How am I smart?

How smart am I“How am I Smart? A Parent’s guide to multiple intelligences”

Author: Dr. Kathy Koch  @2007, Moody Publishers.   Cost $21.99 Koorong or $14.48 with free postage at Book Depository at the moment.

I highly recommend this book for parents and teachers. Kathy clearly explains that all children are smart, you just need to work out how they are smart. Everyone has a combination of intelligences and it is our role to help them identify which ones are their strengths, which can be improved on and which ones still need to be awakened. It can also help you to see how their misbehaviour is related to their strengths and give you a clearer understanding of why they act the way they do. Kathy believes that a lot of the trouble that children get into is as a result of using their strengths in improper or ill-times ways. Kathy also believes that once you have a greater understanding of your child’s ‘smarts’, it helps us understand how to meet their core needs for security (Who can I trust?), identity (Who am I?), belonging (Who wants me?), purpose (Why am I alive?) and competence (What do I do well?).

Kathy lists eight different intelligences or ‘smarts’ – word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart, people smart and self smart. They are based on Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Her website at has a lot of helpful resources plus also a copy of the graph to download so that you can map not only each child’s ‘smarts’, but the whole family’s. This will help you see where there will likely be conflict between each family member and to help you understand why.

I love how after reading this book and mapping your child’s smarts, you will have a clearer understanding of how you can help your child choose to glorify God by identifying the spiritual disciplines they relate to the best, what things will help them trust a person more, what challenges and downfalls they will be more likely to encounter, how they will connect best with God, what careers may suit them better etc. You will also learn how to crystallise (encourage) or paralyse (discourage) a child’s smarts. Kathy encourages us as parents to look at how our children are responding at the moment. Is there an area in their life where they are negative and you hear the phrase “I can’t do this..”? It may well have come from us being negative or critical in one of their smart areas and paralysing them in that area. Their core needs can be affected even without us realising what we have done. Kathy encourages us to recognise what we have done whether intentionally or unintentionally, apologise and ask forgiveness, work to re-establish trust, be patient and try to create a crystallising experience for them.

Kathy points out that no smart is better than another. We are all created differently. We also have the ability to be smart in all areas to some degree and some areas may still need to be worked on. As you work through the book, look for patterns of behaviour. I have tried to briefly summarise the word smart below as an example of what you can find in her book about each smart. For parents who homeschool, I definitely recommend this book. This will help you greatly as you teach them and help them on their journey to reach their full potential.

Word Smart: Does your child talk continually, even if no-one is listening? Do they use words that you are surprised that they already know?

Competence: They think with words, and when they are excited, they almost always talk. They may write or journal but talking is the most common way they are word smart. They don’t need an audience. They’re often content talking to themselves when they are playing. They may even talk inside their head where no one else can hear them. They may become distracted by their own voice even when they are trying to listen to a teacher. They are usually great teachers and love explaining things to others. They may be great at arguing, persuading or entertaining with words. They may have begun talking at an early age. They may have been curious about writing and learnt to read easily. They love reading. They handle most textbooks and assignments successfully, often being able to remember details. They have a large vocabulary and they speak confidently and listen accurately. They tend to be well informed. They may find it easy to learn a second language.

Learning and Teaching methods: Reading, writing & speaking about a topic generally comes easily.  Will recopy or type lecture notes and read extra books about the topic. They will enjoy listening to people talk about the topic. Great teaching methods for this child are storytelling, lectures, discussions, writing words on the board during discussions, note-taking strategies, word games, choral reading, reading aloud with great expression, echo reciting, journal writing, drawing upon a variety of books and literary genre, audio books, debating and writing research reports.

For children where this isn’t a smart, encourage them to write with gel pens and coloured paper, engage them in meaningful conversation, and read often to them with great expression.

Identity: Ask them to describe themself and they may say “I talk a lot”, “I enjoy reading” “I like the power of words and the way they feel in my mouth.” Caution: a child who talks a lot but doesn’t necessarily talk to teach or persuade, or who doesn’t do well in school assignments, may be an auditory learner instead of a word-smart child. They may remember best the things they hear themself saying. This is different to being word smart.

Struggles: This is usually their strength used in an unhealthy way eg be careful of gossiping, teasing, lying, arguing, needing to always have the last word or talking when they should be listening. They may also tend to be prideful in their intellectual abilities and may want to show off their knowledge or vocabulary.

Purpose: Serve God primarily through learning, speaking, listening, reading, writing and teaching. They may enjoy reading & studying the Bible, memorise Scripture, journal etc. They will be most motivated when they have someone to talk about what they have gained from their study and reflection.

Careers: Focus on ones that involve speaking, listening, reading and writing eg teacher, Pastor, counsellor, journalist, editor, lawyer, radio or television personality, librarian, politician.

Belonging: They love sharing their knowledge in relationships and meaningful conversations. They will have friends who influence them and also who they can influence. May not enjoy small talk. They may contribute to relationship challenges as they can talk too much.

Connecting with God: May connect best with God through His voice and reading the Bible. Buy them their own Bible, Bible storybooks, Christian classics, devotionals, biographies of famous Christian heroes, Christian fiction. They will love you reading to them no matter what age they are. Because of their learning and listening strengths, word-smart children will often connect with God by attending Sunday school, church programs, youth groups etc. They will love talking about what they did and what they learnt.

Security: who can I trust? Word-smart children tend to place at least part of their security in their strengths of reading, writing, debating, memorising trivia, getting good grades.

Trusting parents: Word-smart children need parents who will listen closely and carefully to whatever they say. They love you asking questions. Be available when they need to talk. As they get older, writing notes back and forth can be a great way to keep communication open about sensitive matters. When talking to them about their behaviour especially if it is negative, be descriptive and it will help them understand your thoughts better.

Trusting in God: since vocabulary is a strength, try teaching them the different names of God. Use more than one translation of the Bible. Depending on their age, encourage them to read the Bible aloud during family devotions and even to make up the devotion.

This has been a concise outline of what word-smart children are like. The book covers each of the other smarts – logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, nature smart,people smart, and self smart in a similar manner. I highly recommend obtaining a copy of this book as it will help in providing specific resources for your children according to their wiring. There is a graph at the end of each chapter (also available on the website where you can graph each child. I encourage you to graph each family member for every smart. Catherine, a friend of mine who recommended this book to me, did this for her family and it helped the whole family realise why certain members would frustrate other family members and how. Just a small example from our family – hubby frustrates Princess and myself when he humms, taps out tunes, moves a lot in the car to the radio, etc. One of his strengths is music smart and we shut him down when we complain and ask him to stop because it is frustrating both of us who aren’t music smart. It is a great resource for understanding different family member’s behaviour. Highly recommended.

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