Experts have unlocked the secrets to a child's academic future: get them to sit up straight and pay attention. That's it. Nothing more. End of.
After decades of being beaten around the head by educational soothsayers telling us to cram our little ones' heads with premature maths and Mozart, child development experts say all we parents actually need to do is to get our offspring to stop fidgeting and pay attention.
Learning to concentrate on a task is more important than being drilled in maths and music at a young age, the researchers found.
Toddlers who are better at concentrating, taking directions and cracking on with a game even after hitting difficulties have a 50 per cent greater chance of getting a degree when older.
The two-decade-long study tracked 430 kids from pre-school to 21-years-old, monitoring academic and social development, behavioural skills and behaviour at home and in the classroom.
Parents were asked to watch how long the children would play with one particular toy while at home, while teachers were instructed to give the class a task and then monitor which toddlers gave up and which ones kept persevering until they had completed it.
Results of the study by Oregon State University were published in the online journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
The kids most likely to go through further education were those who, at an early age, persisted in tasks and paid attention in pre-school sessions, said researchers.
Expert Megan McClelland said: "There is a big push now to teach children early academic skills at the pre-school level.
Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn't maths or reading skills, but whether or not they were able to pay attention and finish tasks at age four.
"The earlier that educators and parents can intervene, the more likely a child can succeed academically.
"The important factor was being able to focus and persist. Someone can be brilliant, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can focus when they need to and finish a task or job.
"Academic ability carries you a long way, but these other skills are also important. Increasingly, we see that the ability to listen, pay attention, and complete important tasks is crucial for success later in life."
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