woman ponderingWhen’s the last time you had time to yourself? Quiet? Peace? Privacy? Space? Are those foreign concepts? What if we asked your children? During my school programs, many admit they don’t have as much of these qualities as they’d like. Frustration can set in quite easily.

We live in a loud, hurried culture and it often feels crowded, too. These are reasons for self-smart children (and adults) to be stressed. When using our self-smart intelligence, we think with reflection deeply inside of ourselves. When we’re excited we crave even more alone time to process our thoughts.

We’ll finish our series about how even our intelligence strengths can frustrate us with this post about our eighth intelligence.

When self smart is a strength, school can be quite stressful. These children crave quiet, but school is often noisy. They crave physical space, but school is often crowded. They crave peace, but school is often full of tension and stress. They crave privacy, but in school they’re not only asked about their thoughts, but desks, lockers, and backpacks can be searched. Self-smart children report feeling like their privacy is constantly being invaded.

For the same reasons, any situation with lots of people can be stressful for these kids. Youth groups, children’s church, athletic teams, clubs, and even loud family gatherings can cause these children to withdraw. And, parents doing a good job of parenting by checking kids’ phones, backpacks, and computers will definitely frustrate these children. These parents must continue to parent well even though their self-smart children will complain and take it all personally.

It’s not that these kids can’t be good with people. They can have great people skills and have a typical number of friends. But, they won’t need them to think with or affirm them. Stress increases when thinking with others and being expected to share vulnerably is the norm.

These children can come across as quiet and distant during discussions. To them, their own thoughts are more important than those of others. They can actually underperform in school because their joy comes from knowing what they know. They’re not motivated to share, even with teachers on assignments and tests.  So they may share less than they know because it takes so much out of them.

Teachers want and need to know what children are thinking. Their questions to draw children out work with most students. But, these kids don’t understand why they can’t just be left alone. Their lack of participation can frustrate group members and teachers. Stress builds as they’re sometimes almost demanded to participate. Grades can be lowered by a lack of participation.

Children with self-smart strengths often share deep insights and unique thoughts in written work and individual projects because they have time to think things through. They’re able to articulate their ideas the way they want. This strength can further frustrate teachers since these same students often struggle with other assignments. Teachers worry that they’re doing something wrong to not get the best from these kids in all elements of a class. The strength of their written work can actually feel like a detriment to the kids.

Although I absolutely believe children benefit from understanding all their smarts, this may be one of the more important ones to sit down and talk with kids about because having it can make so much of life challenging. These kids often tell me they wish they were more outgoing or confident in social settings and groups. They don’t like putting themselves out there because they know they’ll be asked questions. They’re frustrated that they can’t quickly come up with answers. They wish they could make decisions faster and didn’t need to think deeply about even things others say are simple. They tell me they often feel stupid because they need to think longer and deeper than others.

When I’m privileged to reframe their feelings in light of this strength, they often ask for more proof they’re smart. And, more. And, still more.  The relief I see in their faces and their friends is so great.

When self smart is not a strength, the exact opposite will be the case. Working alone will be stressful. Needing to come up with ideas independently and spending lots of time alone will not be easy for them. Asked for deeper thoughts will stress them out. Being expected to come up with more detailed analysis won’t be easy. In these ways, they can frustrate themselves and their teachers.

Do you know children that fit these descriptions? Adults? I hope you’ll share what you’ve learned from this and discuss it with them. It really can be revealing and comforting to them.

I also hope you’ll make sure to read last Wednesday’s post about how being people smart can frustrate children. The contrast between these two smarts is important to understand. Ideally children develop both smarts, with our help, so they can be comfortable and successful when working alone and with others. Both of these situations are common so preparing them for both is wise.[callout]Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.[/callout]