Categories: multiple intelligences, 8 Great Smarts, parenting, motivation

The Smarts #6: Not Being Smart With Your Smarts

The Smarts #6

Not Being Smart With Your Smarts

Let’s continue the series about your children’s intelligences. (You have them, too!) Today I’ll share an excerpt from my book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Childs’ Intelligences, about how children’s smarts can get them into trouble. 

The second chapter in my book is about the smarts interacting with character. I begin the chapter sharing about how being a “Chatty Kathy” affected me when I was a child and how my parents handled it. Both my brother, Dave, and I were parented to use our smarts (and our other strengths) in good and healthy ways. I continue on page 39:

Why am I including all of this in a chapter about character? Because strengths not harnessed can become weaknesses. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. For instance, those of us with word-smart strengths can gossip well, tease well, impress with our vocabulary, and always want to have the last word. I tell children that just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should. I know I didn’t always use my smarts well. If my parents wouldn’t have affirmed my healthy uses of my abilities and provided positive outlets for them, I might have gravitated more toward the negative. That would have been sad. More importantly, it might have meant I wouldn’t have developed the strengths God chose for me (Ephesians 2:10).

Not Being Smart with Your Smarts

Word-smart children aren’t the only ones who can use their smarts in unhealthy ways. Since picture-smart children like drawing and creating, they might color on the report you wrote for your boss and left on the table. Logic-smart children like exploring things on their own, so they might walk away from you during a family field trip to go investigate something that catches their attention. Body-smart children may touch everything in a museum and music-smart children may make noise constantly.

It’s not okay if children are misbehaving because of how they are smart. We can’t excuse their choices because they have talent and ability. Identifying the smart giving birth to misbehavior helps you talk with your children wisely. When children understand the cause of their behavior, they are more empowered to change. You’ll have more hope, too!

One of my coworkers heard me speak on this topic. As we talked on the drive back from the training event, she began to see her ten-year-old grandson in a new and very positive light. She realized the behaviors that often irritated his classmates were rooted in his body-smart and logic-smart strengths. That night, she lovingly explained to him what she had learned and asked if he agreed with her that he was very body smart and logic smart. He lit up when discovering he was smart in these two important ways. My coworker told me later that her grandson was different that morning. Her summary comment says a lot: “It makes a difference to be understood, doesn’t it?” Yes!

During programs for children, I demonstrate that much of the trouble they get into is a result of using their strengths in the wrong ways or at the wrong times. They laugh and that’s fine. Then they get serious. That’s better. I teach them they can choose to be dumb, but God didn’t make them that way. Being smart is a choice. So is stupidity. Children can choose to not use their intelligences, to let their strengths get them into trouble, or to use their smarts for harmful purposes.

Children are not necessarily stupid and not necessarily bad. Maybe they just haven’t learned self-respect, self-control, and respect for others. These are keys to children (and adults) being able to use their intelligence strengths for good and not evil, to help and not hurt.

Does your son keep his eyes glued to his book when you ask him to help with the dishes? He may be word smart. Does your daughter struggle with obedience because she’s always asking, “Why?” She may be logic smart. Does your daughter doodle all over her notes rather than studying her notes? She may be picture smart. Does your son irritate others with his constant humming and finger tapping? He may be music smart. Do your children constantly move and touch everything? They may be body smart. Does your daughter pay so much attention to her cats that she doesn’t finish her homework? She may be nature smart. Does your son interrupt you constantly because he needs to know what you think about his ideas? He may be people smart. Does your daughter get lost in her thoughts and ignore your input? She may be selfsmart.

From 8 Great Smarts, by Kathy Koch, PhD, (Moody Publishers, 2016), pages 39-42.


Did you think of examples from your life as you read the above? What about your kids? Could some of their negative behaviors be birthed in the way they’re smart? What conversations could you have to help them understand? Look for teachable moment opportunities and take advantage of them. (On Monday I’ll post about wise ways to respond to their negative behaviors. You’ll want to come back to read that.)