How Children Succeed Book Summary By Paul Tough

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In "How Children Succeed", the authors provide an insightful and informative look into the hidden factors that can shape a child's future success.

Using scientific studies and data from real schools, they explore why certain people are able to find success while others struggle to succeed, both in school and later in life.

The book details how emotional intelligence, social skills, character traits such as grit and resilience, and various other variables affect a child's performance all the way through adulthood.

It seeks to uncover not just what makes children successful but how parents and educators can support them in finding success on their own terms.

How Children Succeed Book

Book Name: How Children Succeed (Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character)

Author(s): Paul Tough

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Categories: Education

Author Bio

Paul Tough is a renowned Canadian-American author, whose work focuses on the topics of education and child resilience.

His previous books include Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America, which depict his extensive research on educational reforms as well as highlighting the stories of families based in Harlem.

In particular, his latest publication How Children Succeed offers an intimate understanding of issues surrounding children upbringing, such as issues regarding parenting, opportunity and self-worth.

Through this book, readers will gain insight into Paul's ultimate goal to help build strength and resilience within children so that they may reach their full potential.

Helping Your Child Succeed: The Science Behind Early Life Success

Life Success

Parents want the best for their children, and often try to provide them with different kinds of “cognitive stimulation” in hopes that it will make them successful.

While these can be beneficial, there are many other aspects of a child’s upbringing and skillset that are just as important for success in life.

In How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, parents can learn how to help their children succeed even when faced with a challenging environment or traumatic childhood.

He outlines how important qualities like perseverance and conscientiousness can be more beneficial than providing all the latest toys and educational materials.

Knowing how to manage failure is also key to helping children navigate their way through life.

With such an important message, How Children Succeed provides parents with understanding on how they can equip their child with the skills necessary to lead a successful life.

The Impact Of Childhood Trauma On Adulthood: Long-Lasting Effects Backed By Research

It is a sad reality that childhood trauma often has a lasting negative impact.

This means that not only can traumatic experiences during childhood cause behavioral problems, it can also lead to health issues that persist into adulthood.

Trauma manifests in many different forms from physical and sexual abuse to emotional neglect and delinquency.

The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) questionnaire is used to measure the intensity of someone’s childhood trauma.

The higher the score, the more traumatizing the experience was.

Studies have found that those with high ACE scores struggle with concentration, holding on to disappointments, and even bullying in school.

And sadly, their struggles don’t end there; they are likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking and drugs as adults, as well as suffer from physical health impairments such as ischemic heart disease and various other chronic disorders.

All too often we hear stories of how children suffer through childhood trauma without any real resolution or support.

We must make sure these stories don’t go untold and provide help before things reach an irreversible point – because what happens in the present affects the future immensely.

Children Are Especially Vulnerable To Stress As It Diminishes Their Ability To Exercise Self-Control

Children are especially vulnerable to stress because their nervous systems cannot always handle prolonged exposure to it.

The physiological response to stress is governed by the HPA axis, a trio of structures in the brain that releases hormones into the bloodstream in times of pressure.

While this adaptation provided an effective strategy for escaping danger in antiquity, it isn’t equipped to respond adequately to modern day stressors such as financial hardship or interpersonal conflict.

Too much exposure to sustained stress can damage both the body and mind – particularly during childhood when major life decisions may be impacted.

Factors such as lack of impulse control due to a weakened prefrontal cortex can drive young people towards risky behaviors like unprotected sex, substance use, poor academic performance or reckless driving.

All of these can lead to potentially permanent consequences down the line, from incarceration to spreading life-threatening diseases.

Therefore, children need all the support they can get when it comes to managing excessive stress and its effects on their wellbeing.

Nurturing Parenting Is The Key To Reducing Stress And Helping Children Succeed

Nurturing Parenting

Parents play a critical role in determining the effects of stress on their children.

Though it’s not always possible to protect young ones from every stressful situation, attentive and nurturing parenting can lessen its impact.

Studies have indicated that such practices can almost completely offset physical reactions to stress in kids.

The foundation of this kind of parenting is a secure attachment between parents and their children.

This bond establishes a “safe base” for the child, fostering self-reliance and intrepidness as they discover their surroundings.

On top of these benefits, securely attached kids tend to perform better in school and are generally more socially competent compared to those with other forms of attachment.

For those unable to provide optimal care without guidance, interventions and/or child–parent psychotherapy have proven successful in helping at-risk parents build strong ties with their offspring, mitigating hazards brought by traumatic experiences.

To sum it up, attentive and nurturing parenting gives your child the gift of security along with all its advantages — including reducing the harmful effects of stressors on your little one’s wellbeing.

Parents Should Focus On Developing Their Children’S Non-Cognitive Skills As Well As Cognitive Ones To Help Ensure Future Success

Recent studies have shown that a child’s success in life isn’t always predicated on mere intelligence, but rather on the acquisition of non-cognitive skills.

This includes traits such as optimism, perseverance, curiosity and self-discipline that are often associated with one’s “character,” and they appear to be even more important than IQ levels when it comes to future success.

For example, a study indicated that high school graduates ended up outperforming dropouts due to their greater level of perseverance.

Another study at a prestigious preschool showed that although participants displayed higher initial IQs, the advantages pretty much dissipated within a few years – except for the skills related to character which remained even into their 40s.

It is thus clear that there’s more to a child’s success in life than mere intelligence.

While cognitive skills may give children an edge initially, developing qualities like optimism, conscientiousness and resilience (all components of character) will enable them to prevail over obstacles even further down the road.

The Power Of Non-Cognitive Skills: Perseverance, Conscientiousness And Self-Discipline Are Crucial For Future Success

If you want to be successful in life, pay close attention to the lessons taught by the iconic marshmallow study discussed in Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed.

This irreverent study encouraged children to resist their most immediate desire of eating one marshmallow for fifteen minutes in exchange for two tasty treats.

The results of this experiment showed that those who had the self-discipline not to eat the marshmallow went on to become significantly more successful than their peers with lower degrees of self-restraint.

The children who waited had higher SAT scores, fewer health problems, financial woes and legal issues compared to the other group.

This candid investigation highlights how developing qualities such as perseverance, conscientiousness and self-discipline can substantially impact success rates later in life.

It’s a valuable lesson worth remembering: always try your best and don’t eat that marshmallow!

Why Developing Character Strengths Lead To Higher Educational Success For Students

Success For Students

It is commonly assumed that character traits like honesty, respect, optimism and resilience are intrinsic qualities that cannot be taught.

However, recent findings have challenged this assumption by showing that character can indeed be taught.

This was shown through the KIPP academy – an New York middle school for low-income families – who employed a strategy of message saturation in order to give students the practical benefits of seven character strengths specifically tailored for an educational setting.

By providing frequent messages and reinforcement of these character traits such as “infinite character”, “I actively participate” and “Got self control?” through classroom decorations, posters around school hallways and having students wear relevant slogans on their sweatshirts, KIPP was able to help students gain practical skills in self-regulation, zest and more.

After implementing this approach, graduation rates doubled!

This example clearly shows that it is possible to foster character building in children through techniques such as message saturation.

The Wealthy Aren’T Immune To Parenting Issues – Performance Pressure And Overprotection Can Lead To Negative Consequences In Children Of Affluent Families

It is not only children from disadvantaged families that can be negatively impacted by poor parenting.

Even children from affluent backgrounds can suffer if their parents are too overprotective and insist on high achievement from them, while being emotionally distant.

This kind of parenting often leads to feelings of shame and hopelessness in children, which can in turn lead to higher chances of drug or alcohol abuse and depression.

Overprotection also creates a lack of resilience, leaving many young people unable to cope with difficulties when they reach adulthood.

They may choose less risky career paths out of fear of failure, meaning they avoid risks which could bring greater opportunities down the line.

To sum up, it is not just the disadvantaged who face harsh consequences due to parental choices; even those at an advantage may find themselves suffering if the environment created for them is not conducive towards future success.

Learning From Failure: How Mistakes At Is 318 Are Improving Character Development


Learning to deal with our mistakes is an important part of character development.

To illustrate this point, we can look at the Intermediate School 318 in New York.

This public school was renowned for its success in chess, and they achieved this by putting a focus on understanding the importance of failure.

Elizabeth Spiegel ran the chess program at IS 313 and she helped her students understand how their mistakes can help them improve.

She taught them that “losing is something you do, not something you are”, helping students see their mistakes as valuable assets rather than overwhelming failures.

Professor Martin Seligman also looked into this area of study and found that it was linked to optimism when looking at mistakes.

He found that pessimists tend to believe their failures to be personal, permanent and pervasive whereas optimists believed that they were impersonal, specific and short-term – two very different approaches which can both be learnt!

Character building programs like Elizabeth Spiegel’s at IS 216 are a perfect example of how important it is to try and forgive our mistakes so that we can continue moving towards our goals without letting them pull us back down – learning to deal with one’s mistakes is therefore essential for character development!

Wrap Up

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough is a great read for parents looking to help their children become successful.

It delivers a key message that attentive and caring parenting can make all the difference in cultivating character strengths like grit, optimism, and self-discipline within their children.

The book also highlights strategies for helping children confront mistakes, learn from them, and try again.

As a final summary of the book’s main messages, drawing on mistakes can be extremely powerful as it allows us to reframe short-term failures into long-term successes.

It’s important to not only teach this mindset to our own children but to ourselves as well – if we want to raise success stories it starts with our own thought process first!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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