We spend a lot of time and emotional energy, and I mean A LOT, trying to increase or at least maximize our childrens’ IQs. In his State of the Union address President Obama upped the ante even further, suggesting universal pre-school so we can also spend some money on the issue.
No matter whose politics you subscribe or your thoughts about the president, you can’t help but notice that a lot of what we do doesn’t work well or in the long run provide much help. This extends to pre-school, whose potential pointlessness I discuss a little here. And while Head Start’s heart is probably in the right place, its results are largely in the dumps.
I’ve blogged before about how my experience with triplets tells me nature wins out over nurture every time. At the moment of conception your child’s IQ is largely set. Through those first 4 or so years explosive brain growth you can do things to set IQ back big time or you can maybe nudge it forward a little. To avoid the former simply feed your little one a good diet and mostly just try not to drop your child on its head a lot or regularly dip it in formaldehyde.
But lets take a look at the nudge side of the coin.
As the expert in this article says, we’ve been trying to speed up the development of our children for generations but they continue to hit the same developmental markers as children 600 years ago. So, sorry, there isn’t much you can do to up your child’s IQ. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do.
Turns out, if you want your child to reach their full potential intellectually, one of the best things you can do for them is to foster “close, affectionate relationships.” You read that right: actively listening to your child and making eye contact during conversations may be the most important thing you can do. Of course, that flies in the face of those parents who buy the latest Little Einstein toy and then tune their children out. Because it turns out facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures and other nonverbal signals are more important.
The brain develops through social connection and language, and the best way to communicate language and social connection is to, well, talk and listen. If you show interest in books and learning, your child will learn that books and learning are important and valuable. If you show them their learning, tasks and interests are important, they’ll feed into that.
Further, fostering an environment where children feel safe and secure builds a world where children feel... safe and secure learning. Essentially, its hard to learn when you are constantly in flight-or-fight mode.
This would appear to support something else I blogged about recently: stressed parents appear to give rise to obese kids. Probably because the kids pick up on the stress and become stressed themselves. Maybe that turns on some gene that encourages eating, or turns the children off of exercise, or maybe it encourages children to stress eat. I don’t know.
Expensive gadgets are likely a waste because children are still learning that up is up and not down and that red is red and not white. Flashing bells and whistles do nothing to further this.
So what is the end takeaway? Give your kids challenges. The more challenges they encounter the more growing and developing their brains will do. And the more they will welcome the next challenge.
But you don’t need pre-school or expensive toys to reach that goal. Instead, praise for effort instead of intelligence. Give your child the idea that the effort is what was worth it, not the result. Give them challenges; and yes, let them fail sometimes.