Living and working in a culture other than our own provides opportunities and challenges in our childrearing. I was reminded recently about the importance of seeing all the ways our children can excel. Sometimes we focus so much on their academic achievements that we miss opportunities to reward them for other areas of strength.
Dr. Howard Gardner wrote Frames of Mind in which he says everyone actually possesses all seven intelligences, but we are each unique and special in the way that the seven intelligences express themselves in our lives. Most of us naturally have a couple and then develop a few more to a high degree. Only the rare individual has all seven to a high degree.
Our system of education highly rewards two or three of these intelligences while others are woefully neglected. The child that excels in one of the less prized intelligences may feel inferior to their classmates. Identifying areas of strength provides us opportunities to build our child’s self-esteem. And identifying areas of weakness points out where we can help our child grow.
The two most easily recognized and rewarded are: linguistic or verbal intelligence and logical or mathematical intelligence.
- Linguistic or verbal intelligence is rewarded with good grades in reading and language arts. Children who are strong in linguistic or verbal intelligence are the children who talk early and readily. They learn to read easily and love word games. Living in a foreign culture provides opportunities for them to learn a second and possibly third language while still quite young.
- Logical or mathematical intelligence is rewarded with good grades in mathematics. Children who are strong in logical or mathematical intelligence count early and enjoy math. As small children they love to categorize things and want to know the logic behind the way things are done. These children love to play games like checkers and chess.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is cheered for sports prowess or applauded for dancing and gymnastics. Children who are strong in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are athletes and dancers if their strength is expressed with the large muscles. The children whose bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is expressed through the small muscles love crafts and mechanical tasks but get far less encouragement in our ordinary educational system.
- Musical intelligence brings some recognition in recitals and school programs. But usually parents have to take a more active role in seeing this intelligence developed and rewarded.
Children who are strong in musical intelligence are fascinated by sound and sing on pitch and “play” rather than “pound” on instruments. Living and working overseas may make it more of a challenge to see this intelligence developed.
The next three intelligences get almost no recognition from school. As parents it is important to find ways to let children who are strong in these three have opportunities to “shine.”
- Spatial intelligence makes these children great visualizers. They have a keen sense of perspective and are particularly adept at using maps and charts. They do well in design and arranging their rooms. Art classes are a way to help these children excel.
- Interpersonal intelligence is easier to recognize as the child matures. These children are particularly sensitive to the feelings and motives of other people and they are the children others come to about their problems. Giving these children opportunities in drama may provide opportunity to reward this intelligence.
- Intrapersonal intelligence is even harder to recognize. These children know themselves. They have strong opinions about what they will and won’t do. As small children they may say they want to be an astronaut, and then spend their childhood working toward that goal. Giving these children a chance to be in leadership roles in areas where they excel may be the best way to reward this intelligence.
Living outside our home culture provides obstacles to developing some of these intelligences and incredible variety of opportunities to develop others.