Can You Make Your Child Smarter?

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At this point, you’ve likely heard the scandal involving celebrities and others in elite class involved in a college admission process that fabricated test scores and extracurriculars to get unaware offspring into programs and schools they might not otherwise have been offered admission into.  While enough has been reported on this scandal, there is a driving force within families and parents to continue to try to give kids an “edge” in more legal and ethical means.  And there is plenty of a market for it.  From cognitive performance, test preparation, and “brain training,” promises are made to parents and families that a child can be better, and smarter, with this program.  But, can you really make your child smarter?

The IQ, or intelligence quotient, is a mostly stable number that quantifies a collection of cognitive abilities including verbal and nonverbal reasoning, fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed, among others.  It is over simplistic to say that IQ equals intellectual capability, as an IQ test measures a series of abilities, and a persons true intelligence may not be adequately represented in these tasks.  However, for the sake of our measurement, this is the most common manner in which intelligence is measured and compared.  For the most part, it remains stable across ones’ lifespan, give or take several points, referred to as a confidence interval or the number of variance that includes a true test score.   Intelligence can be shaped in early childhood, when neural connections and brain development is still considered “plastic” or flexible by enriching environment, exposing a child to more language, and reading.  The amount of variability is still somewhat fixed by the genetic factors that contributed to a child’s cognitive abilities.

Marketers and business owners of programs that enhance cognitive abilities disagree.  They will likely produce studies that clearly show an improvement on tasks like memorizing a series of numbers, or responding quickly to a stimuli.  Yet the unbiased research has been consistent – improvement is seen only on the trained tasks, and there is little evidence that even closely related tasks (like remembering phone numbers) is improved through a brain-training program.  More varied tasks, tasks that can be done cheaply and easily at home, like card games that help with working memory and reaction time, deliver the same or better results.

Work ethic and study skills tends to translate to success more than an IQ score number.  There are plenty of highly gifted children who are so desperately unorganized and unmotivated that they are failing out of school, while there are average and below average IQ children who are thriving thanks to some well-developed habits and support from family.  The concept of grit is critical here, where a setback and failure is viewed as a learning experience rather than a true failure.  This has to do with growth and fixed mindset.  In a fixed mindset, people believe that qualities like intelligence and talent are unchangeable, and that the outcome is predetermined.  Those with growth mindset believe that with hard-work and effort, the outcome can be improved.  A growth mindset is considered ideal in learning, and teaches resilience as well.

The factors that truly help with a child’s performance in school, and later, the real-world, has less to do with the amount of money spent or which programs are purchased.  Instead, instilling a growth mindset, establishing good study habits and routines, and spending time fostering a love of learning through communication and reading will have a far greater impact for far less of a monetary investment.  For more information on your child’s abilities, and how to help them learn and achieve, visit our providers on Therapy Hive.

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