An Expanded View of “Smart” Ups Kids’ Confidence
Photo courtesy of Melissa Taylor
By Melissa Taylor, www.sylvanlearning.com/blog
My oldest daughter, Annika, is like a Disney fairy. Not because she likes fairies, or even pink (she doesn’t), but because her talents span a variety of untraditional categories in the same way as the Disney fairies in Pixie Hollow whose talents include tinkering, gardening, art, animals, light, storytelling, dressmaking, and baking.
During her early childhood education, her self-image reflected both the belief of others and her performance at school. Neither was outstanding. As a result, she believed she was slow, maybe even stupid.
If you’re like me and have a child who isn’t traditionally talented in math, science, and language, the smarts rewarded at school, your child may also struggle with self-esteem. That’s where the Disney fairies come in. Sort of. You see, like the fairies, we all have unique talents, also called “Intelligences,” in a variety of areas beyond what is valued in school. When I helped my daughter understand the concept of Multiple Intelligences and which Intelligences were her strengths, her self-confidence grew. She began to see herself as special, worthy, even smart.
Through extensive research, Harvard researcher Howard Gardner identified categories of intelligences, which he calls Multiple Intelligences or MI. He asserts that all our brains use these intelligences to learn, process, and produce information, but each of us is uniquely talented in some more than others. This theory expands our definition of intelligence. In doing so, it can build up a child’s self-confidence.
The intelligences are:
- Visual-Spatial (mental imagery, building skills)
- Body-Kinesthetic (coordination, movement skills)
- Linguistic (words and language skills)
- Logical-Mathematical (math and logic skills)
- Musical/Rhythmic (sounds, rhymes, listening skills)
- Naturalist (plants, animals, eco skills)
- Interpersonal (understanding-yourself skills)
- Intrapersonal (relationship skills)
This expanded view of intelligence totally changes our perception of who is smart and who isn’t. That in itself is worth consideration, especially if your child is struggling to believe in herself.
Connecting Intelligence and Self-Esteem
Building my child’s self-esteem wasn’t as easy as telling her about MI. I didn’t say, “You’ve got musical and special intelligence. Be confident.” Instead, I had to deliberately teach her a new definition of intelligence and help her discover it for herself.
1. Observe Intelligences Out Loud First, I noticed out loud her intelligences. “Wow, you always remember directions to places. Not everyone has this spatial intelligence — what a helpful strength!”
2. Share the Concept of Multiple Intelligences Then, I explained the different intelligences, how the idea of what is smart is bigger than just doing well in math and reading. We learned about each one.
3. Connect Intelligences to Learning Lastly, I pointed out how the intelligences corresponded to learning. For example, I would say things like, “Your body loves to move — you are such a kinesthetic learner. When you bounce on the exercise ball to do your spelling words, do you think you learn them faster?” (Yes!) “Maybe that’s a good way for you to learn.” In the same way, I suggested finding new ways to complete difficult schoolwork. “This isn’t working. How about you find a way that fits with your intelligences? You could move while you do this work. Maybe sitting on the floor with your work and stretching? Or swinging while you read that chapter?”
4. Encourage Strengths It’s never fun to feel as if you’re always failing at something. So, I found it important to encourage Annika to spend time building on her intelligences that were strong, which in her case were music, kinesthetic, and visual-spatial.
She started music lessons, tried different sports and experimented with Minecraft as a foundation for building strengths and self-esteem. Like the talented fairies in Pixie Hollow, each of our children is a unique blend of talents. When kids discover that they are smart, with the expanded MI lens, you’ll see their confidence grow. Are you already thinking about the intelligences of your child? Would this knowledge help and inspire him?