“To raise successful kids, focus on exploration and EQ – not IQ“
Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua, interview conducted by Victoria Ang-Nolasco, MD
All parents want their toddlers to grow up and do amazing things with their lives. But how do we help our kids achieve success?
- enrolling our children in the most prestigious preschools at an early age?
- hiring the best extra-curricular tutors for enrichment classes?
- making kids watch hours of educational DVDs?
I was fortunate to have the chance to interview Dr. Queena Lee-Chua, award-winning psychologist, university professor, and bestselling author about this. Her answer is clear – it’s NOT about doing any of these things.
“During the toddler stage, don’t focus on whether or not the child can already read or do math. Developmentally, these are not even appropriate,” Dr. Lee-Chua cautions.
“Research after research from scientists around the world has shown that the best thing we can do for our toddlers is to let them use their five senses, which are seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. The toddler age is an age of exploration, so we should allow them to do so.”
So here’s what she recommends parents do to set up their child for success.
Expose them to the world – safely.
“Allow them to toddle around the house, to fall, to put things in their mouths. Of course, this should be under your watchful eye,” Dr. Lee-Chua explains. Through exploration, your child gets to see how things work. He also discovers how things are done.
Let them help with adult tasks.
“Within reasonable safety bounds, let your child join you in the kitchen to help you cook or bake.” A child who is used to doing chores goes on to collaborate well with others. The child learns empathy because they know firsthand what struggling looks like and is able to do tasks independently.
Don’t freak out if they make a mess.
“That’s the best way they can learn, explore, and grow.” Messes mean the child is enjoying themselves while developing their senses and learning about the things around them.
Set reasonable limits to their autonomy.
“When children do wrong, as long as safety is not compromised, do not shelter them from the consequences of their actions. Spoiling children may lead to a sense of entitlement and does not do them good in the long run.”
Setting reasonable limits can prevent future behavior (or stop a current behavior) that may be harmful to the child or another person.
Setting reasonable limits, while allowing age-appropriate decisions, is an important part of raising resilient kids. To learn more, read our guide on teaching resilience in early childhood.
Teach your child through play.
“Evolutionarily, two-year-olds are not equipped to spend hours sitting in front of a tablet or a worksheet. Instead, find out what they like. Is it dinosaurs? Something else? Use these to introduce concepts like counting and talking.”
Play is an essential part of child development. It builds imagination and gives kids a sense of adventure. Through play, kids learn essential skills such as problem-solving, working with others, and sharing. It even helps them develop the ability to concentrate.
Don’t talk down to your kids.
“Talk to them normally, like you would an adult.” This boosts language skills, as well as cognitive development.
When children are allowed to explore, fail and rise again, and learn at their own pace, you nurture their well-being and allow them to realize their potential.