Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Peak Performance for Smart Kids-Strategies and Tips for Ensuring School Success is a practical and well written guidebook. Author Maureen Neihart is an experienced child psychologist who has worked extensively with gifted youth and their families. She is known internationally as a leader in the field of talent development.
Chapter one opens the book with, “What Do Coaches, Athletes, and Performing Artists Know that We Don't?” Neihart states, “ There is a level of achievement at which further talent development takes more than ability and hard work. It requires psychological preparedness-mental and emotional skills that drive performance.” This is an important point, and perhaps the most salient of the book. What is it that distinguishes the highly intelligent kids who win awards from those who merely do well in school? Maybe not as much as you think. Niehart identifies seven mental competencies that drive performance. She stresses that these are skills that can be acquired through direct instruction and practice.
Chapter two covers stress and anxiety. Stress isn't all bad, the author points out, though too much can be psychologically crippling. Other chapters have titles such as, “ Out of the Comfort Zone: Moving Your Child to their Edge of Competence” and “ Reconciling the Need to Belong with the Need to Achieve.” She also notes how sleep and diet are important influences on energy and mood. There are nine chapters in all, and each offers valuable insight and tips.
Occasional sidebars contain helpful vignettes about people who have overcome various obstacles to success. Featured individuals include an Olympic diver and two Davidson Fellows. The emphasis here is on assisting children to make the most of their potential, and not “pushing” for academic success at the cost of all else. This book is not about creating superkids- it is rather about finding the appropriate challenge level for your particular child. The author points out what kids do not learn when they are allowed to coast. They miss the opportunity to learn study skills, time management, and how to deal with setbacks and disappointments. I know quite a few adults who could benefit from a lesson on goal setting or perseverance, and I am looking forward to practicing these strategies right alongside my children!
I am happy to recommend Peak Performance for Smart Kids. The book offers information in a clear, accessible manner and the tips offered are relatively easy to practice and incorporate into regular use.