Your Child's Mind, System by System

Attention Control System: Keeping the brain alert, focused, and productive

  • Kids thrive on doing what works best for them. So, if your son concentrates well when playing a video game or if your daughter likes to study with loud music, welcoming such experiences -- in moderation -- may be good for their mental and intellectual health.
  • Celebrate your child's assets -- her remarkable creativity, his rugged individualism. Children's behavior often improves dramatically when adults stop making acts like
    Did you know?
    A child’s brain grows most rapidly during the first year of life. So what can parents do to encourage brainy babies? The answer will surprise you.
    fidgeting and daydreaming seem criminal.

Memory System: Remembering to learn and learning to remember

  • Urge your child to master the tricks of remembering and apply them to his schoolwork. Get him into the habit of visualizing information and making plenty of lists.

  • Long-term filing works best right before sleep. To foster optimal memory, encourage your child to call her best friend before she studies for her test -- then go directly to bed.

Language System: Winning with words, both written and spoken

  • Initiate discussions of contemporary issues and abstract ideas. Invite your child to elaborate, as long as she avoids conversational deterrents like "stuff" and "yeah."

  • Find ways to make language fun. Challenge your son to a Scrabble game or a crossword puzzle race. Give your daughter a diary -- with the promise never to read it.

Spatial and Sequential Ordering Systems: Making Arrangements

  • Help your child get her workspace organized, without preaching. Advise her to talk through where she put key items, whispering their location under her breath repeatedly.

  • To get your child up to speed with time management, put him in charge of setting itineraries and timelines for errands and vacations.

Motor System: Mind Over Muscle

  • If your child has trouble with running, balancing, and balls in general, have him pick just one sport and focus all his efforts on it. Allow him the option of total athletic avoidance.

  • Computers put attractive text and artwork in the hands of all kids. If your child struggles with writing and drawing, stress computer-skill-building -- and convince her teacher.

Higher Thinking System: Exploring the mind's conceptual, critical, and creative peaks

  • Heed your child's intuition for revealing implications for her ultimate career pathway. Your "natural-born" cake-baker may be an embryonic cordon bleu chef.

  • Make a commitment to tapping higher thinking in fun ways. For instance, seize watching a football game to prompt your child to think about how the rules work, to critically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team, and to problem-solve.

Social Thinking System: Relating to relating

  • Offer your child social tutorial support. Give her honest advice on nurturing her relationships with teachers and peers.

  • If your child craves and pleads to march to his own drummer, support and celebrate his efforts. A child willing to paddle against the tides of social conformity can grow up to become a brilliant entrepreneur or a courageous force in reform.