Although the main focus of my research, teaching, and writing has been on giftedness, I don’t actually prize intelligence over other qualities. In fact, the attributes I value most are kindness, integrity, a sense of humour, and wisdom, none of which require a high IQ.
That being said, intelligence does matter. A curious, well-developed, and well-disciplined mind is an advantage in most human activities, from school to work to relationships. Based on current research findings on intelligence and the brain, here are my conclusions about the practical implications for parents who want to support the development of their child’s intelligence.
1. It starts with you Take good care of yourself so you can take good care of your child. When you let it be okay to be imperfect and welcome your mistakes as learning opportunities, you are helping your child to thrive in every way.
2. Show your child bountiful love in action Be dependable and consistently warm. Be kind and patient. Show up.
3. Listen, really listen Respond to your child’s questions, pay attention to their curiosities, be present to their worries.
4. Make sure there’s lots of time for play Remember that play is the work of childhood, more essential to your young child’s brain development (up to at least seven years old) than time spent on stuff that looks more like academic learning. Playtime is not wasted time in the process of getting smart.
5. Stimulate all your child’s senses From birth onward, give your child opportunities for exploration using all their senses. When they seem especially interested in something, help them find ways to learn more about that.
6. Model and teach how to manage emotions Emotion regulation, self-control, persistence, and perseverance, are all more important than IQ to succeed in every area of life. Teach your child relaxation techniques like mindful breathing, and make sure they have enough balance in their lives, including time in nature, and do-nothing times when they can putter and daydream.
7. Pay attention to your child’s physical development Ensure your child has nourishing food, enough sleep, and lots of physical exercise, preferably outdoors. All of these are important brain-builders.
8. Nurture your child’s creativity Not only does creativity enliven life and learning, it’s a terrific vehicle for emotional healing and self-expression.
Many parents are surprised to learn that the secrets of raising smart kids are so old-fashioned—love your kid, be kind and patient with them, make sure they have lots of time for play and get enough sleep—but really, it seems that brain-building and person-building are the same thing.