The Smarts #8:

Reawakening Smarts Beyond Character

Today I’ll continue the series about the 8 great smarts with information about how to reawaken the smarts if paralysis occurred. I include the role of children’s character. This follows Monday’s blog perfectly where you read about how paralysis takes place. You can read more in my book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Childs’ Intelligences.

Reawakening Smarts

Children are born with the capacity to develop all eight smarts. They are awakened (or not) through engaging experiences. I have great news! If paralysis sets in, the right experiences can reawaken the smarts. Isn’t God good to give us second and third chances? Yes!

Very few parents set out to paralyze their children’s intelligences. Yet it happens. Sometimes the smart affected is shut down permanently. It will remain a weak area for the child’s lifetime. In other cases, interacting with key ideas and positive people can reawaken the smart.

If you have paralyzed a child’s intelligence, the paralysis can be undone if you or others create energizing experiences that follow. Although it’s ideal when these quickly follow the pain of paralysis, it’s never too late. You must be aware, though, that your child may not quickly respond. This is because the paralyzing experience at least partially destroyed his or her security.

Children tell me that when we apologize, the reawakening especially begins. Were you too quickly angry with your logic smart child, not listening to the entire question? Realize it and sincerely communicate your sorrow. Were you critical of your son’s piano playing, even though he was a beginner and you wanted his music-smart ability to develop? Apologize and sit down to listen to him play so you can encourage him. Were you constantly pointing out your people-smart daughter’s unwise uses of her ability and never acknowledging her occasional healthy uses? Talk about it and apologize.

Observe carefully to recognize the depth of your child’s concern so you can strategically enter into the situation. When you read fun material together orally, the pain of classmates’ laughter can lift. When you ask the teacher how to help your child improve his or her writing, work together in a casual and nonthreatening way, and celebrate your child’s improvements, so you can reignite your child’s enjoyment of writing.

Character Qualities: Beyond the Smarts

From what you’ve read so far, can you predict how character qualities are relevant to multiple intelligences? Let me explain two very important categories:

Self-respect, self-control, and respect for others. When children (and adults) respect themselves, they’re more able to believe in their present and future value. They’re also more likely to reject lies about themselves. Therefore, it’s less likely they’ll develop bad habits that could result in their smarts being paralyzed due to their misbehavior and your reactions.

As children mature and understand more about their smarts, they will want them awakened, developed, focused, and trained so they can use them in valuable ways. This motivation can lead to self-control. They’ll work to strengthen skills and smarts they believe they need. They’ll focus on positives, use their smarts in healthy ways, and not sabotage their success.

Will your daughter believe in herself and be glad about which smarts are strengths if you’re not? If she hears you constantly comparing her to someone else, she may begin to reject herself. She may try to please you by working to develop a smart that isn’t strong. I’ve met children who, by doing this, eventually feel defeated in all smarts. Their strong smarts weaken because of lack of attention or rejection because they’re trying so hard for their parents to notice and appreciate them.

Perseverance, effort, initiative, diligence, teachability, thoroughness, responsibility. Character qualities like these are very relevant for all children (and adults) at all times. We need to consistently teach them to our children. They rarely come naturally. Character is relevant when intelligences aren’t strong and may be most relevant when they are.

You don’t want your son relying only on how he is smart when approaching new tasks. He could be unsure of himself that day, overwhelmed, or confused. The assignment could be a bit beyond his natural abilities. It’s easy for children to feel dumb when they believe their smarts have failed them. Your son needs to understand that his successes and challenges are always due to how he is smart plus how he applies himself. Therefore, it’s important to affirm the character qualities and learning processes children use that contribute to their successes.

As with so many other things, our modeling of the character qualities we want our children to use is important. When we appropriately persevere, it’s easier for children to persevere in our presence. They’ll feel safe being vulnerable. They’ll know we understand that sometimes they have to work to be successful. Of course, this is true for each of these character qualities. I tell children all the time that if they work hard, it’s because they’re smart. When they’re teachable, they’re smart. When they’re responsible and take responsibility for their actions, they’re smart. On and on.

Think of your own life. Did God use these and other character qualities to help you awaken or strengthen a smart or two? What about helping you overcome paralysis and reawakening the smarts?

From 8 Great Smarts, by Kathy Koch, PhD, (Moody Publishers, 2016), pages 46-50.

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Can you identify a smart for each child that you think might be paralyzed in full or in part? Think about the past and observe carefully now to see if you can determine what happened and what is still happening so you can change and help them change. What about their character? Are there some qualities they need to use more consistently? How can you help them?