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Reviews of Genius

Book Reviews : Genius in Children

The Genius in Children: The Genius in Children: Bringing out the best in your child

Bringing out the best in your child

(1st Edition)


Genius in Every Child: The Genius in ChildrenEncouraging Character, Curiosity, And Creativity In Children

Available in Paperback and Kindle Editions


  • Editorial Reviews

    • “In my work I am constantly reminded how an emphasis on achievement rather than on developing an authentic sense of self is creating an educational, emotional, and spiritual crisis in today’s teens. In his remarkable book, The Genius in Every Child, Rick Ackerly shows how a focus on character, curiosity, and creativity at a young age light the path to a successful life that includes, but is not limited to, academic achievement. The heartfelt examples in the book show how parents and teachers build self-worth and confidence in children when they allow them to take on challenges, to learn from disappointment, and to take responsibility. When we partner with our children’s genius or inner spark, we create the conditions for success. When we try to engineer their success, we put them at risk.”
      Madeline Levine, Ph.D., author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids and Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success
    • “Rick Ackerly’s journey through the travails and triumphs of parenting both as a parent and as a principal/father-confessor to parents is captured exquisitely in this book. . . . A vivid portrayal of how smart parents let their children discover their own genius and path.”
      Pat Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools
    • “Drawing on a lifetime of experience with children, Rick Ackerly has written a lively, engaging, practical book that captures the dilemmas and joys of raising and schooling children.”
      Robert Evans, Ed.D., clinical and organizational psychologist and author of Family Matters
    • “The accounts and learnings in The Genius in Every Child are so deep and layered, you feel in your bones Rick Ackerly’s forty years of teaching kids and parents how to grow their brilliance. This book, and Rick, have so much heart and wisdom, you’ll not only read their words gratefully, you’ll return to them again and again. This just might be the only book on parenting you’ll ever need.”
      Rebecca Lawton, author of Reading Water: Lessons from the River

  • Amazon Reader Reviews

    • Genius in Children Book Review by Douglas Hazelrigg 5.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding reading for educators and parents
      on April 8, 2014
      Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
      Mr. Ackerly brings to the page many years of experience yet with a refreshing perspective on children and their pathways to becoming engaged, contributing adults. Genius in Children Book Review by Sally Morris 5.0 out of 5 stars A great gift for new/young parents
      on December 6, 2012
      Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
      What better gift for new parents? None…….
      Thanks to Rick Ackerly for such a great resource for those who are looking for support and inspiration. Wish it had been available 30 years ago when I was going through this special and sometimes confusing time in parenting.
      Genius in Children Book Review by Martin Ducher .0 out of 5 stars Especially Good for Helping Your Child Do Well in School
      on December 5, 2012
      Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
      As a parent and a parent educator, I very much enjoyed and learned from Rick’s book. I find that looking at our children from a view of having an innate genius, as Rick defines it, explains our feelings and observations of the personal brilliance of our very young children in a useful way. Rick’s book will help parents nurture their children in navigating their schooling successfully and in a way that builds personal responsibility. This is much more satisfying parenting than focusing on pushing knowledge and good grades (knowledge and good grades are desirable, but pushing backfires), and minimizes behavioral issues. I highly recommend reading this book to parents who long to enjoy being with their children more of their time together. Genius in Children Book Review by Jinson 5.0 out of 5 stars A huge leg-up for any parent.
      on February 27, 2013
      Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
      As a father of two kids, one in elementary school and one in kindergarten, I have found in this book an enormously powerful and positive influence on my family. Rick Ackerley gets right to the heart of the manifold challenges I have faced in bringing up my children. What do you do when your very creative, but rather apt to be angry and not very studious eldest child quickly grows understandably weary of the constant pressure to learn more and more and yet more ‘stuff’ at school? How do you react when your precocious 4 year old steals his kindergarten headteacher’s heart and you know that he’s being taught to expect adulation rather than to deal with the ordinary challenges of most other kids? What do you do as a father when you lose your temper and find that anger is beginning to flavor your relations with not only your children, but with your wife? You might be tempted to dig in, tell your eldest to ‘knuckle under’, ‘measure up’ and ‘stay out of trouble’. You might try to compensate for the love-sick headmistress by letting your little 4 year old feel the back of your hand. You might begin to think anger itself is the way to go to deal with family problems. Such a nightmare, such an abyss has opened before me more than I care to mention. For the sake of brevity, I’m only going to look at the first of these problems.
      The slow learner at school; Rick Ackerly uses some simple slogans, which he analyses and explains to help the busy parent practically deal with their tasks. The most useful to me was, ‘play position’. Most parents are petrified if they see that their child is slower at school than other kids. I was. I know that lower grades may persist and add up to failure. However, the fear itself is more likely to be the problem and not the challenge. Rick Ackerly deals with this problem of fear by turning it on its head. For example, you’ve already lost if you show your child that their homework is somehow more important to you than it is to them. They lose their sense of personal responsibility if you do, and this is utterly demotivating for them. Tell them to do homework from one remove, as a parent. Tell them the consequences of not doing it. By all means persuade, goad, encourage and show you care as much as you can. But don’t take the role of teacher at home; kids resent getting taught by their parents at home as well as at school because they cannot escape the psychological pressure that way. ‘Play position’. If you start playing position, then you will encourage your kids to do so too. If they have problems at school, then go and talk to their teachers about it and show them you will support their approach if you can. Encourage understanding of your kid’s problem. Nurture a community of endeavour around your kid’s education. Work together by playing position. Expect this of your kids and their teachers too.
      Teamwork only really works if you and your kids have a common aim in development. This is where the title of this book comes in. It is the heart of the matter. However, it is not a straightforward aim. What on earth should be the common aim in helping a young mind, a young character to develop to its full potential? Rick Ackerly says… come on, admit it, you don’t know what your kid is going to be good at, neither do they and nor do their teachers. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. So you need to make it clear to your kids that you are interested in them showing you what they can do. This is the genius that they already possess. This is what needs to be made manifest. ‘Treat your kids as if they already know the answers.’ Let them decide where they are going. Let them lead you. Play position as a parent and support their decisions. Even give them the space to try out something that you worry they may not succeed in. Support them to the hilt. If they fall short, Rick Ackerly says that you mustn’t protect them by cutting the effort short. Play position by showing the kid you have faith in their abilities. Let them fall and then coach them by learning with them about who your kid is. Talk to them about strategy for next time. The failures may be the most poignant, but the successes and the draws and the no shows are equally part of that wealth of experience they need to tell them who they really are and where they should lead themselves and their parents in life. The author concludes that if the parent takes on this challenge as a person who is also learning, open and flexible, then the child has a true companion in their formative years. That genius will blossom, and by genius the author means only that pursuit the child is best at doing and what makes that child confident and happy. In fact, the parent is also learning just who they are as a parent.
      In all, a breath of fresh air for any parent and a much needed ‘leg-up’ in the huge task of parenting today.
      Genius in Children Book Review by Edward Purcell Jr. 5.0 out of 5 stars Every Teacher Should Read This Book
      on August 5, 2013
      Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
      What a great book! Clear stories in “plain talk”, with no educational jargon. Showing us how to find the child’s innate desire to learn and how to play the position of teacher or parent carefully. After a full day at school, should a child have to endure more “teaching” at home? Certainly not, but in this world of standards and mega-testing, too many parents are doing just that. Rick makes us aware of the dangers that arise when parents transfer their anxieties about “success” onto the child. I’ve been involved with the education of children and adults for over fifty years. How I wish that I had this book available when I started! There are so many good examples about the interaction of teachers (and administrators) with children and their parents, demonstrating the importance of maintaining this linkage. This book is so good, that I’ve just ordered ten more copies to distribute to our local teachers, principals, parents and librarians. (That won’t be enough – I’d better order ten more!)
      Ed Purcell 8/5/13

      Genius in Children Book Review by Nathaniel's Kin 5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and True. Ackerly really knows kids and learning!
      on June 23, 2013
      Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
      As a clinical social worker who has taught Family Therapy at Duke for 35 years as well as a practicing child and family therapist, I believe you can trust my five star review: “Rick knows what he’s talking about.”
      “Educate” come from the Latin “educere: to draw out of”. Too much of education has been and is cramming facts into children and then being angry that they don’t seem to want to file them away for retrieval on the end-of-year test.
      We are blessed with thousands of loving, caring, hard-working teachers in this country, but we force them to work in systems that often crush them. They are underpaid and overworked, taking work home every night. No wonder many of them burn out and leave or stay but with their teacher soul flickering somewhat, even guttering.
      This is a book that any teacher of anything anywhere can use to create an experience of joyous learning. All of us remember being passionate about a subject or an idea, remember the excitement of exploring it and other ideas linked to it, the satisfaction and sense of self-worth that came from knowing, really knowing, about something that fascinated us.
      It doesn’t matter what that particular seminal idea or subject was, or if we even continued with it. What matters is that once we tasted the joys of thinking and learning, we had them for the rest of our lives. And we all remember the teacher who believed we could and so encouraged us to sit down and satisfy our hunger to learn about whatever it was.
      Rick has been that teacher for so many students and parents and teachers. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his work and for his book.

    • Educator Reviews

      • Book Review: The Genius in Children by Rick Ackerly

        By Carla Silver, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Leadership Center

        At the annual meeting of the California Association of Independent Schools in June, I found myself with a lively dinner companion and conversationalist, Rick Ackerly.  In my years working in Bay Area schools, I had heard about Rick and followed his career as a school head of St. Paul’s in Oakland and The Children’s Day School in San Francisco.  It was a  fortuitous meeting; I made a new friend and colleague, recruited a first-rate keynote speaker for the November Leadership Seminar and discovered that Rick is the author of a new book, The Genius in Children: Bringing out the best in your child.   What follows is a review of this important book.

        Don’t let the word “genius” in the title mislead you.  Ackerly’s book is not about children with “extraordinary intellectual power” – the definition you might find in the dictionary. He does not suggest that all children are geniuses.  Instead, Rick returns to a lesser used definition of genius: “the tutelary spirit of a person, place or institution.” He makes the case that each child has a genius, a spirit, spark, or as Rick call it,  “a unique me that is becoming.”  By nurturing that genius, we can help children to “maximize their potential academically, socially, physically, and personally.”

        Reading Ackerly’s book resembles a conversation with the author himself. The Genius in Children is full of engaging personal stories from Ackerly’s forty-plus years as a teacher, principal, and parent of young children and young adults.  Each of these stories illuminates the underlying values of the book which include personal responsibility and accountability, self-discipline, perseverance, and resilience.  His primary message is that parents and teachers who display these characteristics and provide children with an environment that offers space for self-discovery will end up with adult children who are also responsible, disciplined, resilient, self-reliant, and who know their own genius.

        Rick Ackerly is in the same camp as Wendy Mogul, author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee, and “Free Range Kids” blogger Lenore Skenazy in his belief that children need to be allowed to take risks, make mistakes, chart their own paths, and self-advocate without the constant intervention of well-meaning but meddlesome adults. In addition, he provides clarity on how parents and teachers can divide and conquer rather than duplicate the roles they play in kids lives. Parents should be parents.  Teacher should be teachers. Children should be children with their own authority. Rick adamantly tells the adults to “play position.”

        The Genius in Children deserves to be on schools’ recommended reading lists for parents and teachers not because Ackerly shares groundbreaking new insights on children, but because his book is filled with common sense, experience and a deep understanding of the relationships between adults and children. In a world of increasingly anxious, hovering parents, this book reminds readers to back off, give children some space and authority to make their own decisions, to fail, make mistakes, to succeed on their own, and discover their genius.

        What about the members of the administrative team? Yes, this is a read for them as well. This book is as much about leadership as anything else. Knowing when to act, when to speak, or when to do nothing at all – these are essential skills for all leaders. Having the self-discipline and insight to know when to take action or when to not engage – these are challenges for parents, teachers or leaders of any sort. But skilled leaders balance this tension.

        This week at a birthday party, all of the messages of Ackerly’s book played out before my very eyes. I watched as my son’s school classmate clocked my child, hard, in the head. I didn’t see what had transpired before the punch, but my son is no angel, so I assumed there had been some provocation. My son came charging towards me crying.  The parent of the other child rushed towards us, dragging his son behind him. “Apologize!” he demanded.  There was a part of me that wanted to hear the child apologize, but another part of me that wanted to see what would happen if I “played position” and let the kids work it out – gave them the authority to decide what happened next. I poured them each a cup of lemonade and said, “It seems like you two have been making some bad choices with your bodies. Can you work it out?”  They each whimpered, took the lemonade and nodded reluctantly.  By the time the lemonade had reached their lips, they were back to playing as if nothing had happened.  It might not have been the resolution that most parents would have liked to see, one that included “talking it out” or exchanging apologies or “learning lessons,” but it was the resolution that made sense to them. They were over the argument without needing to exchange messages, hug, accept blame or follow the decorum that adults might impose on them. It was one of many “Rick Ackerly” moments I hope to have as a parent and educator.

        Carla Silver

      • Email from teacher, Amy Tai

        Dear Rick,

        I can’t begin to tell you how useful, brilliant, wise and wonderful I found your book, The Genius in Children.

        There are so many ideas, statements, observations and recommendations that you make that resonate with my thinking, questions, and deeply held beliefs.  It is a beautiful book and one that every human being should read.  How different the world would be if all of our teachers and parents had believed (or just assumed, as you wisely say we need to do) in that genius in each of us;  allowed us to stay in the struggle to become our full selves; acted outside of fear, and just been with us through it all, no matter how “ugly” or “bad” we may have looked or seemed to the world.

        I love the way that you look so carefully at important words like discipline and character, and make the distinctions between virtues that are disciplines and virtues that are aspirations…there are countless gems in your book that made me stop and think, and say, aha!  Or moments where I had to put the book down to just think and process, make connections in my own mind.  I read once somewhere that a truly great book is not one that you can’t put down, but one that you must put down so that you can think about everything it is saying.  Yours is such a book.

        Another thing that I LOVED was your observation about the way children do not have to be carefully taught the prejudices of their parents, society etc.   Our job is to help liberate them.  Again, the liberation process is much more simple than many believe.  It is about listening to them.  Listening to them when they are angry, listen to them when they are hurting, when they are frustrated, when they are heartbroken. Not just their words, but even more importantly their tears, their laughter, their deepest fears.  Children are inherently compassionate and want to be connected.

        You are a brilliant and wise parent/educator.  How lucky all those students, parents, and teachers who get/got to be inside your air traffic controlling screen are!

        Thank you so much for writing your book.

        With deep respect and appreciation,
        Amy Tai

    • Parent Reviews

      • Email from a Parent

        Hello Rick;

        I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading The Genius in Children.  I think it will make a great book, and it is the kind of thing that I wish someone had handed to me as required reading when we first started thinking about schools and educating our kids. I think it definitely could fill a niche by become a standard (the standard) reader for the new generation of parents.  Anyone who walks through CDS could/should be offered this book in some small format that invites repeated use, and fits in your back pocket or briefcase.  It is unique and insightful on so many crucial subjects, and it has accelerated my thinking immeasurably.

        I also should apologize for holding it so long, and for not getting back to you, mostly because I haven’t wanted to give it up.  I want to go back, revisit some parts and provide some more intelligent feedback.  Rather than reading it and giving it back or putting it on a shelf, I have wanted to have it around as a reference, to read it a few times to make sure I haven’t overlooked some seemingly simple but profound message.  But without delaying further, I wanted to at least let you know I thought it was a winner, and a much needed resource for our time and place.

        It is a bit more dog eared than when I received it.  I have discussed it with a friend or two from other schools who want to see it, but I have not shared it or reproduced it (though I can tell you there is interest).

        Congratulations on an important accomplishment, this type of wisdom assembled is not easy to find.  I hope I can take time to read through it again and provide some better feedback.

        Gary Strang
        GLS Landscape/Architecture


  • Librarian Reviews

    • Email from a School Librarian


      Thanks so much, Rick, for recollecting in tranquility that which you learned in the heat of a myriad moments. It’s awesome, amazing and beautiful to be able to read and re-read your insights so that they percolate down (“metabolize?”) into our souls and can be drawn upon in the heat of the moment. So many of your pointers resonate universally for humans of all ages.[P.143 – It is common for a child (for all of us, actually) to feel the pressure of the group and to change behavior accordingly.]

      Many thanks for sharing the past, present and future fruits of your genius with us!

      Elsa Thompson, Librarian, Children’s Day School


  • Blogger Reviews

    • The Genius in Children: Bringing out the Best in Your Child (Book Review) by Susan Heim

      “…our number-one job as parents and educators is to notice the children in our care and to delight in them.” — Rick Ackerly, The Genius in Children

      This line from the Introduction to Rick Ackerly’s book, The Genius in Children: Bringing Out the Best in Your Child, accurately sums up his philosophy on child-rearing gleaned from 40 years of working with students, parents and teachers as a father, school principal and consultant. When he speaks of cultivating the “genius” in our children, he’s not talking about raising their test scores or making sure they’re prepared to attend an Ivy League college. Rather, finding a child’s genius is uncovering the teacher that resides within the child. As parents, it’s our job to create the conditions that help children teach themselves.

      The Genius in Children shows parents how to:

      • Instill self-discipline in our children
      • Define and enforce boundaries
      • Strengthen children as decision-makers
      • Act out of love, not fear
      • Encourage enthusiasm for learning
      • Create the right emotional atmosphere for reading
      • Build children’s self-confidence
      • Respond to children’s suffering and disappointment
      • …and much more

      Ackerly demonstrates these concepts through true-life stories of the children and parents he has encountered over the years, including his own children. He reassures us that parenting isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be because our kids have the innate ability to teach themselves when we create the environment in which they can do that. And by observing and uncovering the genius in our children, we find that they have a lot to teach us about parenting and raising little human beings.

      Susan Heim

    • The Web of Genius in Children by Dawn Morris@ momsinspirelearning

      “Be obscure clearly.” I can’t stop thinking about E.B. White’s quote.

      The author found his genius in writing, and once he wrote, “I can’t remember any time in my life when I wasn’t busy writing.”

      But is genius so often spelled out like the words woven into Charlotte’s Web? True magic reveals itself in mysterious ways, so why should genius be any less extraordinary?

      When you allow yourself to see genius through the lens of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, a whole new world comes to life. And it’s not one that’s dominated by tests and time limits.

      It’s a world of…play. Some of us like to play with words, some with numbers, others with music or art, and some with dance or tennis. We may not all be geniuses in the intellectual sense of the word ( and this type of genius needs to be nurtured just like any other type of genius), but we all have a spark – something unique within us – that is a gift waiting to be shared with others.

      Some of us never discover that gift, but that shouldn’t stop us from helping our children to find theirs. How can we do that, when the clues might not exactly be spelled out for us?

      Well, according to Rick Ackerly, who recently published the book, The Genius in Children: Bringing out the best in your child, we need to “treat children as if they know what they’re doing.” Instead of rushing in to teach, we should watch, listen, and follow their leads. See what they come up with on their own before we rush in to solve a problem for them. It makes a lot of sense to me. As a matter of fact, I wish more teachers would follow this philosophy as well.

      According to Rick, who has been guiding children as a principal and father for many years, a parent’s role is not to teach in the traditional sense of the word, but to enjoy learning along with their children. Instead of trying to teach academic skills, parents should share books and real life learning experiences. I love when he states that the one thing parents should do is to “read to their children every evening before they go to bed.” It doesn’t mean they should try to teach reading skills. It’s more important to make reading a fun, enjoyable, and memorable experience.

      In Rick’s view, parents should act more like air traffic controllers than hovering helicopters. Give them freedom, but make sure they arrive and depart safely. Let them take responsibility for their words, choices, actions, and mistakes. Let them figure out who they are on their own terms, and without pressure to “succeed,” or to fill anyone’s dreams but their own.

      Rick raises an important point that “We make a mistake every time we take responsibility for something children can handle themselves.” As parents, we forget that doing nothing is in fact a choice, and sometimes the best one we could ever make. Sometimes, we pass on our anxiety by stepping in before we give our children a chance to solve their own problems. He refers to a very interesting and relevant (even though it was published back in 2004) Psychology Today article, entitled A Nation of Wimps, by Hara Estroff Marano.

      What I like most about The Genius in Children is the anecdotes the author shares, which come from his extensive experience as a father and educator. He sheds light on what it takes to help a child to not only unlock the rainbow which lies within, but to be proud of what makes him unique. When we celebrate and delight in our differences, that’s when we will truly shine.

      So, E.B. White spent a lot of his time writing. It would seem his parents did not have a hard time figuring out what his genius was. It was plain for them to see. It isn’t that easy for most parents, though, is it? We have our children trying out all sorts of extracurricular activities, and taking all these AP tests, but where is it all leading? Are we missing clues because we’re so immersed in all that busyness? I know the movie, Race to Nowhere, is coming out soon, and is about this very issue. It’s not playing in many theaters, though, so I may not get to see it anytime soon. Please let me know if you do!

      The road to discovering genius certainly is not a straight, paved highway. We try so hard to lead our children to the road of success, often eliminating any obstacles in their path; but in doing so, it’s quite possible that we’re taking away the magic.

      The magic is in the ambiguity. Think of it not as a hurdle to jump over, but as the final piece of the great puzzle of life. One day, it might just pop up in front of you just as a rainbow would. Just make sure you’re on the look out for it. You wouldn’t want to be looking the other way, and miss out in it completely.

      Remember to look closely at those cobwebs before you brush them away! And never forget the words of E.B. White: “Be obscure clearly.”


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Idea Babies – 4 Ways To Kindle Genius | Janet Lansbury
January 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

child psychology katy tx February 23, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I get pleasure from, cause I discovered exactly what I was taking a look
for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man.

Have a great day. Bye

Rick February 24, 2014 at 10:51 am

Thank you, Katy. What were you looking for?

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