Has your child ever said, “I’m dumb” or “I feel stupid” when reacting to a particular experience or comparing herself to others? Experts weigh in as to how we should respond to these statements because such feelings can damage a child’s self esteem and adversely impact learning. Bob Cunningham states, “Kids with positive self-esteem feel confident and capable. They value themselves and their abilities. They’re proud of the things they can do and want to try their best,” and isn’t that what we all want for our children? Helping children change their mindset so they don’t feel defeated and are not willing to give up is essential in developing a healthy self-esteem. So, how do we do that when they don’t feel smart?
We begin by recognizing and acknowledging their strengths and helping them use those strengths to develop areas that may need a little more attention. The specific strengths, or intelligences, identified by Dr. Howard Gardner go beyond the conventional linguistic and logical strengths that are tested in our schools today. Gardner has identified eight intelligences that meet specific criteria to be considered an intelligence. He proposes we each possess these eight intelligences from birth and that we can grow and develop all eight intelligences. Gardner’s broadened definition of intelligence, as being multi-dimensional and fluid, rather than a fixed entity or a number on a standardized test, gives great hope and encouragement to parents and teachers, especially if their children/students are not conventional learners!
Help your child find his strengths, bolster his self-esteem, and put him on a path to effective learning by introducing him to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In my SMART Parts series for young children, I am committed to helping children grow a strong, healthy sense of self so they know they are smart and will be motivated to continue wanting to learn. These are books they can read or parents/teachers can read to/with them. The books introduce Gardner’s theory through colorful illustrations and developmentally appropriate stories. The first book, Ellie Rae Discovers Eight Ways to be SMART, finds Ellie Rae watching her friends play ball and she recognizes in each of them a special strength she calls their “SMART part.” Each character represents a different intelligence. Each subsequent book focuses on one character and delves a little deeper into that intelligence or SMART part, still through age-appropriate stories and illustrations.
I’m a career teacher and I have a passion for the education and welfare of young children. I have seen MI teaching/learning work wonders with children who were falling through the cracks in traditional classrooms. Every child should feel she is smart in order to lay a firm foundation for future growth and development. Here’s to all children, everywhere, feeling secure in their self-worth and knowing they are SMART in their own special way!