Friday, October 17, 2008

Intelligence vs achievement

Whenever Angel learns a new skill, I am always eager to show it to my parents. Last week, Angel learned to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I would say when they came to visit. Then if Angel was in the right mood, I’d get her to perform for her grandparents. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t.

We’ve all been guilty of “showing off” our kids’ skills. But I only do it with my sister and parents. Maybe because I am shy myself, I rarely make her ‘perform’ in front of anyone else. Also I know she is very comfortable with her aunt and grandparents. So that has become my benchmark. Unless she is absolutely comfortable, I don’t push her to do anything that would mortify or embarrass her.

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards touches on this as well. Intelligence vs achievement, and how parents always confuse the two. Parents are naturally proud of what their kids can do, and telling the people around them about it is their way of showing their pride.

However, showing what the child knows is not an indication of her intelligence, rather her achievement. There’s nothing wrong with children who love to ham it up in front of others, especially if they get showered with praise every time they do it. But not all kids are the same.

Some, like my daughter, take time to warm up, and to make her recite the alphabet or show her ballet dance steps in front of new people would be an absolute nightmare for her. If I did that all the time with her, it would be more crushing to her self-esteem than anything else; she would think she has disappointed me when she doesn’t perform on cue. And that is the last thing I want.

Kids who are more outgoing and sociable thrive under the attention, so if your kid is such, go ahead. A friend’s child has recited the numbers 1 to 10 in Spanish, the alphabet, showed off new words and more, every time we see her, all at the prompting of her father. Good for him and the little girl!

The important thing is to free the child from the anxiety of disappointing you. Always praise her efforts, even if the outcome is not as you imagined. Allow her to make mistakes and show her there is more than one way to do something.

Angel loves to cut and paste things now, and she is learning to cut with scissors. Sometimes she cuts from top to bottom, from bottom to top, from left to right, etc. Usually, she starts out wanting to cut a triangle and ends up with a square. You get the picture. But I let her experiment all she wants. If she ends up with a square, I’ll say “Oh, your triangle has become a square!” and usually she giggles and attempts to cut another triangle. She does it until she gets it right. And 9 times out of ten, she does. In this case, getting to the destination is 100% of the fun.

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