Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Children Succeed: Another Abbreviated Book

How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character, by Paul Tough—follow this author if you enjoy fantastic writing that puts together non-related studies into a c0hesive, practical narrative, not unlike Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell, and Daniel Pink.
(My note:  In 2009, Paul Tough wrote Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, a fantastic read about education, poverty, acheivement gap, charter schools, etc. Listen to Geoffrey Canada on KUOW’s Speakers Forum.)

Again, here’s my shortcut version of the book, but really, this is one of those books that I read for my kids (like I read Lean In for me).

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Big Idea: A study took kids who scored low on an IQ test retested those kids and gave them an M&M for every correct answer. They went from an average IQ of 79 to an average of 97.

So…what is their “real” IQ, 79 or 97? (It turns out that life prospects were more in line with a 79 score.) “They may have been low in IQ, but they were low in whatever makes a person try hard on an IQ test without any obvious incentives” (pg. 69).

In other words:

IQ = Natural/developed intelligence/ability + amount of innate motivation

Self-control as a child is correlated with, as an adult, being less likely to smoke, have health problems, have bad credit, brushes with the law, have multiple addictions, and raising children in a single-parent household (p. 73-74).

However, self-control isn’t quite the “driver of success that [Duckworth] was looking for” (p. 74). She called “a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission” (p. 74), or grit, the important quality that could make the difference in succeeding (my note: compare word choice with success).

Denise: Your grit score is: 4.5. You are in the 90th-99th percentile of other users who have taken this test.

How to improve your grit:

Three strategies people use when setting goals:

1) Optimism: envisioning all the good things that will happen when you achieve; indulging; “doesn’t usually correlate with actual achievement” (p 92)

2) Pessimism: “dwelling, thinking about the entire thing that will get in the way of their accomplishing their goals” (p 92). Doesn’t work well, either.

3) Mental contrasting: “contrasting on a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles in the way. Doing both at the same time… ‘creates a strong association between future and reality that signals the need to overcome the obstacles in order to attain the desired future’” (p 93). Set rules for yourself.

If you don’t have that kind of safety net (middle class, affluent)—and children in low-income families almost by definition do not—you need to compensate in another way. To succeed, you need more grit, more social intelligence, more self-control than wealthier kids. P 103

Pp120-1  Researchers have demonstrated that for infants to develop qualities like perseverance and focus, they need a high level of warmth and nurturance from their caregivers. ….[W]hen children reach early adolescence, what motivates them most effectively isn’t licking and grooming-style care but a very different kind of attention. Perhaps what pushes middle-school students to concentrate and practice … is the unexpected experience of someone taking them seriously, believing in their abilities, and challenging them to improve themselves.

When [Tom Brunzell’s] students were flailing, lost in moments of stress and emotional turmoil, he would encourage them to do the kind of big-picture that take place in the prefrontal cortex: slowing down, examining their impulses, and considering more productive solutions to their problems [than yelling, hitting].

Pg 152-3  The SAT (and the ACT) were designed to equalize the differences in schools (eg a 3.5 GPA in different high school across the nation). But ACT and SAT scores were poor predictors of college completion. The better predictor, actually, is high school GPA. “It was true that a student with a 3.5 GPA from a high quality HS was somewhat more likely to graduate from college than a student with a 3.5 GPA from a low-quality HS, but the difference was surprisingly modest.”

Conclusion: “whether or not en is able to graduate from a decent American college doesn’t necessarily have all that much to do with how smart he or she is. It has to do, instead, with the same list of character strengths that produce high GPAs in the middle and high schools…motivation, perseverance, good study habits and time management skills”

OneGoal Leadership principles: Resourcefulness, resilience, ambition, professionalism, and integrity.

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