In study after study of academic achievement, Jewish children and Jewish schools come out on top. How do they manage it? What is their secret of success? A popular view is that Jewish kids are naturally brighter. Many Jewish people are convinced of an innate Jewish intelligence. In my opinion, the very popularity of this absurd notion comprehensively disproves that theory.

While there are a cocktail of influences, I believe that it is the confidence Jewish parents instill in their kids that drives them on to academic, and later professional, success. Jewish children are not necessarily more brilliant than other children—but they think they are. They live up to the stereotype. Children who think they are stupid fail regardless of their IQ level. Children who believe they can achieve usually go on to do just that.

When I was a child and someone said to me, "you're very clever," I set about proving him right. When someone said I was incompetent, I set about conforming to that view too. Educational studies have demonstrated that perceptions play a huge role in a child's eventual academic success or lack of such. Teachers who think they have clever pupils push them harder and demand achievement, while teachers who think they have below-par students invariably produce underachievers.

There was a young teacher who, arriving to give her first class of the year, was handed the list of her pupils. Alongside each child's name appeared a number. The teacher was struck by the numbers, all in the 80's and 90's, and understood that she had been given a class of high achievers, all with top marks from the previous year. Flattered that she had been given such bright kids and determined to have them live up to their potential, she drove them on with constant encouragement. Indeed, that year this class ranked as highest performer of the year, exceeding all expectations—for in fact she had been given a failing class. The number aside each child’s name was the child's locker number!

If you think you can or you think you can't—you are right! The basic fact is that you will never exceed your own belief in yourself; if you entertain a limiting belief about yourself, that belief will guarantee failure. Change that to a positive self-belief, and you stand an excellent chance of success.

Children take the adults in their lives very seriously. If our children are genuinely convinced that we believe in them, they will trust this to be true and act accordingly. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.

The most blessed thing you can say to your children is, "I know you can do it." And when they indeed fulfill your expectation say to them, "See, you did it."

Jewish children are successful because our tradition has always believed in human potential and in the richness of youth. Those are our beliefs about our children—our children simply make them a reality.