Monday, April 18, 2011

Mommy Wars - Whose Kid is the Smartest?

There is some information I came across a while back that I feel that every parent of a small child needs to hear. Raising a child in today's world, it is difficult not to compare your own child with others. It is also easy to fall into the trap of wondering if your child is falling behind in any given category whether it be language, fine motor skills, gross motor skill, or what-have-you.

I know this all too well, K has had his share of skills he was ahead of the curve in, and some that he was slower than average with. One of the most common parental fixations is intelligence. While I do not have personal experience with kids over age two, I am sure this fixation does not ease up any time soon.

As our babies start becoming kids, it isn't just parents that take note of these differences anymore. Schools and preschools often categorize kids into remedial, normal and gifted groupings. It is not unheard of for some preschools to have entrance exams that require above average aptitude in order to even attend their institution. What is the value behind this? Supposedly, the point is to pick out the naturally gifted children and allow them the opportunity to really nurture that "gift". 
There is an inherent assumption behind this kind of testing. Children that are smarter are naturally gifted and they will continue to be as such. Interestingly, this has not been studied too extensively until the last decade but the newer research suggests that intelligence is rather variable in early childhood. One very gifted child one year may very well be normal or even remedial in three years or less and vice versa. IQ has been found to be rather unstable until well past early childhood. Some of the research even suggests that by early adolescence, many of the brightest kids are the ones that were late intellectual bloomers.

Backtrack to me with my 2 year old that will not be undergoing any formal intelligence testing anytime soon.

What is the take home message?
Don't stress out about where your child is at any given point. Development and intelligence at any given time in these months and years are simply snapshots and not necessarily indicative of future trends. The best a parent can do for their child is nurture their development as best they can and not worry about the standard that other people set for that child.

I am not saying to ignore obvious cues if a child is falling seriously behind. Early intervention programs are wonderful and sometimes necessary. However, if you know that your child is doing fine and is on track, then learn to let go of the constant scrutiny and comparisons.

Realistically I know that I will continue to compare, it is human nature to do so. For my own sanity I am glad my kids seem to stay ahead of the curve for the most part, but in large group settings there will pretty much always be a kid that is ahead. At least I know that I can breathe a sigh of relief when I come across that twenty month old at the playground that can say his ABCs perfectly.

There are several longitudinal studies showing the weak correlation between kindergarten IQ and aptitude versus the IQ and aptitude of those children when they are older. Two of the ones I have looked at thoroughly are:
  • Gifted Today but not Tomorrow? Longitudinal Changes in Ability and Achievement during Elementary School. By David F. Lohman & Katrina A. Korb 2006
  • Assessment Issues in the Testing of Children at School Entry. By Donald A. Rock, & A. Jackson Stenner 2005
Please keep your comments and jeers to yourself regarding my bibliography style, I have been out of college for a few years and frankly don't care about technicalities anymore. If I never look at another MLA, APA, or whatever handbook again, it will be too soon!


  1. This was an AWESOME post. You know my little Eli and although I have a lot of valid reasons to be concerned (because of his numerous delays and health problems) I also need to relax. Thank you for this post from the bottom of my heart. (Yes this post even brought tears. Insert eye roll. LOL)

  2. LOL at that last part. I'm glad it was helpful for you Angela. Little brains are amazing and go through so much growth and change in in these years. I know Eli has some very special circumstances but don't underestimate how versatile his mind is and it's ability to overcome.


I'd love to hear from you!