The secrets of successful kids

What it takes to raise a can-do child.
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Studies show that kids with hands-on parents are more likely to do well in school. Involved parents check in with their child's teachers regularly, ask teachers to challenge their kids and help their children with homework (without doing it for them). They also "encourage their child to stretch her limits, but not to the point of burnout," says Sears.

It's also important for parents to spend time talking with their children. In fact, studies have shown that families of successful kids eat dinner together regularly. When talking about school, have conversations about what a child is learning, not just what grade she received on a test. "If a parent shows genuine interest in what a child is learning, then the child will also be interested," says Sparrow. Here are some other characteristics of kids who excel in school:


A successful child understands how other people feel, a quality that enables her to work well in a group. "Empathetic children respect others' ideas," says Stanley Greenspan, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of Building Healthy Minds: The Six Experiences That Create Intelligent Growth in Babies and Young Children (Perseus Publishing, 1999). One way kids develop empathy is by being taught to be considerate. If a child teases another, a parent might say, "I want you to think about how you would feel if you were treated that way."

A love of achievement

Successful children are adept in many areas -- academics, sports, extracurricular activities. These kids look forward to challenges because they provide opportunities to shine. Parents help them taste success in one activity so they strive for it in others, says William Sears, M.D., author of the forthcoming The Successful Child: What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Turn Out Well (Little Brown, 2002).

An eagerness to learn

"The number one shared characteristic of high-school kids who get good grades is a love of learning," says Sears, and parents can help foster this enthusiasm. "Their attitude is key," he continues. "Parents of high achievers teach their kids to view learning as a privilege, not a problem."

A sense of humor

Seeing humor in something is a sign of intelligence. "It shows that a child understands that something is out of place," says Joshua Sparrow, M.D., a child psychiatrist and co-author of Touchpoints Three to Six: Your Child's Behavioral and Emotional Development (Perseus Publishing, 2001). It may also give a child a release from the pressures of school.

Parents teach their children about humor by their own actions. "If you're stressed out by, say, traffic or a long line at a store, make a joke," says Sparrow. --Deborah Pike and Dorie Edelstein


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