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Common sense a prerequisite for brilliance

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


Do high standardized test scores assure success?

Many highly-accomplished people had far from perfect scores on the SAT test. Some struggled to get through college and others dropped out. With these results, there must be more to success than academic brilliance.

Granted, technological advances have made academic knowledge, especially in math and the sciences, more important. However, common sense is just as vital as it was fifty years ago. Sadly, many parents have become so focused on academic knowledge and fame that common sense has fallen by the wayside.

Common sense is something most of us understand intuitively, but is difficult to define. It is a combination of wisdom and self-discipline.

According to Wordnik wisdom is, “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Wisdom is not something that can be found in a textbook, taught in a classroom, or downloaded from the Internet. It is not tested through standardized tests like the SAT, MCAT, or GRE. Instead it is something that comes with exposure and experience.

The same dictionary defines self-discipline as, “Training and control of one’s conduct.” Self-discipline is generally modeled and taught at home through structure, responsibility, consequences, and praise.

Before the age of helicopter parents, most kids developed common sense as part of everyday life. Children were given considerable responsibility. Parents set expectations and there were consequences for poor choices. Only the winners received trophies. Through the school of hard knocks kids gradually learned how to present ideas, communicate with others, and alert people of delays. They came to understand the importance of punctuality and how to diplomatically address problems.

Now many parents are so worried about the “perfect” D1 sports program, landing a lead movie role, etc. that they do too much of their kids. It is often better to set general extra-curricular involvement requirements and establish minimum effort expectations rather than micromanage.

Finally, it is important for children to take responsibility for their actions. If a child is going to be late, he/she should notify the adult in charge. When a child damages property, he/she needs to earn money for the repair. And when a child performs poorly on a test, he/she needs to get a poor grade rather than have his/her parent negotiate with the principal.

Stepping out of the micromanagement role is challenging. However, it is easier once we realize our children need an environment that fosters common sense to become truly brilliant.

Top 10 things middle school students need to thrive, and how parents can help – Phyllis L. Fagell

“There is no manual to develop “soft” skills like perseverance and resilience. Just as I did, most kids learn through trial and error. As parents, our quest to protect our children can be at odds with their personal growth. It can feel counter-intuitive, but we mainly need to take a step back. I have come to believe that certain social emotional skills are particularly useful as kids navigate middle school and beyond. Here are my top 10 skills, and ways parents can help without getting in the way.”(more)

The Best New Year’s Resolution Is To Fail

Forbes – Frances Bridges

“Though they are not glorified like their successes, every extraordinarily successful person has failed horribly, usually more than once, in their professional career. In many ways it defined them…Angela Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology of University of Pennsylvania concluded in her research that academic success has more to do with grit and motivation than being born right. In her TED Talk, she discussed how her research showed that students/kids with the most grit and motivation usually are not the ones with the most talent…So this new year, I wish you a lot of failure and the perseverance to fight it, because failure is merely a step toward success.”(more)

The anatomy of procrastination – and how pupils can beat it

The Guardian – Judy Willis

“Procrastination is more instinctive than you might imagine. The art of avoidance comes from our lower mammalian brain, which is equipped for survival. It’s adapted to focus on what we need immediately, making it harder to focus on attention-demanding, longer-term tasks. For schoolchildren, getting the brain to engage in tasks that are not recognised as valuable survival goals or potential sources of pleasure is even harder. It’s not until our 20s that we develop the mature neural networks that override the lower brain’s reactive responses. This means that young people may need help resisting distractions to achieve their goals. Here are some ways you can assist your students in breaking through the roadblocks of procrastination.”(more)

Does self-discipline stifle creativity?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


Employers want creative workers who have a strong understanding of basic subjects (math, science, and language arts) and a sound work ethic.


The creativity requirement has some parents worried. Until recently, originality was only required for art related jobs. In addition, many moms and dads have the perception that creativity comes from moments of unsolicited inspiration. If this is the way innovative thought happens, most kids would are not able to meet the requirement. There is also worry that self-discipline (a sound work ethic) and creativity are incompatible.


In the Information Age creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression. It is essential for most disciplines including science, math and writing. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers. This means they are generally better able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change.


Creativity is not an inborn talent. It is a skill that can be taught.


In addition, creativity and self-discipline are linked. Few creations and innovations happen without effort. It takes a lot of work and time to prove a concept, create a new product, compose an award winning song, etc.


This means parents can and need to teach their kids how to be creative and self-disciplined.


To become creative thinkers, children need less canned entertainment (video games, movies, etc.) and more bits and pieces that can be pieced together to make things. Rocks, cardboard boxes, sand, sticks, string, glue, coffee cans, and fabric are good choices. With only these basic building blocks, kids have to use their imaginations to play and invent.


When the creations start, parents should praise originality, function, and beauty rather than comparing a child’s creations to objects that already exist. This type of praise gives children permission to explore new possibilities and deviate from the norm.


At the same time parents begin teaching their children how to think creatively they should begin instructing them on self-discipline. There are many opportunities to coach children on follow through and perseverence. Sometimes it means working every night after soccer practice to learn the skills necessary to earn a starting position. Other times it is finishing a math problem even though it takes two hours to complete. Or perhaps it is completing the mowing job before playing with friends.


Once a child has learned to think creatively and is self-disciplined, he/she should have the skills to succeed in the business world and to lead an interesting, rewarding life.