Here are 5 ways to teach your older child to keep working on her brain “muscle”:

Your brain keeps growing

Talk with your child about the science of the brain. Explain that her brain grows throughout life — the more she challenges herself, the more her brain will grow.

We’re all babies

Explain that no one starts out knowing everything. Use babies as a way to explain this point. When they’re born, babies can’t talk. But as they get older and keep trying new things, they learn how to speak, walk, and do hundreds of new things.

Success is earned

Many people (including plenty of grown-ups!) think that people are just born smart . . . or not. People aren’t born smart — they have to work for success in school and throughout life. Explain to your child that to be a success, you have to work for it — often very hard. To get your child thinking about what it takes to be a success at school, ask questions like, “What did you learn?” instead of “What grade did you get?” This will help your child focus on the fact that through great effort, comes great success.

Hard work is a chance to learn

In middle school, as work gets harder, many kids start pulling away from working hard at school as a way to rebel from their parents. So start now by teaching them early, and often, that hard work is a chance for them to learn, grow, and become better and something that’s important to them (sports, music, school . . .whatever it may be).

Make a plan

If your child has a big challenge or goal she wants to reach, help her make a plan. Talk through, and even write down, how she can achieve that goal. You can even print out and post this Rewards Chart to encourage your child to map out steps to success.


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