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Ten Family Characteristics That Nurture Smart Kids

How do you become a smart family? Eliminate the "I" versus "you" attitude in your home, and you're on your way to raising higher-achieving kids with whom other people want to work and play. You won't be perfect at this smart family routine. No family is. Even the best intentions slip now and then, which is perfectly normal. Just strive toward making these ten qualities of smart families your goal.

Willing to go the extra mile for each other

Make your family motto family first. Ensure that each person knows the important role they play in the family and understands that this role sometimes involves pitching in and making sacrifices to strengthen family life. Let cooperation, compassion, and kindness be your watchwords. In healthy families, members expect to give up time, energy, and lots of other luxuries for each other, even though they may grumble about it.

Smart kids need to feel confident that family members are there for each other, should the need arise.

Reinforce that this major juggling act has a positive side. Clue-in everyone that they will get back much more than they give. And be prepared to reap the rewards of a more confident, higher-achieving child. That's what the strength of family brings.

Respecting each other

Don't be put off by all the togetherness. Sticking close as a family doesn't negate the importance of respecting individuality. Every child has the ability to be smart. By respecting her ideas and interests, you allow your child's natural abilities to surface.

Respect is one of those behaviors kids master partly by observation. If you listen without judging and act courteously and politely toward all kinds and ages of people, chances are, your child will get the message that others deserve respect. The message may not sink in immediately, but eventually, considerate and mannerly behavior rubs off.

Delighting in each other

Smart families like yours enjoy each other. You thrill at experiencing enriching adventures together. You build a school-at-home curriculum that encourages fun and learning, so your child grows intellectually. You read, listen to music, and play indoor and outdoor games together, creating a rich intellectual heritage as part of regular family activities. Or you spend downtime together doing absolutely nothing. Yet, you allow everyone their own interests and activities and rejoice at hearing what family members experience when apart.

Cherish family time and the stabilizing connectedness it brings.

Communicating with each other

Building a smart family relies on your being able to understand each other's feelings, which isn't always an easy process. As much as humanly possible given each family member's qualities, let every family member know that he or she is understood, and that his or her feelings and thoughts count.

  • Share family beliefs at mealtimes.
  • Discuss problems and gripes during family meetings.
  • Take time to listen and rephrase what someone says to show you understand and help you clarify if you don't.
  • Know that it's never too late to open lines of communication.

Say, write, or do something positive for each family member every day. Pep talks keep everyone going in a smart direction.

Growing from each other and from mistakes

Growing from each other runs both ways: for you to counsel your kids and for you to learn from them.

Sharing your wisdom with your kids

Sometimes, the best course of action is to let situations happen. Try to develop an attitude that no matter what or how painful the outcome, the situation is a learning experience, a place to begin again.

When teeth-gnashing, tear-producing, or otherwise scary situations occur, try to ask, "What's the worst that can happen here?" If you and your offspring can handle the answer, you can handle anything.

Learning from your kids

Never be so proud and into a rigid I-have-to-know-it-all-because-I'm-the-parent role that you can't learn from your kids. This entire parenting trek is a give-and-take learning experience. If you don't realize the wonderful possibilities of seeing the world from your child's vantage point, you're missing a lot.

Let your child see you make mistakes. Mistakes humanize you — rather than demean you — in your child's eyes. And let your child see how you take responsibility and handle your mistakes.

Valuing effort, not product

Set high family standards. But don't tie your child's self-worth to fulfilling expectations that may or may not be realistic. Kids judge themselves by how others value them. So let your child know through actions and words what's really important:

  • Celebrate individual accomplishments, no matter how imperfect.
  • Praise the way family members tackle jobs, instead of praising end-products.
  • Emphasize your child's character, goodness, and effort.

From this encouraging cocoon, your child gains the inner strength to tackle new endeavors. She also learns that being smart means more than test results and winning competitions and games.

Being smart is about feeling good about yourself for doing the best you can.

Solving problems together

Smart families involve everyone in decisions about routines and choices. As a parent, you shape family discussions but aren't an authoritarian "Because I say so!" type. Take cues from every family member, even little people.

As your child matures, arrange for greater responsibility and more independence. But stay on top of what your child is doing at home and at school. Smart families catch problems before they develop into something bigger, no matter what age a child reaches.

Ultimately, you're the parent. As such, you make the final decisions. Show your child you care by setting reasonable limits that include her participation.

Creating an environment that values learning

Smart families continue to learn together. Everyone becomes involved in the child's learning, which then encourages more learning. Freedom to initiate activities and goals exists within a safe and stable framework that

  • Limits media
  • Encourages reading
  • Allows free play only after homework is done

Reacting well to successes and failures

Smart families accept that they are human. Near-perfection may be a goal, but you all understand that nobody can be perfect, nor should you be.

Encourage family members to accept success humbly and failure with grace. Be an apologizing family. Advocate that everyone, including yourself, sprinkle, "I'm sorry," "Do you need a hug," or "I need a hug," liberally into words and actions.

Nothing gets you through difficult times better than a sense of humor.

Showing and saying, "I love you"

The one common denominator of families that raise smart kids is their unconditional love for each other. Any family, no matter what background the family comes from, can produce successful kids if your heart guides your parenting philosophy.

You can read books, talk with experts, and commit their gems to memory. But if your heart tells you something different than the know-it-alls, go with your gut.

Raising a smart kid is no different than raising any child. Above all, it takes a loving family that encourages warm, positive feelings to emanate through words and actions. Smiles, a loving touch, a kind word: Loving each other to bits is the most important ingredient for raising a smarter, more successful child.

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