Why a Child’s Character May Determine Their Success

Paul Tough is the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character; He has written extensively about education, child development, poverty, and politics, including cover stories in the New York Times Magazine on character education, the achievement gap, and the Harlem Children’s Zone

In this interview, Paul talks about why a child’s non-cognitive skills and character are important when determining a child’s success, how where someone grows up impacts their success rate, and more.

What made you want to write this book and what do you want children (and their parents) to get out of it?

In 2008, I published my first book, “Whatever It Takes,” about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone. I spent five years reporting that book, but when I got to the end of that process, I realized I still had some big questions about what happens in childhood – not just in low-income neighborhoods like Harlem, but in affluent communities as well. I wanted to know why some kids succeed and some don’t; what experiences and circumstances are most likely to direct children toward good or bad outcomes.

At the same time, my wife and I had our first child, which meant that suddenly these questions had a personal dimension for me as well – I wanted to know what I could do as a parent to steer my son toward a happier and more fulfilling life. […]

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