Strategies for Helping Your Child Develop Successful Intelligence
by Elise Kauffman

Parents, you know your children better than anyone else. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You are aware of their satisfaction when they are stimulated and their frustrations when they are not.

On a daily basis, you see their excitement and their pain. You know how it feels for them and for you when teachers understand their needs — and when they don’t. You know their interests and their passions. So, what can you do to facilitate your child’s success in school?mother and child

Dr. Robert J. Sternberg, in his book "Parenting for High Potential," gives these seven suggestions for helping develop your child’s intelligence.

Find their strengths and make the most of them. The search can be frustrating. Often it means trying many different areas of pursuit, many of which lead nowhere. At times, you and your child may just want to give up. But think of how many potentially gifted children will never be identified because they and their parents never took the time to dig out their strengths. Finding the few areas of strength, or even one, that set your child apart is one of the best things you can do for your child. When it comes time for that child to apply to college, remember the unusual strengths are what set young people apart from each other. Schools like Yale and Harvard can find lots of students with good grades and test scores. What they look for is the special something that makes one applicant stand out from the rest.

When looking for strengths, think unconventionally. Strengths can be anywhere: academics, music, drama fiction writing, metal work, drawing, sculpture, archeology, athletics, fixing things, inventing, working with animals, entrepreneurship, sewing, gardening, or interaction with others. The main limit is in our imaginations in exploring various options.

Find their weaknesses and correct or compensate for them. Children also need to know what they do not do well. Once you identify these weaknesses, help your child correct them as much as possible, or devise strategies of compensation. Many weaknesses make little difference to people's lives. If your child's weakness is in an area which he or she must function — language, math, science — then work to develop compensatory and corrective strategies.

Allow for mistakes and false paths. The search for strengths and weaknesses and ways to deal with them will inevitably lead to mistakes and routes down false paths. As a society, we tend to abhor both of these outcomes. Learn instead to welcome them as learning opportunities. There is no better way to learn than from one's mistakes and from the false paths one has taken.

Find what is right for your child, whether or not it is what would have been right for you. There are so many college students who are studying law, medicine, or business simply because it is what their parents want them to do. Ultimately, they may achieve some success in these fields, but usually not with the success they would have achieved had they followed their own interests and strengths. Encourage your child to find the right path for them, not the path that might have been your wish for them to have taken.

Encourage sensible risks. Finding the right path entails risks because many times people travel down the wrong paths first. Also, people will make mistakes while traveling down these paths — and even while traveling down the right path. Finally, the right path may not always be one that friends, school officials, or even some parents value. Children and their parents need to take the risk of finding what is right for each child. Opportunities for sensible risk taking include summer programs, camp, semesters abroad, after-school volunteer programs, internships, and the like.

Celebrate your child. Successful intelligence is within everyone's grasp. It represents a very different notion from the conventional IQ-like notion. The question is not whether the strengths are there. The question is whether we can find them. Seek, and you shall find.