Bedtime stories for kids – can good parenting rituals make your kids smarter?

All previous research has suggested that certain ‘good parenting’ practices like reading a bedtime story to your child or having a meal together at a table increases a child’s IQ scores later on in life.

However, a recent study by Florida University has given scientists and parents a bit of grit to chew on.

In the controversial study entitled “A closer look at the role of parenting-related influences on verbal intelligence over the life course: Results from an adoption-based research design (Intelligence, 2014; 46: 179 DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2014.06.002) the participants studied were all adopted children who had no genetic link to the parents who raised them.

Good parenting practices appeared to make no difference on the children’s long-term IQ scores and Beaver, the lead researcher believes that this data suggests that children inherit their intelligence genetically and not socially as thought.

In previous research, it looks as though parenting is having an effect on child intelligence, but in reality the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children,” Beaver said.

In other words, parents with higher IQ scores are more likely to put their children to bed, read them bedtime stories and have evening meals together. These actions are signs of good parenting and will assist with bonding and improved social skills… however they will not make them smarter as measured by an IQ test.

“The way you parent a child is not going to have a detectable effect on their IQ as long as that parenting is within normal bounds,” said Beaver.

The good news is that most parents are raising their children (whether biological or adopted) with the ultimate goal of being a good citizen – someone contributing to the world over a lifetime rather than merely achieving a superior score on an IQ test.

Now don’t we all wish there was a standardised test to measure that?

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Should School Times Start Later?

The Industrial revolution changed not only when we work (earlier start, longer shifts) but also when we are required to wake up.

Human beings are programmed to follow the sun to bed and wake as the sky lightens. However, for most families, industrialization has meant waking long before sunrise to commute to work.

This shift threw our kids sleep under the bus too. Parents had to get to work earlier, so kids had to get to school earlier too. School used to begin around 9am but has started to shift earlier and earlier over the last 100 years.

Waking up earlier has led to many children and their parents not getting the sleep they require. It is a common phenomenon for young children to be woken between 4am and 5am in order for the family to be where they need to be by 7.30am.

In South Africa, this sleep crisis is felt more severely due to:

  • Our unreliable public transport system
  • The large distances between where we live and where we work
  • Our closest, local schools may not provide optimal education for our children
  • The high rates of unemployment leave many employees fearing that they could lose their job if they ask for a later start time to drop their children off at school

These are real logistical issues, but the question must be asked: Should school start times be set to fit around parents schedules or what the child needs to learn?

Our goal as a society should be to get kids to school ready to learn, not sleep deprived.

What time does your child start school and would you prefer them to start later?

We would love to hear from you.


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