The Power of a Parent
Steve Jobs's adoptive dad taught him rudimentary electronics as a kid. It seems likely that he couldn't have imagined how that time would pay off. Perhaps we all have the potential to work miracles. Intelligence is 49 percent genetic and 51 percent stimulation, says Lawlis. Other experts agree that, if anything, environment (read: parental influence) has the edge. “We assume smart kids are born smart and you can tell practically out of the womb,” says Rhee. “But I've seen it over and over again: You think a child will be a superstar…and he isn't. Or a child who was written off achieves tremendous things.” It is a close call, as Brenneman points out: “It may be genetic—or maybe he's been learning from you.” Here's what you can do to help your child not only get better grades but have more enthusiasm for learning.
Talk, talk, talk Ask your kid open-ended questions, like “What would happen if we stopped for ice cream on the way to the beach?” Such questions help a child reflect on what he knows and tell him his opinion matters. Don't worry if he's too young to understand. Likewise, don't be afraid to use relatively sophisticated words, notes Brenneman. He may not understand them, but he will figure it out if the words are used multiple times in context. John Shotter, a dad in Seaford, NY, makes it a top priority to talk to his son, Jack, 2, through daily activities. “We talk tools! I show him how the T-square, drill, measuring tape, and hammer work.” The results are pretty impressive, reports Jack's mom, Melissa. “He honestly knows the name of every tool, as well as materials like Sheetrock, S packle, and drop cloth. He's also learning measuring, right and left from turning a screwdriver, and colors from paint.”
Read, read, read Research has repeatedly shown that access to books and one-on-one reading time is a predictor of school success. “Reading stimulates the brain to make connections and builds background knowledge about the world,” says Kim Davenport, chief program officer at Jumpstart, a national early-literacy organization. “Reading is the foundation of all learning and will enable a child to absorb and apply content from all areas, including math and science.” Modeling good reading habits may give him an edge. “Seeing his parents reading for enjoyment will be contagious,” says Davenport. Invite your child to cozy up on the couch with you to read. Keep books out—in baskets, on shelves, and on coffee tables. And share what you're reading with your child, and ask him to do the same. This will not only spark conversation but build his vocabulary and comprehension.