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Why Trying To Raise A Smart Kid Is A Dumb Idea

The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at

How do I raise a smart kid?

Please, please, please don’t go down this road. You will do your child and yourself a disservice.

Please consider parenting a child by being loving and supporting, playing with them, singing with them, reading to them, encouraging every ambition they have whether it be astronaut, doctor, ninja, dinosaur veterinarian. Have quiet time in nature. Help them develop social skills.

Trust me: there will be plenty of social pressure to be smart. You won’t have to do a doggone thing for them to feel that. But what you can do: you can help them realize that persistence and character matter and that you love them for it. You can be there with a supportive snack when they’ve fallen behind and are trying to make up for it with late night studying. You can be one of the few places of refuge, nuture, and stability for them as they wrestle their way through an often confusing world.

But I didn’t raise them to be smart. I raised them to be curious, accepting, and caring.

I was one of the ones who was raised to be the “smartest.” Parts of it worked and a lot of it didn’t. When it was my chance to be a parent, I tried a different way. My three young adult kids are capable, caring, and of good character. They like to visit home and they seem to like to linger around rather than hurry away.

They’re darned smart, too. The depth of my daughter’s knowledge on the biology of dolphins, or my older boy’s extensive knowledge of treatment of trauma, or the younger son’s familiarity with the intersection of gender issues and constitutional law, are all sources of delight.

But I didn’t raise them to be smart. I raised them to be curious, accepting, and caring. I probably could have raised them to be “smarter.” There’s no shortage of things I consider missed opportunities as a parent, but raising them to be “smartest” isn’t one of them.

Andrew Weill is a tax attorney who has written on a diverse myriad of topics, including politics, pop culture, and relationships. You can find more of his Quora posts here: