Brilliance In Kids
Let me say something amazing about kids. They are brilliant! Not just bright, quick-witted, or clever, but brilliant. I better explain…
Kids are remarkable in every sense. From even before they are born, children are already thinking and sensing. And from that moment on, they never stop.
We put conditions on kids determining whether they are intelligent or not. “What age did he start walking or talking?” “Has she leant the alphabet yet?” and “Is she able to read?”
They are interesting markers. But they hardly gauge brilliance. Within the first 5 years of life, kids do more learning than a double PhD student. They interpret the world, develop a unique consciousness, and create language in ways nobody ever teaches them to.
Kids have the capacity to keep learning rapidly too. But what happens? Somewhere in childhood, kids learn to dumb themselves down, to fit in with social images and fulfil what we expect of them.
“Hey, they’re just kids. What can you expect?” “Typical kids. They know diddly-squat about nothing.” You and I have heard similar so many times. But it troubles me deeply that, with all we know, children still keep hearing them too.
Being incredibly impressionable, kids will accept bad input as if it’s the gospel truth. So if someone idiotically tells them how hopeless and stupid they are, young children are inclined to believe it.
To me, that’s painfully ironic. Because I am convinced that every able-minded child is born a kind of genius. How else can we explain their capacity to develop primary and secondary language systems and grab enough knowhow to handle basic life by the time they’ve reached ten?
Kids are not only cleverer than we credit but the biggest obstacle they face to building their brilliance is… the way the rest of us have shaped life. Modern children are encouraged to be consumers not creators. They are egged on by media imagery and role modelling to be acquisitional rather than inquisitive. And, they are often led toward stereotypes of rebellion rather than achievement.
Oh yes, you’re right of course. That is a sweeping generalisation, and kids question everything anyway as a natural part of growing up. Yet, there is a seed of persuasive force that exploits kids’ inclinations by cashing in on their need to be different.
Somewhere in all of this, kids’ thinking takes second place to fitting in, with belonging taking centre stage. Perhaps that’s as it should be. But if the brilliance of kids was consistently nurtured, I imagine each child growing up would feel inspired to learn and feel safe being a knowledge explorer, without being branded as being a “different” or stupid kid. Nor would they fear their peers branding them as geeks, nerds, weird, or whatever.
With the opportunity to think freely for themselves, and the supportive expectation that they’ll do well, kids have a better chance of finding their own stride and making a better contribution. Will that always work? No, but it works better than putting children down and discouraging them from developing their own independent thinking.
There is a mountain of evidence indicating that affirming expectations bring out the best in kids. Yet, so many kids growing up in trying circumstances will never know know much about that. They are simply trying to get by and unless a teacher, neighbour, family friend, or relative gives that encouragement, their brilliance will be lost.
Given we will all be relying on these young minds in the future, it amazes me that we treat kids so indifferently. They deserve to be taught well, and experience models of love, leadership, and good character. All are hard tasks, but, to me, they are the most important we will ever get to do.
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