Smart is as Smart Does

Dear Parentworks, 

How can you really tell if your child is smart? It seems pretty obvious to me watching my daughter's friends and cousins that she is has a better vocabulary, figures things out more quickly and has seems to comprehend things on a different level. Can you tell at 5 years old if a child is more intelligent or do all parents think this about their child?

- Parent of a Brainchild?

Dear Brainchild Parent,

The simplest answers to your questions are - yes, there are definitely ways to determine a child's intelligence, even at five years. And yes if not all, the vast majority of, parents believe their children to be the smartest beings they've ever seen. It's rare to come across a parent who will admit that their child is anything less than possessing unique intellectual abilities.

However, I would pose a potentially more relevant question to you: Why do you want to know? If it's just for bragging rights, I'd say go ahead, join the crowd and brag away. If, instead you are wondering if you should pay special attention to these gifts, I would say yes - you should. The truth is that all children posses certain innate skills. If all parents recognized, appreciated and encouraged a young person's unique talents then all children would feel smart. Smart for who they are, what they are good at and positive recognition for those elements that make them who they are. Imaging a world where that was a primary definition of success!

Comparisons aren't always useful so I would encourage you to resist them. Just as I would encourage you to enjoy your daughter for who she is while providing her with as many opportunities as possible to stimulate her mind in ways she enjoys. Allowing a child to feel good about and have fun learning is actually the most direct way to encouraging a lifelong love of learning. That is a great definition of being smart - having a love of learning. If you can cultivate that in your daughter then you will have done a great service to her intelligence and rest assured that you are a good parent.