development
Baby Mind Meld

Saved You A Book: The 7 Skills Your Kid Needs To Succeed In School And Life

Remember that time you read the parenting book everyone was talking about and found quick, useful advice on how to promote essential life skills in your kids? No? Lucky for you, our latest, our latest Crib Notes neatly summarizes Ellen Galinsky’s Mind In The Making: The 7 Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, which The New York Times says “may well be the next iconic parenting manual.” The book explains the research behind the 7 titular skills and offers simple suggestions for promoting them in your own kid’s life. The book covers kids well into their elementary education, but here’s the most actionable advice for a guy with infants or toddlers.

Skill: Focus and Self Control

What The Research Says:

Multiple studies of preschoolers who receive curriculums that develop executive-level brain function – neuro-speak for things like focus and self control – show long-term gains in everything from working memory to reading ability to reasoning skills.

How You Can Use This

Focus in very young kids is a function of paying attention to something other than themselves, so identify and encourage what Galinsky calls “lemonade stands,” or the projects and types of play your kids are most passionate about.

  • Focus in very young kids is a function of paying attention to something other than themselves, so identify and encourage what Galinsky calls “lemonade stands,” or the projects and types of play that your kids are most passionate about.
  • Play games with your kids that force them to pay attention, like musical chairs, or sorting games that involve identifying object similarities like color or shape and organizing them accordingly. Don’t feel bad about doing this with your laundry.
  • Turn reading into a game by having them listen to and then repeat lines from stories. Or, when you come to sections of favorite books that they hear frequently, encourage them to finish the sentences for you.


Skill: Perspective Taking

What The Research Says: Perspective taking includes the ability to suppress thoughts about themselves in order to assess another person’s situation and consider what they might be thinking. Kids who do this well adjust better to kindergarten because they understand what their teachers want and what’s expected of them.

Encourage play that involves pretending to be other people … If they’re still doing this in high school consider therapy or Juilliard.

How You Can Use This

  • Help your kid feel understood. When they’re infants, imitate what they’re doing and repeat the sounds that they make. As they got older, describe what you see them doing as they’re doing it. Ask them questions about experiences as you share them. Tell them your own perspective on those experiences.
  • Encourage play that involves pretending to be other people, which involves your kid “trying on” the perspective of other people and deciding how those people might react in certain situations. If they’re still doing this in high school, consider therapy or Juilliard.
  • When reading with your kid, ask them to what the characters are thinking, and why the characters are doing what they’re doing.
  • Discipline from the perspective of the person who your kid’s actions effected – even if the “person” is the family dog.

Skill: Communicating

What The Research Says: There are 3 qualities of parental communication that closely correlate with future communicate skills in kids: an expansive vocabulary, the use of “extended discourse” or taking conversations beyond the present context, and a strong encouragement of reading.

There are 3 qualities of parental communication that closely correlate with future communication skills in kids.

What You Can Do With This

  • Start talking to your kids as soon as they’re born. Once they get older, incorporate gestures for emphasis and to direct their attention. Name things as you point to and talk about them.
  • Extend the discourse by using phrases like “what if,” “remember” and “what do you think?”, which help both of you elaborate on the topic of conversation.
  • Read to them. Keep reading to them. Once they can read themselves, make sure your kids are always reading. Seriously, why are you reading this when you should be focused on them reading?

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Skill: Making Connections

What The Research Says: The ability to organize things and ideas, and then link them together, is what gives kids knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge productively. Play is among the most powerful ways kids develop an ability to make connections.

Participate in your kid’s play, but not as a boss.

What You Can Do With This

  • Give your kids toys that are “open ended” and can be used in different ways – balls that can be used for different kinds of games, building sets that can be assembled in different ways and figures that can be used to tell different stories.
  • Participate in your kid’s play but not as a boss. Follow their lead and guide from behind by directing them toward discoveries.
  • Encourage connection-making with numbers by talking about quantities approximately, verbally and figuratively. Have them help around the house in ways that promote counting, by making grocery lists, counting out table settings, helping prepare ingredients for cooking and using calendars. If they’re good at it, consider hiring them.

Skill: Critical Thinking

What The Research Says: Kids learn about the world in a way similar to scientists: They develop theories for why things happen and then test those theories by asking questions, making predictions and noting the outcomes.

Kids learn about the world in a way similar to scientists.

What You Can Do With This

  • Promote curiosity by not jumping in to fix something or answer a question. Instead, help them figure it out for themselves and make sure they know who else in their circle of adults can help in specific situations so they learn who their “experts” are. Make sure they know Uncle Bill makes things up.

Skill: Taking on Challenges

What The Research Says: There are two kinds of mindsets kids exhibit when they fail at something: A “fixed” mindset defines failure as a lack of skill or intelligence; a “growth” mindset defines failure as a lack of will or strategy. Kids with growth mindsets believe they’re able to learn new things and enjoy challenges while kids with fixed mindsets discourage easily.

A “fixed” mindset defines failure as a lack of skill or intelligence; a “growth” mindset defines failure as a lack of will or strategy.”

What You Can Do With This

  • Allow your kid to experience everyday stresses and understand how and why they react well or poorly. Use that knowledge to help them build ways to manage their own stress when faced with a new challenge.
  • Cultivate a growth mindset by praising your kid’s effort and strategy in problem solving, instead of praising their intelligence and personality. It’s, “You worked hard and I’m impressed by how you figured out where to put the puzzle piece,” as opposed to, “You’re so smart and clever” (which, let’s face it, sounds a little condescending).

Skill: Self-Directed Learning

What The Research Says: Learning is not a nature versus nurture process; it is a nature and nurture process. Whatever you kid is born with in terms of innate learning capacity, actualizing that potential is intrinsically linked to their environment and experiences.

Adults who make an effort to “learn about learning” make more effective teachers.

What You Can Do With This

  • Recognize that learning itself is a skill that your kids will develop through engagement and repetition. You’re responsible for encouraging that repetition, making it enjoyable and helping them understand the value of it.
  • Adults who make an effort to “learn about learning” make more effective teachers, so remember to read a book once in a while. Or just keep reading these Crib Notes.

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