Book review: How children succeed

“How Children Succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character” by Paul Tough

Firstly, children who grow up in a stressful environment will find it hard to concentrate at class, difficult to follow directions or rules, hard to rebound from disappointments, or difficult to just sitting still. It is because stressful environment negatively affects the part of the brain called prefrontal cortex, which is critical for our ability to self-regulate. A case in point, almost all of the cases of “troubled kids” have uncontrollable bad tempers and attitude, which are rooted from their stressful encounters at home or their surroundings. So we really are the product of our environment.

Secondly, but the good news is children whose parents (especially mother) or guardian are attuned to their mood and responsive to their cues will produce a securely attached children, where early attachment creates a positive psychological effects that could last a lifetime. Moreover, if children grow up in a nurturing parental environment where there are a lot of comforting, physical affections like hugging, and reassuring talks since birth, they will have a stronger and braver character. So a good or bad parenting is the absolute key in a child’s character development, no matter the surrounding circumnstances (remember how in the movie “Life is Beautiful” Guido can turn a horrifying Nazi concentration camp into a fun game for his unknowing son).

And thirdly, it is vital for parents to teach their children since infant the ability to manage their inflamed stress system and to restore themselves to a resting state, which includes teaching them how to calm down after a tantrum or a bad scare. And when the child grows older, they will also need to learn about discipline, rules, and limits. And perhaps most crucially, they also need a child-size adversity appropriate for each of their age levels, a chance to fail and get back up on their feet without help. This is the best gift a parent could ever give to their children, the chance to develop self-control, persistence, grit, curiousity, conscientiousness, and the self-confidence that they can handle anything life throws at them.

These are the 3 key messages of the book, where the author back them up with scientific findings and illustrate them with plenty of real-life great examples. And this is how children succeed.