Do’s and Don’ts of Raising Smart/Successful Children (Pedcast)

Looking for ways to increase your children’s chances of success in life?  Look no more. 


The following is an archived pedcast, first published in April 2019. Feature image by Ludi of Pixabay


What can you do or not do to improve your children’s IQ and chances at life success? Recent college admission scandal demonstrated how desperate parents really are for their children to experience that second attribute, success; faking resumes, paying large amounts of money to  decision makers at colleges, paying to have SATS taken for their children. These parents must have known that this was all cheating and was wrong but they did it anyway. Why?  To make their children look smarter on their resume and move them closer to “success”, that’s why!  Turns out there are non-cheating ways to boost your children’s IQ and their ultimate chances at life success… and I am about to tell you how to achieve this the “natural way”.

Musical Intro

First a quick spin down science drive to review what we know about successful people and IQ

First, psychologists have determined that there is a strong correlation between measured IQ and income; the higher the measured IQ, the higher a person’s income is likely to be on average. According to the Harvard Business Review, a child having a high IQ predicts their adult success in income production when combined with good social skills and strong drive and determination.   Said another way, high ability combined with people skills and a strong work ethic is the formula for a child to have income success in the adult working world.

But what factors go into a child’s IQ? Are children with high IQ’s just lucky that they got high IQ genes from their parents or is there more to it than that? Psychologists and scientist have been pondering that questions for a very long time. It turns out that having high IQ genes is a great advantage but not the whole story. Environmental influences, the way a child is raised, has a strong influence on a child’s intelligence. How much influence you a… actually a lot; less than genes but a strong influence none the less.  What a child becomes, their success in life so to speak, seems to be the sum of his or her genes and the child’s environmental experiences. Classic nature versus nurture. How your child will ultimately fare in life depends on a complex mixture of literally thousands of factors each that can have either a positive or negative effect. For instance we know that good maternal prenatal nutrition, having an infancy that is secure and nurtured, establishing a very close trusting relationship with one’s mother, being breastfed early in life, and having an environment rich with interactive language are all factors that increase intelligence in a child. On the other hand, having exposure to prenatal toxins like alcohol, having one’s mother consume a poor diet, being born into a family with e(conomic and/or social stress, or being raised in a household lacking in rich language are all factors that impair a chid’s intelligence. Complicated right?  Since parents really only have control over the environmental factors that affect their children’s intelligence, let’s concentrate our attention and energies there.

Can You Make Your Children Smarter?

So the question that we are asking is, can you make your children smarter? To answer this question we need to consider both things that parents can do and not do that influence their children’s lot in life.



 First, things parents can do to increase their children’s IQ? While this is by no means an all inclusive list, it is a good starting point for parents to begin.

–Consuming fish that are rich in omega 3 fat sources regularly . Other foods that give children omega 3s include nuts, flax seeds and wild rice.  A diet rich in these foods is associated with higher IQ in children and thought to be causative, not simply an association.

–Doing everything possible to breast feed your children early in life, especially the first 6 months of life, also correlates with a boost in IQ and is thought to be causative.

–Maximizing sleep-REM sleep for your children by making adequate amount and quality of sleep a priority for your children.  The REM sleep has been shown to consolidate their memory and sharpens their minds.

–Making sure that your children get regular physical exercise. All that running, sweating, and screaming has been shown to improve their executive functioning. another way of saying that the exercise will improve your child’s judgment and impulse control.

–Reading to and talking to children is an absolutely fundamental way to improve your children’s vocabulary, imaginations, and ability to master critical thinking. The gold standard is to have them hear 2500 words per hour-minimum.  Sounds like a lot but that is actually pretty easy to do. The critical factor is not the actual language but the interactive nature of that language. Putting them in front of a TV or educational video isn’t nearly as good as their with you!

–Providing a safe place for the child to explore and learn. Play is your child’s basic way of learning and they can only do that effectively if they feel safe and secure. We have learned this from the ACE studies. Links to this are provided in my show notes.

–Teaching your children to persevere by praising their effort not their achievement, even when they fail at something. In other words, encourage and reward hard work and allow them to learn from failures. Failure is a great teacher. Don’w shield them from it, especially when they are young.



Now for things parents need to avoid that may lower their child’s IQ?


— By not allowing mom prenatally or your child after birth to consume a poor quality diet. Specifically, that’s a diet deficient in essential nutrients and high in processed unhealthy foods.

–By taking great care not to expose mom or baby to heavy metals like lead or mercury as well as other neurotoxins like insecticides/pesticides. Here’s where going organic and non-GMO with your purchases might really help, especially when your children are very young. By doing this you are avoiding their exposure to a lot of unnatural chemicals.

— By doing everything possible to not expose your child to an unhealthy emotional environment, so called high ACE household. Being raised in this kind of emotionally tumultuous household can have devastating longterm effects on a child potentially damaging their ability to learn.

–By not allowing your child to get sufficient and healthy sleep. In today’s world that is easily done by allowing your children to have a TV or other screens room in their room, by allowing them to falling asleep in front of TV anywhere in the house,  by overstimulating them near bedtime like so many video games do, or by not structuring their bedtime and enforcing a regular predictable bedtime bedtime.

–By not using praise properly. 

–By Not having a household devoid of books

–By failing to talk to your children alot, especially when they are under two years of age.

–By Failing to provide your children with enough physical activity


Summing it all up

Remember what those Harvard business experts are looking for in their employees. the traits that predict a superstar employee- High Ability (i.e.IQ) + good Social Skills+ a Strong Desire to Achieve (drive).  Life success needs all three of these traits but starting life with an agile brain ( high IQ) is a great place to start. As you just saw, there are definitely things you can do to maximize your children’s brains!  Are you providing your children with as much of the good stuff and avoiding the bad stuff as much as you can?  Go over those lists we just talked about (they are in the show notes along with lots of associated links) and dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Make sure you have as many of the bases covered as you can. A little course corrections when they are young can pay dividends for them for their entire lives.



If you are new to Portable Practical Pediatrics, consider taking a moment to subscribe on my website If you do, I will not only notify you by email of each new episode but I will send you what I call a deliverable… information and checklists of things that will help make you one of the best informed parents in the room, totally free . I promise to never give or use your email address for any marketing purposes. Your time is too valuable for that.  If you find the information and discussion you hear on PPP valuable, also consider sharing episodes with family and friends. I feel confident they will thank you.

This is Dr. Paul Smolen, Doc Smo, hoping all your little lima beans, become super keen. Until next time.