If you’ve never bought a Baby Einstein tape or fretted about your kid’s SAT scores, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character is the book for you (it would also be a wonderful read for Baby Einstein tape purchasers, but I’m afraid it would not be enough to change their minds!) By the author of Whatever It Takes, the inspiring story of the Harlem’s Children’s Zone, this book visits schools, medical clinics, and university research programs in search of what really makes a difference in children’s lives. The good news (for us lazy parents) is that it does not take much. Benign neglect is pretty successful, actually, as long as it comes with our critical availability in times of crisis, not to help or resolve the crisis, but rather to comfort and encourage the child to do so.
The other piece of good news is that even children with a very tough past can succeed if we, parents or not, can help them acquire self-control, curiosity, and the very uncool quality of conscientiousness (butt in seat, I would call it). The problem, of course, is that society and schools are not particularly well-equipped to deliver this kind of assistance at this point — but we can change them, right?