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 do, 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’m 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 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 spending 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 on this site.
About The Author: This post was written by Colin Drysdale, the creator of How To Raise A Happy Genius.