Do Happy Kids Really Become More Successful Than the Smart Ones? -

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Do Happy Kids Really Become More Successful Than the Smart Ones?

Does it pay to be smart? It’s the million-dollar question parents, teachers, and even students ask. The answer is yes, according to the longest-running study on child geniuses.

Talent Begins Early

The research is called Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY)1. The name itself is a misnomer since the team also worked with kids who had shown verbal and spatial reasoning.

The researchers came from Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt University. The idea stemmed from the fact that the children (back in the 1970s) will be the leaders in the twenty-first century. They worked on five different cohorts and followed their development and careers in different ages. The results of their follow-up revealed astonishing results.

  1. They saw a correlation between the number of patents and peer-reviewed publications and children who scored high in SATs and performed well in spatial ability.
  2. Children who skipped grades had a 60 percent likelihood of earning master’s degrees. They were also more likely to secure patents.
  3. Children who placed among the top 1 percent tend to be scientists and academicians. Moreover, they became Fortune 500 CEOs and held distinguished positions in society as senators and billionaires.

To give more credence to the study, some of the participants included Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google, and Mark Zuckerberg, who owns Facebook.

It Takes More Than Being Smart to Succeed

It’s possible for some parents to think their children are average. The kids may also think they don’t possess high IQs as most geniuses. Does that mean they can no longer succeed in life? The answer is no, and the study itself provides the clue.

The researchers pointed out two very important things: One, people don’t get smart by deliberate practice. It begins very early in life. Two, one of the best ways for intelligent kids to succeed is to receive the right kind of nurturing.

The team went on to share some tips, the first of which is letting children have diverse experiences. Some ideas may include sports, interactive play, outdoor fun, and arts and crafts.

How can these raise successful children? Take, for example, interactive play or sports. These activities are essential since they help develop the children’s social skills. In a US study involving 700 participants, those who had good socialization during kindergarten were more likely to obtain a full-time job when they reached 25 years old. They also had college degrees. On the other hand, those with limited social skills had a higher chance of developing alcohol addiction and getting arrested.

It could be because socialization teaches the kids how to be mindful and respectful of others. They learned how to help without prompting, and they are more in tune with the emotional needs of their peers.

Diverse learning experiences also provide them with one thing: grit. A person with grit has a strong sense of character. The child is not only confident – he is resilient and can thrive in the midst of adversity and failure.

The different experiences offer the outlet the smart children need. They give them the ability to explore, be curious, get creative, and ask questions. These behaviors have always been the backbones of all popular inventors and scientists in the world.

The Connection between Being Smart and Being Happy

Parents, teachers, and children should realize that smartness can only get one far. In the study, the children’s intelligence allowed them to have one foot through the door of success. What put them in such place was the nurturing they received from the people around them. Parents and schools took the risks of letting the kids skip grades. They gave the children the access to the materials they needed to improve their learning.

The children received an excellent emotional support. They were showered with praise and encouragement. They had wider experiences, which fueled their creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity.

The study didn’t touch on how all these make the children successful, but the idea is clear: these behaviors develop happier, healthier children. The level of satisfaction and happiness will train them to explore and learn more. They motivate the children to be more open to new experiences and challenges. They become more relentless in their pursuits, knowing they have nurturing people around them.

In the end, it’s not a matter of choosing one over the other. In fact, kids benefit from being both happy and smart.


Benbow, C. P., Lubinski, D. (2006) Study of mathematically precocious youth after 35 years: uncovering antecedents for the development of math-science expertise. Vanderbilt University. Retrieved from:


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