively, and how to work out how your child perceives the world and how it might vary from the way you see it. These are an odd set of skills, and many may well be unfamiliar to you, but they are as important for raising a happy genius as the core skills outlined above. This is because you cannot hope to teach your child the required core skills if you do not have the skills to do it, but don’t worry, all of them are very logical, straight forward and easy to learn, once you know what they are, and each of these will be covered in more detail in specific posts on this site. However, if you want a sneak preview of them now, most of them boil down to one key concept: Raising a happy genius is not a friendship or a dictatorship. Instead it is a partnership where you are the senior partner, and as with any partnership, you both need both mutual respect and trust in order for it to succeed.
You can find posts about specific parental skills that are needed to raise a happy genius, and how you can improve them, here.