Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive

Course No. 9542
Professor Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D.
The College of William & Mary
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Course No. 9542
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn scientific principles to keep in mind when you're inundated with a flood of parenting advice and information.
  • numbers Explore research around parenting styles and how they can affect your child's behavior, development, and happiness.
  • numbers Discover the values and potential benefits of video games for your child.
  • numbers Learn why teenagers are risk-takers, and find out how to build an open, trusting relationship with your teen.

Course Overview

Raising children is one of the most rewarding and important, yet challenging, endeavors a person can undertake. To lament that babies are born without instruction manuals is a cliché, but it’s a sentiment rooted in the uncertainty many parents feel as they make day-to-day decisions they hope will help their children blossom into healthy, well-adjusted, intelligent adults.

That’s not to say that advice—solicited and otherwise—isn’t plentiful. There are literally thousands of books on the subject and a multitude of websites devoted to parenting. There are also numerous books and articles addressing specific findings from the science of child development. What’s been lacking, however, are sources of reliable advice that bring together the scientific research and its real-world applications.

Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive offers a unique compendium of scientific advice and insight for better parenting. In 24 highly engaging lectures, Professor Peter M. Vishton of The College of William & Mary presents research conducted by an array of cognitive scientists as he illuminates what their findings reveal about the things parents—as well as grandparents, teachers, daycare providers, coaches, and others who work with young people—can actively do to promote children’s long-term development right from birth. As an expert in the cognitive development of early childhood and a parent, he delivers a wealth of practical tips designed to help children reach their full potential intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially. And he supports it all with careful, systematic research culled from the latest scientific literature.

Unlike books filled with conflicting guidance or purely anecdotal advice from other parents, this course provides you with a trustworthy, evidence-based perspective to parenting children from their first week home through elementary school and beyond.

From the very first lecture, you’ll encounter enlightening information you’ll be eager to share with family and friends. For example, did you know that rewarding a child for doing nice things for others can actually be detrimental to social development? Or that learning a second language can enhance math skills? You’ll learn that the science of child development is endlessly fascinating—and sometimes surprisingly counterintuitive.

A Comprehensive Guide: From Tummy Time to Screen Time

One of the first things this course teaches you is how remarkably aware infants are and just how much parents can do early on to enhance their children’s cognitive development. You’ll hear of research suggesting that five-month-old babies are capable of basic addition and subtraction, and others showing that having relatively high-level “conversations” with your baby and providing a cognitively enriching environment can have an enormous impact on intellectual development. You’ll learn why your pediatrician recommends daily “tummy time,” even though your baby may not seem to appreciate it, and how playing with blocks can pay off in the future. You’ll even pick up some sign language to teach your infant to enhance communication.

In fact, Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive touches on topics regarding nearly every aspect and phase of childrearing. Among the abundance of valuable information you’ll explore are

  • the link between sleep and cognitive development;
  • techniques for introducing new foods to finicky eaters;
  • how to develop a parenting style that is both effective and nurturing;
  • the evidence in support of vaccines;
  • ways to help your child with homework;
  • how to encourage pro-social behaviors; and
  • strategies to ensure that kids maintain a healthy self-esteem through adolescence.

You’ll also learn the benefits of a Montessori approach to education and ideas for replicating that learning environment right in your own home, including specific tools and activities your child will enjoy.

Plus, this course addresses some of the classic “should I or shouldn’t I” questions every parent ponders:

  • Should I sleep-train my baby by letting her “cry it out”?
  • Should I let my infant, toddler, or child watch television—and if so, how much?
  • Should I allow my child to play video games?
  • Should I pressure my picky eater to finish her vegetables?
  • Should I spank my child when he misbehaves?

You’ll even get a clear answer to the question of whether you should permit your child to play football.

Foster Health and Achievement through Science

Every lecture gets right to the point, beginning with at least three scientifically supported tips, which the professor explores in detail through the remainder of the lecture. Along the way, he also discusses theories of child development and the psychology of human interaction; however, he keeps the focus on specific, implementable advice throughout.

Whether the tips revolve around academic achievement, social intelligence, or physical and psychological health, the lessons you learn will pay dividends in both your child’s interactions at home and his relationships with peers and teachers at school.

Professor Vishton never claims to have all the answers; however, he does offer strong recommendations where the evidence supports doing so. Mathematics is one area in which several specific recommendations can be offered, based on a wide array of clear-cut findings. Business and economics research has proven that high grades in math and continuing study of math are significantly correlated with the likelihood of obtaining employment in business—and a higher salary.

This course offers concrete tips for making sure your child gets excited about math and continues to push through to higher-level classes, such as

  • helping your young child develop “number sense”;
  • playing board games together using cards or dice; and
  • ensuring that your child masters fractions and ratios between the ages of 8 and 10.

Beyond detailing methods for giving children an early foundation in subjects such as math and reading, these lectures provide vast amounts of information for improving your child’s overall cognitive abilities. One lecture even offers tips for boosting IQ scores that—while not always representative of true potential—can have a huge impact on the path a child takes.

However, as the professor notes, this course is not about “supercharging” your kids. Rather, it takes a whole-child approach that acknowledges that building social and emotional skills is as central to happiness as anything else that happens during childhood.

It’s Never Too Late to Be a Better Parent

Whether your child is long past the tummy time stage or you’re about to welcome a new baby, you’ll get ideas for enhancing your effectiveness as a parent that can be put into practice immediately to benefit children of any age.

In addition to sharing the most intriguing published studies, Professor Vishton delivers insights from his own experience as a father, as well as his first-hand research, which has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development and the National Science Foundation. An exceptionally dynamic lecturer, he steeps the course in science yet offers advice that is friendly, practical, and thought-provoking.

Whether discussing strategies to modify behavior or ways to encourage children to exercise, he maintains one overarching piece of advice throughout Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive: Have fun with your kids and unlock the amazing potential of children to find their own way.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    Self-Control—From Tummy Time to Tae Kwon Do
    Start by considering physical activities that can contribute to mental development; for instance, the value of getting kids involved in activities that promote self-awareness and self-control such as tae kwon do or yoga. Learn principles of science that should be kept in mind when sifting through the flood of available advice and information about parenting. x
  • 2
    Seeing, Hearing, Thinking, Learning Infants
    Can infants do math? Is there a window of early brain development that—if missed—can doom a child to a life of mediocrity? Explore the wealth of evidence suggesting that even very young infants are seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling beings, and gain tips for creating enriching experiences for your baby. x
  • 3
    Sleep—Getting Enough “Vitamin S”
    Here, get tips for making sure your baby -- and you -- get all the sleep you need. Learn simple ways to comfort a newborn, methods for training your baby to self-soothe, and measure to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Discover sleep's relationship to cognitive development and the importance of a consistent bedtime. x
  • 4
    Healthy Eating Habits for Life
    How do you get your child to eat vegetables? Gain tips for dealing with finicky eaters, and encounter several studies that have revealed your body can tell you what it needs. Exposure to a nutritious food – even if your child doesn’t enjoy it now – increases his or her future desire for it. x
  • 5
    Baby Talk, Sign Language, and Speech
    Teaching your baby sign language can help her communicate long before she speaks her first word. Learn simple signs you can teach your baby, plus other tips for promoting language development, including why you should begin having “conversations” with your baby right from birth and reasons you should use “Motherese” when you do. x
  • 6
    Shaping Behavior—How Kids and Rats Differ
    As you turn to the science of molding the behaviors of children, discover why reward and punishment—while intuitive strategies—can produce less than optimal results. Learn what the research says on why hitting doesn’t work as a behavioral deterrent and produces major side-effects down the road. x
  • 7
    Which Style of Parenting Is Best?
    Over time, parents develop a style of interacting with their children that drives moment-to-moment decisions and the children’s overall development. Here, the professor presents research conducted on parenting styles and what it suggests about how your own style can affect your child’s behavior, social and cognitive development, and even long-term happiness. x
  • 8
    The Joy of Reading and the Place of Phonics
    Get evidence-based tips for teaching your child to read and develop a love of reading, including moving past phonics quickly and reading aloud to your children even after they’re capable of reading on their own. Consider whether to use pop-up picture books and how educational television can benefit children in the “prereading” phase. x
  • 9
    IQ Hazards and Boosting Intelligence
    Despite their numerous flaws, IQ tests can influence the trajectory of a child’s life. Discover why you should remain skeptical of such assessments while learning how you can give your child an early leg up so she achieves high scores. Also get ideas promoting learning and achievement regardless of test results. x
  • 10
    Enhancing Your Child’s Memory
    How is ability to remember several numbers in a row a good predictor of school success? Get an introduction to the principles of human memory function and tips for teaching kids how to make better use of the working memory capacity they naturally possess, including the use of rehearsal, visual imagery, and mnemonic devices. x
  • 11
    Parent as Teacher—Homework and Beyond
    Should you let your child struggle with his homework? Should you allow frequent breaks during assignments? Delve into four research-based tips for helping children successfully complete their homework while actually learning the material, including “scaffolding” for the content and creating an environment suited to studying. Parent as Teacher—Homework and Beyond x
  • 12
    Getting a Jump on Math—Without Math Anxiety
    If babies can do math-like reasoning at five months, why can math be such a challenge for kids a few years later? This lecture answers that question as it provides evidence-based tips for giving your child a head start in math so you can reduce—or even eliminate—the frustrations many kids experience. x
  • 13
    Advantages of a Second Language
    Studies have shown that children who learn a second language enjoy cognitive benefits like improved memory, creativity, and flexible problem-solving abilities. Should a child learn one language thoroughly before moving on to another? What ages and methods are best for introducing a second language? Discover the exciting research being done in this area. x
  • 14
    What TV and Video Can and Can’t Teach
    Which educational television show not only can help kids prepare for kindergarten but has been correlated with higher SAT and achievement scores down the line? Find out here as you learn how TV and other video viewing can enhance or harm children’s mental development and physical health at various ages. x
  • 15
    Values and Pitfalls of Video Games
    Can video games boost intelligence and creativity? Can they improve vision and attention? Could they be valuable tools for boosting mental development? In short, are video games good for your child? This lecture considers all sides of this highly active area of research and provides guidance for children’s gaming, in moderation, to be very useful. x
  • 16
    Promoting Persistence and Self-Esteem
    Children are born with tremendous optimism and an impressive ability to bounce back from failures. But this optimism typically drops throughout childhood and into the teen years. Grasp the developmental processes associated with these changes and learn ways parents can help kids stay positive, most notably by promoting a good attributional style. x
  • 17
    Encouraging Cooperation, Sharing, Empathy
    Research suggests children are capable of engaging in helping, sharing, and cooperating at far younger ages than was previously thought. Find out what you can do to promote these pro-social behaviors and a sense of empathy, including managing your temper and resisting the temptation to reward your children for doing nice things for others. x
  • 18
    Peer Conflicts and Social Development
    Most parents understand the importance of modeling positive behaviors, but not many realize social competence should be explicitly taught. See how conflict management skills can help kids avoid being bullied, and consider several other topics—from regulating strong emotions to respecting differences in others—that you can teach for your child’s social and academic benefit. x
  • 19
    Maria Montessori at Home for Young Children
    In a Montessori classroom, toddlers are encouraged to follow their natural learning tendencies by being active explorers. They’re also given some responsibility for maintaining an orderly space. Here, the professor unpacks the evidence indicating this approach can boost mental and physical development; then, he demonstrates how parents can use Montessori methods at home. x
  • 20
    Schooling and the Montessori Approach
    See how the principles and tools of Maria Montessori can be adapted for children age 10 and older. Explore why independent learning that “follows the child” and focuses on a comprehension of the material might be a superior alternative to traditional educational models and letter grades. x
  • 21
    Physical Development and Education
    While physical education is often given low priority, it is a critically important aspect of development and can even boost brainpower. Learn how to foster your children’s physical development, from reducing sedentary activities to getting them involved in team sports. Hear alarming information on the dangers of sports that involve repetitive impacts to the head. x
  • 22
    The Adolescent Brain
    Teenagers are notorious risk takers. Understand why the adolescent brain leads to this behavior and learn ways to mitigate the hazards. Discover the four main goals of adolescents—which include both fitting in and standing out—plus strategies for maintaining a trusting, open relationship that will make your teen more likely to disclose important concerns. x
  • 23
    Becoming a Parent-Scientist
    By this point in the course, you’ve learned to be a good consumer of science. Here, you’re encouraged to be a producer of science. Consider research you can conduct with your own family and areas where data collection can determine whether an activity is leading to a desired outcome, such as improved grades or attitude. x
  • 24
    The Great Values of an Unhurried Childhood
    Consider why “encouraging” development shouldn’t turn into “hurrying” development. See why it’s wise to let children progress at their own pace and discover the things that interest them, in addition to providing ample time for an activity surprisingly crucial for full development: unstructured play. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 224-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Tips for parents
  • Suggested readings

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Your professor

Peter M. Vishton

About Your Professor

Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D.
The College of William & Mary
Dr. Peter M. Vishton is Associate Professor of Psychology at The College of William & Mary. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Cornell University. Before joining the faculty of William & Mary, he taught at Northwestern University and served as the program director for developmental and learning sciences at the National Science Foundation. A consulting editor for the journal Child Development,...
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Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 36.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course This is what a good comprehensive course looks like. We absolutely loved the rational and scientific approach to raising kids with many good references. Thanks.
Date published: 2020-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topics. I bought this a few years ago for my daughter who was having a baby. But I don't think she ever listened to it. I have recently picked it up and listened to it myself. Fascinating stuff. I am enjoying the lectures and happy to say that as a family (so far) we have been doing all the right things with our children. I have stopped saying to my grandchildren how smart they are. Great tips!
Date published: 2020-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, research-based content I liked this course so much that I bought copies for my children to help with the rearing of my grandchildren. I have a PhD in education, and I was pleased to see a lot of the same current research I frequently quote being referenced in the videos. Good advice, well-presented and thoroughly documented.
Date published: 2018-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great contents & more practical advice is expected As a father of a now 2-year old daughter, I went through this course on and off for several months. I found the structure and topics of this course excellent, which cover most aspects that I can think of. The course also brought good insights to what parents typically think about. That being said, I feel the following can be improved for this course (at least in my view): 1. Dr. Vishton could dedicate more in lectures to advice by cutting down the explanation of evidence part. In some lectures the evidence part was discussed in great details however upon knowing what's important the viewers didn't get detailed action plans. An example is lecture 9 on IQ. Dr. Vishton spent much effort debating the current IQ system, and towards end of lecture he offered several pieces of advice of how to prepare kids for the IQ system however didn't offer much insights as to why. 2. I wish there were dedicated lectures on the importance of education on art and music. There are dedicated ones for 2nd language, math, etc. but music and art are seen as important for children's cognitive developments. Overall I feel the course is well structured and Dr. Vishton presented a lot of studies to illustrate his points so it stays on track with the title.
Date published: 2018-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Also great for raising grandkid As a frequent babysitter, it is great to learn and relearn about raising chidren.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of great ideas and strategies for raising kid Another great course from The Great Courses. I wish I had consumed this when I was raising my kids. They are now raising my grandkids. There are lots of great ideas and strategies for raising happy and healtly kids. I can't wait to share the course with my kids.
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Educational - I Hope I actually bought this for my brother-in-law who is expecting their first child this summer. It is a X-Mas present so I have not seen it. I know when I had my first child I wished that they came with instructions and so I hope this helps. Someone asked me why not get it for the sister-in-law and I said "You can't tell a new mother anything about babies. They seem to come per-programed. It's the fathers who need help." I have never been disappointed in Courses from this Company and therefore expect the best and based on previous reviews, I trust this is another winner.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Cycle in Retrospect This well organized presentation by Professor Vishton gives the full range of cause and effect for the little ones in our charge as well as an intimate recall of the child within each of us. The series paints a portrait of human child development in terms we can relate to as we look back to our own childhood experience and to those loved ones who allow a second perspective of the common core, the child within. It is also a parenting primer that contains useful tips and suggested resources.
Date published: 2017-11-18
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