education | December 19, 2012

Paul Tough: Stress Can Be Toxic—And Parents Are The Antidote [VIDEO]

The world can be a very stressful place, especially for a child. As education speaker Paul Tough explains, children who have strong connections with their parents at a young age learn to deal with stress better than those who don't. "When children are able to form a close, attached, nurturing, bond with a parent or another caregiver," he says in a recent talk, "it acts as a kind of buffer, a kind of protection against even the worst kinds of toxic stress."

Tough, author of the breakthrough book How Children Succeed, is an expert on the effects that environmental factors have on childhood development and success. His research is wide in scope and hard-hitting in result. He has found that intelligence is not the only thing that helps children to do well in school and in life. Rather, as he explains in his talks and in his book, the development of character traits like grit, curiosity, optimism, and self-control are just as meaningful to a child's development. He explains that children who have these close bonds with a trusted adult tend to do well in all facets of life. Citing a research study, Tough explains that the comfort provided by a parent or guardian helps children withstand stressful situations that they may not be able to otherwise..

While the experiment he mentions is based on the nurturing habits of lab rats, Tough says that there is significant evidence to support that a similar trend is present in human beings, as well. He argues that some adversity is good for children because it teaches them to be able to manage failure, and that those who are supported through this adversity are generally successful in later life. Tough is also the author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America and is a contributor to The American Life, where he has shared his insights on what it takes to help our children have a bright and prosperous future.