All kids have the potential to be smart. And when you see how bright your child is, you get excited to hone and nurture that intelligence. You don't want, however, to put too much pressure. So how do you find the balance to make he sure achieves his full potential and become successful as an adult?
1. Treat your children according to their age — not their skill level. If your 2-year-old child has the verbal fluency of a 4-year-old, don’t automatically assume that he has developed in other areas at the same pace. A toddler’s emotional skills and self-control is a lot different from a preschooler — he may be verbose, but he may not yet have the rational thinking of an older child. “Even treating a young child as six months older than they are can be significant in terms of your expectations of their behavior [as parents],” says clinical psychologist Alice Boyes in an article for Psychology Today.
2. Don’t just praise them for being smart. We’ve said it over and over again — praise, when given inappropriately, can put your child at a disadvantage. He might develop a fixed mindset — he thinks he’s so smart that he doesn’t need to make much of an effort to succeed in her tasks. This is especially dangerous because she might not be able to handle failure in the future.
Instead of praising him for being bright, appreciate his efforts, so he knows that smarts are acquired and developed through hard work and dedication, cultivating a growth mindset. Affirm other positive qualities like being kind, considerate, brave, and loving, so your child knows that they are amazing as a whole, and not just because they have the brains.
3. Don’t overstimulate your children. Because your child exhibits a lot of potential, it’s tempting to make him do all sorts of activities to gauge just how smart he is. But not everything needs to be a learning experience. Don’t just make him do an activity because you know it will expand his vocabulary, or teach him new concepts or skills. Let him do activities, so he can have fun.
Apart from academic skills, make sure that you also feed his creativity and imagination. Give him time for unstructured play. Unstructured play promotes intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being, according to research.
“Once the child is allowed to imagine and create, that’s when the child begins to engage with his surroundings and initiate learning,” says Dr. Faith Buenaventura-Alcazaren, a pediatrician who holds clinic at Perpetual Succor Hospital and Maternity in Marikina and Marikina Doctors Hospital and Medical Center.
4. Avoid boasting about their talents. Your child is smart, and you want the world to know (including the fact that he, ahem, probably got the brains from you). But kids follow their parents’ lead, and if you constantly tell other people about your children’s achievements, they will follow suit and start telling their own friends how great they think they are, which can rub their peers the wrong way.
This might also affect your child’s confidence and not in a good way. A child with healthy self-esteem makes himself feel good, whereas a boastful child relies on the feedback of others to give himself a boost, according to an article in Parents.
Lastly, consider other children’s feelings who will hear you or your child bragging. They might feel like they are inferior or not good enough. They might put unnecessary pressure or set unrealistic expectations on themselves, which can lead to childhood anxiety. Think before you speak is the best course of action.
5. Support their interests. Studies show that gifted kids who do great things and become influential in their respective fields had talents that were nurtured early on by their parents.Learning is natural, spontaneous, and interest-led. Research has shown that young children’s early communication and language development is enhanced when learning opportunities have interest-based features and elements.
When you focus on your child’s strengths and praise their effort, you are helping them become more driven and passionate individuals. At the end of the day, it’s not just their brains that will determine future success, but their personality and their ability to go through life’s challenges. Keep nurturing and loving your bright kids so they can get there.