If you want to boost your teen’s brain power, start when they are children, before the time of the teen push for independence. Really, this way of boosting teen brain power is quite simple. Encourage them to read as children. A study of over 10,243 teens found reading for pleasure during childhood contributed to improved verbal learning, memory, speech development, and school academic achievement in the teen years.
Even more, reading for pleasure as a child was associated with fewer signs of stress and depression, improved attention, and fewer incidents of aggression and rule-breaking in teen.
But wait, there’s more. Children who read for pleasure also engaged in less screen time as a teen and slept longer.
The best results were found in those teens who read up to 12 hours a week as a child. That’s about one hour and 43 minutes a day. So, if you want to boost your teens brain power, awaken the joy of reading in them while they are still children. Here’s how to begin.
- Let your children see you reading for pleasure. Children follow our example. So, let them see you read for pleasure, not just for work. Talk about the fun things you’ve read about or the stories you read. Let them hear you talk about the adventures you enjoy while reading.
- Read to your children. When they are very young, read simple picture books. As they get older you can read children’s chapter books. Make it a fun time together by engaging them while reading rather than simply reading the page in a monotone voice. Take on the voice of each character. Ask questions about what your child thinks might happen next. React to surprising twists in the plot. Engage the story and your child as you read.
- As your children begin to read independently, read the same book they are reading. Talk about the book with them. Enjoy sharing your reactions and surprises to the book.
- Visit the library together. Walk through the stacks of books with your children and discover the joys of what you can learn and read. If your library has reading times, take your child to them.
- Depending on the kind of book your children enjoy, you can visit the places described in the book. For instance, if your child reads a book about the American revolution and you live near Philadelphia, take a road trip and visit the Liberty Bell. Reading about Walt Disney may lead up to a trip to Disneyland or reading about Martin Luther King may lead up to a trip to Atlanta. You get the idea. Let the books come alive by visiting a place associated with that book.
This parenting practice can increase your child’s IQ. I know it sounds too good to be true, but research supports the claim. A study involving over 1,600 children, followed from birth to their teenage years and raised in environments in which they faced a great deal of adversity, showed that this parenting practice contributed to raising children’s IQs by six points even in the midst of adversity. What is this miraculous practice? Nurturing and responsive parenting.
Nurturing parents create an environment that counteracts the disadvantages of early adversities and promote learning and growth. How can a parent practice nurturing, responsive parenting? Let me share some ideas.
- Get involved in your children’s lives. First and foremost, be available to your children and present in their daily lives. Children love to have their parents involved in their lives. A parent’s loving involvement in their child’s life creates a sense of security that frees their minds to learn and grow in healthy ways.
- Become a student of your child. Learn about their needs and their interests. Just as important, learn how they act and respond when they’re hungry or sleepy, upset or simply distracted. The more you know about your child and their nuanced responses to life, the more you can respond to their needs in a nurturing, sensitive way.
- Read to your child. Reading to your child has so many amazing benefits including increasing their empathy, building their imagination, providing a time for bonding, and increasing their problem-solving among many other benefits. Reading to your child also creates a nurturing environment. Pull out those books and start reading.
- Play games with your children. You can play board games, card games, or outdoor games. Games teach many skills, like turn taking, winning and losing gracefully, negotiation skills, compromise, patience, and more. Children love to learn, and games will help them learn. You can turn daily chores like shopping or cooking into a game to teach your children math. You can play games with letters like the alphabet game while driving. Your child will be learning and not even know they are doing it.
- Sing songs together. Singing is a great way to bond and build a sense of security in your child’s relationship to you. In addition, we learn many things through singing. We can learn how to cooperate and “harmonize” with one another (rather than sing over one another), listen and respond (like in a call and response song), basic information (the ABC’s song), how our laws get developed (Schoolhouse Rock – I’m Just a Bill ), the basics of grammar (Schoolhouse Rock, conjunction junction) and many more things. Barney, Big Bird, and Mr. Rogers knew how to make the best of music to nurture healthy children. You can too.
That’s five ways to become a nurturing parent. Although they’re surprisingly easy to implement, they have one thing in common. Each one involves investing your time in your child’s life and activities. But you’ll discover this investment is relatively simple and great fun. You will also be pleasantly surprised at the amazing benefits you will reap from this investment: a stronger bond with your children and the nurturing of their higher IQ.
Nurturing a positive self-concept in our children as they move through the “tween” and teen years can be a challenge. Harsh, even mean, social comparisons and peer criticisms chip away at their self-esteem on a daily basis. However, research published in April 2019 offers a practical and efficient way to improve our children’s self-esteem even during these years. This study used data collected from 6,209 11-year-old children participating in the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort study. These children completed a self-esteem scale as well as a questionnaire to determine how often they listened to or played music, engaged in visual arts, or read for enjoyment at home. They were also asked how often, if at all, one or both parents joined them in the activity. Finally, teachers rated the children’s level of ability in music, art, design, and the English language. The results revealed at least three interesting findings.
- Children who engaged in visual arts activities “most days” tended to have significantly higher levels of self-esteem than those who participated less often. That difference doubled when comparing those who engaged in art activities “most days” with those who engaged in art activities “less than once a month.”
- Children who engaged in reading or in making/listening to music with a parent 1-2 times a week also reported a higher level of self-esteem than those who did not.
- Finally, a child did not have to be good at the activity to reap the benefit of a higher self-esteem by engaging in that activity. It appears that engaging in the activity, not one’s ability, was the key factor.
In other words, a great way to nurture your child’s self-esteem is through visual arts, music, and literature. Children experienced a higher self-esteem when engaging in visual arts independently and with parents. Reading and music showed increases in self-esteem when engaged in with a parent. What does this mean for you and your children? You can nurture a healthy self-concept and a higher level of self-esteem in your child by:
- Reading to them and with them.
- Reading the same book as your child and taking the time to talk about the book with your child or teen.
- Listen to music together and talk about the music you listen to.
- Sing together. Play instruments together. (This is a great family fun night, too.)
- Dance together.
- Draw or paint together.
- Make crafts or art projects together.
You may be thinking, “But I’m no good at those things.” That’s OK. Remember, the study revealed that you don’t have to be good at the activity to reap the benefits of an improved self-image. Just enjoy the process. Enjoy the time together. And enjoy your child’s boost in self-esteem.