“I can’t do that! I’m not smart enough.” 

“My brother is the smart one in the family. I just run fast.”

“I’m so stupid!”

Have you heard these statements before? Or something like them?

Children who don’t think they’re smart often feel defeated before they get started. They give up when something appears hard. They may not try new things. They definitely won’t do as well in school.

I’ve got great news! Everyone is smart in 8 great ways. Dr. Howard Gardner discovered the multiple intelligences and I’ve enjoyed teaching and writing about them for years.

Children (and adults) are smart differently, but we’re all smart. We have the smarts in varying degrees because God creates each of us uniquely according to His intentional plan. As a result, some smarts are strengths and will be more obvious to see in us and our children. We may doubt we or they have others. But, we all do. God is a generous Creator!

For several reasons, it’s valuable for parents, grandparents, and teachers to understand how children are smart. And, the 8 great smarts are easy enough for children to understand and obvious enough for them to see. They can believe they’re smart. That makes the multiple intelligences extra empowering!

Here’s the first benefit to point out. You can discover how to help each child learn with all 8 of the great smarts. Children can study with all the smarts at home and learn how to use them effectively at school. And, when you and your children determine which smarts are their strengths, they can activate those especially when they’re challenged or bored.

What do I mean?

  • When using word smart, children think with words. Have them read (e.g., relevant books that aren’t assigned, but that can expand their understandings), write (e.g., take notes even when not required), speak (e.g., read papers out loud to hear grammar mistakes), and listen (e.g. use online sermons, TED talks, and the like to reinforce ideas they’re studying).
  • When using logic smart, children think with questions. Have them predict what questions teachers will ask and have them practice answering them. Have them read and listen for cause-effect and comparison-contrast relationships.
  • When using picture smart, children think with their eyes in pictures. Encourage them to visualize; have them describe what they see in their mind; teach them to pay attention to pictures, graphs, maps, and other visual displays of truth; and encourage them to draw definitions of vocabulary words and more to prove they know the difference (e.g., apartment vs. home, vs. condo).
  • When using music smart, children think with rhythms and melodies. Encourage them to put main ideas, sequences, chemical abbreviations, and more to music in their mind like we’ve done to memorize the ABC’s and how to spell “Mississippi.”
  • When using body smart, children think with touch and movement. Have them carefully explore things with their hands and move in relevant ways to help them remember things. They can pace, taking one step for each letter in a word they’re learning to spell, use manipulatives to remember math facts, and act out and show with facial expressions the definitions of words like content, happy, joyful, and dissatisfied, angry, and sad.
  • When using nature smart, children think with patterns. They will benefit from looking carefully for similarities and difference among ideas, letters, numbers, shapes, pictures, and more in the same way that they examine patterns to remember whether a bird is a blue bird or a blue jay. They also enjoy relating things to nature and, therefore, may be more successful studying an explorer rather than a politician.
  • When using people smart, children think with other people. They know things best when talking about them with others. They enjoy discussing, brainstorming, and reacting to things in groups. Just talking out loud with parents about what they’re studying will benefit them even if their parents don’t know much about the topic.
  • When using self smart, children think with reflection deeply inside of themselves. These children may appear “slow” and may need more time than others to answer questions because of their deep thinking. Since they like to ponder things, they often benefit from several nights of study in shorter segments rather than one long night. The times in between those segments benefit them. They also benefit from comparing things to their own lives.

Can you imagine what would happen if children used all eight smarts when working to understand a topic? Their comprehension would be more complete, their memory longer-lasting, and their applications of the ideas more accurate. The same thing would be true for us if we would do the same thing!

Teach your children about their 8 great smarts. Watch for them to use them so you can affirm them. They’ll be encouraged and so will you.

But, don’t stop there. Also talk about, teach about, and model the use of character qualities like effort, perseverance, teachability, patience, and responsibility. It doesn’t do children any good to know they’re smart and not use their smarts. Add humility to the list because if they become prideful, they may think they don’t need to study. And, they may also alienate their siblings and peers. Agree?

So, now that you’ve read this, what will you do? Read my book? Observe your children for signs of these smarts? Talk with them about what you see? Read the descriptions and ideas to children and get their opinions of which ones are strengths? Great idea! Start by applying the smarts to an academic topic that’s challenging? Sure! How about if you ask them which ones they see you use regularly? That would be a fun conversation. Do something!

Wouldn’t it be great to hear statements like these?

“I can do that! I just have to remember to use all my smarts.”

“My brother is really word smart so some school stuff is easier for him. I’m very body smart. That’s why I can run fast.”

“I know I’m not stupid! I think I’m especially picture smarts so I need to remember to think with my eyes in pictures to help me learn more and remember it longer.”

[callout]8GreatSmarts_3D-web8 Great Smarts is an extensively expanded re-release of my 2007 book, How Am I Smart? If you read that, you might be wondering how 8 Great Smarts is better. I include much more about character, added relevant ideas about technology, included more ideas about learning with all the smarts, reorganized the chapters for a fresh read, and ended the chapters very uniquely. I think you’ll love it![/callout]