Friday, February 14, 2014

What Kind of Smart is That?

What kind of smarts does your kid have?

No. Really. Here are some of the kids I know:

A boy who is a straight-A whiz kid and a total klutz on the soccer field.

A boy who can take anything apart and figure out how it works and who leaves a mess behind him where ever he goes.

A girl who has been able to match pitch since she was two and who can't stay overnight away from home.

A boy who is a natural athlete who excels at a number of sports and really struggles with learning the multiplication tables.

A girl who can write plays, poems and short stories but who can't find her way home from the grocery store if she goes out the wrong door.

A girl who can whip up a gorgeous poster with very limited art supplies but frequently misspells a word on it.

A boy who can calm any frightened animal but can't calm himself.

The list could go on and on. Every one of these kids is bright and talented. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses. And each of them learns about the world in a different way. Think about your kids. How do they learn? Where do they struggle?

The people who study intelligence have identified eight different types of intelligences, or preferred ways of learning. Here they are:

  • Linguistic Learner (reads, writes, talks, listens)
  • Logical/Mathematical Learner (numbers, puzzles, problem-solves)
  • Visual/Spatial Learner (sees, pictures, maps, colors)
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic Learner (touches, manipulates, moves)
  • Musical Learner (sings, plays, rhyme, rhythm)
  • Interpersonal Learner (shares, interacts, collaborates)
  • Intrapersonal Learner (reflects, thinks, chooses)
  • Naturalist Learner (experiences, explores, connects)
We all, adults and children, have all eight intelligences. And in each of us, some are stronger than others. I think that we who are parents have an obligation to observe our children and celebrate who they are and help them encounter the world with their best learning styles.

There are some very big obstacles that get in the way of us doing that:

  • Schools tend to teach to, and reward, Linguistic and Logical Learners. (Reading and Writing and Arithmetic!)
  • Society tends to value, and reward, Bodily/Kinesthetic and Interpersonal Learners (Athletics, Beauty, Sales)
  • Corporate/business life has really trained us to think about addressing weaknesses more than leading from our strengths. (Improvement Plans)

We, as parents, also get rewarded if our children get good grades or excel on the playing field. Sometimes we hope for our kids to succeed at things we didn't do as well so we push them in that direction. We may fear for their livelihood so we push them away from their strongest intelligence into one of the more highly valued intelligences. And when our bosses are pushing us to improve our weak areas, we tend to do the same for our children. Step away from those temptations!

Your child is a beautifully and wonderfully made gift from God. Celebrate that.  Encourage that. Focus on what is right with your child and relate to that. I know that this is hard when your child operates from a different set of intelligences than you do, but you can learn from them, and they will certainly learn from you, and the world will be bigger and more comprehensible to both of you, which might be part of the plan!


Cheryl said...

Multiple Intelligences are useful from an educational standpoint. Personally, I have difficulty place my own children. One might think I would know by now.

Julie Huke Klock said...

Well, the one with the unicycle is probably a kinesthetic learner! Just kidding. I'll send you the "quiz" and you can have them take it if you want. They probably all have the linguistic/logical intelligences that garner academic enthusiasm, so you're less likely to be looking for the others. Plus, it's hard to see when you're close!