It’s neither possible nor feasible for all our children to be super achievers. What is important is for parents to help them build the capacity to think on their feet

To achieve great feats or shine in a chosen profession, one doesn’t have to be a genius. Inherited intelligence does help. But what may matter even more are a few key attitudes/characteristics that will stand youngsters in good stead, right through their educational and professional lives. The good news is the schooling of these attitudes/aspects does not need institutional support. Parents can use ‘teachable moments’ in daily life for this crucial ‘education’. Remarks senior educator and mathematician Sadagopan Rajesh, “A student may study for the sake of scoring marks, while another may study because of his interest in it. This difference in thinking gradually makes a big difference in terms of their achievement, in the long run.”

More importantly, kids should be helped to overcome rejection, failure and challenges, which are inevitable.

Stephen Hawking, the celebrated physicist with a motor neuron disease that has left him almost completely paralysed, mentions in his autobiography My Brief History: “My disability has not been a serious handicap in my scientific work. In fact, in some ways, it has been an asset: I haven’t had to lecture or teach undergraduates… So I have been able to devote myself completely to research.” His advice to students includes having fun, and not falling into the trap of passing over opportunities for the sake of looking ‘cool’, or thinking that nothing is worth making an effort for.

Exposure

Occasionally, let your child tag along with you on work missions, which will give him exposure to people outside. Likewise, when a household gadget’s repair work is being done, encourage your child to learn from the mechanic, as to how the gadget works. And allow kids to do the little jobs that they can.

Noticing

“You see. But you don’t notice,” the remark of the super-intelligent fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, applies as much to crime detection as to scientific research. Encourage kids to study and find patterns, reasons and meanings in what they have noticed, rather than dismissing the information as irrelevant.

Originality

Lend an ear to kids when they come up with original ideas, even if they sound implausible. Most people we regard as geniuses from Albert Einstein to Magnus Carlsen went ahead with exploring the path less taken.

Quantity matters

One of the prevailing falsehoods regarding geniuses is all that they create are outstanding pieces of work. On the contrary, geniuses do produce unremarkable work too, but their work output is huge, and the failures don’t get into the limelight. A large work output increases the child’s skill on the job too.

Persistence

That it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any subject is widely acknowledged. Get kids into the habit of sticking to the job; to overcome the reluctance to do it over and over again.

The right fit

One can work for long hours and research on a subject endlessly, only if there is passion or a natural interest in the subject. Help kids identify where their interests lie and let them work in these areas, even if it seems pointless. Effort spent on an area of interest will always pay off in the course of the child’s career.

Learning to learn

Don’t spoon-feed kids with information. Guide them in accessing information and finding answers. Learning how to learn will be an invaluable investment for their future. The Internet makes this easy these days, though help from teachers is also invaluable.

Finding connections

Help kids connect between various disciplines, because integrated disciplines will be a hallmark of tomorrow’s science and research. Reward curiosity and encourage kids to question intelligently and specifically, and to seek and find answers.

Study wisely

Get children to approach their daily lessons or homework on a five-fold premise: Understanding or comprehension; Memory; Analysis; Application of principles in everyday life; and finally, an extrapolation of that learning.

The reading habit

Research around the globe has shown that children with a reading habit have better language skills, better information at hand and more capacity to make connections among diverse disciplines.

The right balance

Give kids a supportive and secure, but hands-off environment that gives them the freedom to experiment. Give them confidence in their ability and achievement, but don’t compliment them too much either. Allow kids to relax with TV and videogames, but limit TV/gadget time.