Our children are geniuses. You may not realise it. They almost certainly don’t. But our children are part of the brightest generation of humans ever. They are humanity’s latest upgrade.
Our children are 40% brighter than the average young person was in 1950. On average, scores on intelligence (IQ) measures have increased by threeee points every decade in the last century. This trend continues and may even be accelerating.
Add to this the enormous amount of technology we use now to leverage and increase our mental powers – laptops, smartphones, the internet – and the shift really is an exponential explosion of intelligence. It is estimated that we process five times more information every day than people did in 1986.
This gain in intelligence has been achieved without any targeted intervention. Imagine what gains we could see if we helped to nourish our children’s cleverness rather than passively waiting for their abilities to unfurl like leaves in the springtime.
Geniuses in the 21st Century resemble the multi-skilled artists of the Renaissance era more than any other time in history. Today’s geniuses are thought-weavers. They are able to access knowledge from multiple sources, integrate it in ingenious ways and apply it in innovative ways in multiple settings.
Don’t rely solely on schools to unlock your children’s genius: you are their first and most important teacher. Teachers and schools do their best for children but their impact is extended over many students at a time. Schools are constrained by guidelines and budgets. Some educational bureaucracies can be slow to adopt new research on how people learn and new methods for utilising that knowledge in classrooms. Children can soar when parents add to the efforts of teachers in building skills, interests, passions and concentration.
Children spend only between 10% and 15% of their time at school. They spend more time asleep (33%) than they do at school. The rest of their time (52%) is at home, awake, mucking around, playing and learning about life. It’s what they do with that time that makes the most significant impact on their development.
The people who can most powerfully unlock your genius are the people who play with them, spend the most time with them and love them the most – you.
Most of your child’s future learning also won’t occur in school. It is estimated that most of the jobs that will exist in the year 2030 do not exist now. Knowledge doubles every three years. It is estimated that 50 years ago a young person left school knowing about 75% of the information they would use in their working lives. In contrast today’s school leavers will leave knowing about 2%!
To prepare our children for success now and in the future, we need to help them to become people who are able and interested in learning.
Our children will need to think creatively to devise solutions to problems we haven’t even considered let alone encountered. This means that we need to think about how we can raise citizens who are able to reflect deeply on important issues, to deal with the demands of the changing world.
It seems highly likely that geniuses in the 21st Century will need to be able to take wisdom, rather than information, from multiple sources, combine and rearrange it in new ways and then apply those thoughts and solutions to new and unforeseen challenges.
Watch little kids learn. They have energy to burn and a rage to learn. They investigate everything, turn houses upside down, dream up wild adventures, see connections between things that are incredible and exhaust their parents.
Attitudes towards inquisitiveness are formed before school begins. For example, four-year-olds ask a ‘why’ question on average every two minutes in their homes but at preschool, the same children ask far fewer questions – about two or three every hour.
Let’s now time travel forwards to secondary school. Many teenagers are slumped over their desks, bored, listless and not prepared to try anything in case they get something wrong and are ridiculed by their friends. Even worse, some are hiding away their genius because they don’t want to be shunned by their friends for being too smart.
This slump in motivation to explore new ideas has its origins around the middle of primary school. You can even see signs of it in pre-school when girls regularly say mathematics is more important for boys than girls!
What has happened to these young minds? Natural curiosity has been dimmed and imagination has been thwarted. Our children’s creativity has been killed by our desire to rank people. Throughout history humans seem to have been determined to rank people and place them into hierarchies. Every human society seems to want to play ‘Who is better than someone else’. This might have been useful when selecting the best runner, hunter or cook in a tribal society, but its cost to the modern world is high.
Children become aware of this system of ranking very early on. It is done to them and they do it to one another. They become even more acutely tuned into what is important to the adults around them. This is why it is easy to turn an eager learner into a disinterested one very quickly. Some children decide it is preferable to be average and to fit in with their friends. Some become so accustomed to being rewarded for learning that they lose the enjoyment of learning. Others decide that school is not a place where they can succeed.
The cost of rankings and comparisons is that children limit their intelligence, become less curious, ask fewer questions, dim down and have less contact with their inner genius. They may also become more cautious and worried.
The growing capability of children to think logically and to be aware of consequences all too often is converted into anxiety rather than imagination.
If the thought of being the most important teacher in your child’s life is daunting, don’t be worried. All it requires is for you to be clear in your intentions as a parent in a way that most people rarely are. Planning to gradually expose your child to experiences, stories, pictures, ideas and skills that will help him or her to discover their inner genius doesn’t mean it is hard work, but it does mean you need to have a plan.
*Edited extract from the book Unlocking Your Child’s Genius, by clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller, published by Vermilion.
Do our children already think they can’t get any smarter?
If your child shows any of the following signs they may not understand that they can get much smarter:
- are reluctant to try new things
- give up as soon as they make a mistake
- feel the only way to build themselves up is to make someone else feel small
- seem anxious and fearful of making mistakes.
Do these apply to anyone you know? Maybe they also apply to you. It would hardly be surprising since society seems to have been lured into a conspiracy to make people forget how clever they really are.