Due to a random meeting at a parenting class before Abigail was born, I now have a new social group of first time parents. The main thing that brought us together was the mutual journey of parenthood. Today as we helped one move from one house to another I was asked a question regarding the idea of being smart.
Does everyone think their child is smart?
I thought about my own experiences with Abigail and how my family often tells me how smart she is, how she is a thinker…I hesitated with my answer knowing he thought his daughter fell into the smart category. I paused not because I didn’t think his daughter was smart, but because I wasn’t sure what smart meant.
I believe everyone is smart in their own way. This wasn’t the easy answer I am sure he was looking for, I began to explain my reasons. In school we can measure smartness through IQ tests, grading, all formulaic ways of calculating specific data to determine on a scale where a child is based on all the other children. I believe being smart is a much more complex idea then a grade or test.
Doctors are smart, plumbers are smart, taxi cab drivers are smart, executives are smart. This ties into the multiple intelligence theory and growth mindset. I explained to my friend that I try not to tell Abigail that she is smart- and I have discouraged my parents from this too. I feel like this can put some unnecessary pressure for her to perform or achieve something that really isn’t defined.
Students constantly feel that they are not good enough, or smart at something (usually math and reading). I told my friend that you should start identifying the “smart” thing that his child was doing to deserve such an acknowledgement. Be specific with your feedback. If you tell a child they are smart, it doesn’t benefit them as much as you telling them they are good at something because (insert specific thing).
Build on the positives, identify the next steps, set goals, keep making progress. That is what smart is to me. What does it mean to you?