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Raise a Smart Kid Who Loves to Learn

How can you raise a smart child who loves to learn? Many people believe that intelligence is static; either you’re smart or you’re not. But it turns out that intelligKidsence is like a muscle: it can be developed with use. What’s more, if you believe that’s true, your brain has more potential!

Researcher ran an experiment with junior high schoolers. If they helped the kids to think they could develop their intelligence, would the kids’ math grades improve?

In less than two hours over eight weeks, they taught the students concepts such as: Your brain is like a muscle that can be developed with exercise; just as a baby gets smarter as it learns, so can you. The results were astonishing: the brain-is-a-muscle students significantly outperformed their peers in a math assessment, without additional math teaching.

 

So our goal as parents is to raise kids who believe in their ability to build mental muscle.

Instead of worrying about whether they’re “smart” enough, these kids know they can get smarter, just by working at it. When they have the experience that every child has while learning something new — “This is hard; I’m not getting this, maybe I’m not that smart…” These kids are able to manage their anxiety because they know that they can grow their brain by grappling with hard concepts. They become perpetual learners who can learn what they need to in new situations and are motivated and curious to learn more.

Although intelligence is often equated with scores on IQ tests, most scholars now believe that IQ tests assess only part of a person’s intelligence. Traditional IQ tests ba
sically measure the child’s retention of verbal and mathematical knowledge. Unfortunately, this limited dimension is then equated with the child’s intellectual potential.

Experts also question the obsession in our culture with pushing children to read or achieve academically before kindergarten age. Toddlers and preschoolers have other, more critical work to do, from building with blocks, to playing with rhythm and color, to learning how to get along with their peers.

As Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.”

Even Verbal and Logical Intelligence actually begin with talking and wondering, when kids participate in thousands of everyday conversations about life. That’s why kids who are lucky enough have quality discussions with parents as toddlers and preschoolers do better as they make their way through school.

Dr. Howard Gardner describes seven different kinds of intelligence that are important in human functioning, all of which kids need an opportunity to develop:

  • Verbal Intelligence
  • Bodily / Kinesthetic Intelligence
  • Logical/Mathematical Intelligence
  • Musical Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Intelligence
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence
  • Visual / Spatial Intelligence

And of the course there’s a great deal of research pointing to “soft skills” or “emotional intelligence” as a critical component of school success. If you can’t manage your impulses and use your executive function to focus, it doesn’t matter what your cognitive potential is.

Our job as parents? Encourage our kids’ natural curiosity and strengths, from dancing to reading to drawing. And make sure our kids know they can choose how smart they are – it’s intellectual lifting that builds brainpower.

“In times of change learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

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