Having a child with a high IQ level is a matter of pride for any parent. Having said this, is IQ level the only measure of a person’s intelligence? We often come across people who might be highly qualified in their field of interest but might lack common sense. And then, there are a lot of circumstances in our lives that require us to demonstrate a little bit of street-smartness or deal with situations in a worldly-wise manner. And all these traits don’t require only a high IQ level. They can be taught or learned through various experiences. That brings us to the question – can you really help boost your child’s intelligence? In a way, yes. Let us discuss how.
Child’s Brain Development
According to science, a child’s brain develops rapidly from birth until the age of 5. Almost 90% of the brain would have developed within this duration. This is probably the best time to help children learn many new things as it can have a lasting effect on a child’s mind (1). However, the knowledge of this fact often creates a panic-like situation among parents. They put their children under a lot of stress to ensure that they learn more in a short span of time and achieve great IQ levels. What parents don’t realize is that the brain does not stop developing after the age of 5. They confuse rapid development with no development. By putting so much stress, parents inadvertently neglect their child’s emotional health which can have as much a lasting effect on a child’s mind as learning.
The Effect Of Relationship Attachments
While the child’s brain will take the natural course of development, their relationship with the adults in their life has a huge impact on brain development as well. From the time they are born, kids often reach out to communicate and engage with the adults around them, starting with their parents. As babies, they indulge in cooing, crying, smiling, and babbling to attract their attention. This attention-grabbing instinct of theirs’ continues as they grow and extends beyond their parents to teachers and caregivers too. And how adults respond to their needs shape the child’s brain development. Parents who give positive and prompt response to their child literally enhance the wiring of a child’s brain. No wonder then that so much importance is given to the parent-child interaction like reading, singing, and talking from an early age of the baby. It creates a stable and secure nurturing environment for the child (2).
Fixed Mindset v/s Growth
Carol Dweck, Ph.D., who is a professor of psychology at Standford University has studied the effect of fixed mindsets on growth. With 20 years of research that she has compiled in her book Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, she explains how a fixed mindset about a child’s potential can hinder their growth and progress. If a child is made to believe that he/she can excel in only one aspect of their personality, then it affects their motivation to learn something new. The fear of failure leads them to stick to things they are good at, to be on the safer side.
According to Carol Dweck, children who believed only in fixed intelligence tended to stick to their image of being smart – a label they didn’t want to risk losing. Thereby, they avoided any challenge that would disrupt this image. In contrast, children who were brought up with a ‘growth mindset’ were keen on taking up challenges and learning new things even if they failed in the first attempt. So, Carol suggests that the brain needs to be treated like a muscle that will grow and become stronger with use (3).
Children can be born with a certain level of intelligence. However, how it shapes up later on their life can depend on a lot of factors including emotional responses and parental bonding with the child. And if Carol’s 2-decade-strong research is anything to go by, you can indeed help boost your child’s intelligence!