Are children smarter these days
Parents can make a significant contribution to the development of their children's intelligence - and should do so so that their full potential can develop. FOCUS Online spoke to learning researcher Elsbeth Stern. She reveals four tricks you can use to give your children the best possible support.
The mind is man's most effective tool and sharpest weapon. In addition to ambition, diligence or creativity, it determines the direction in which life will move. Whether a child will later swing speeches, build houses, impart knowledge or conjure up works of art.
Our intelligence is predetermined
In making this choice, we are not entirely independent, because everyone is tied to their individual genetic makeup. Our intelligence is predetermined. It is recorded in the genes before birth. That means that everyone has different requirements with which they are born. However, everyone can influence how much they exploit this potential. And parents can support their children in this.
The cognitive psychologist and renowned learning researcher Elsbeth Stern is convinced of this. “As a parent, you have a duty to develop what a child brings with them. But what is not there cannot be developed, ”she explains.
Intelligence quotient: This is the distribution of values
An intelligence quotient between 85 and 115 is considered normal, a value above 115 is above average. If you have an IQ of over 130, you are considered gifted.
Stern understands intelligence as the ability to think conclusively and whether these properties develop fully depends on the environment.
According to the learning researcher, emotional security and a loving environment are the basis for good intelligence development in children. Building on this, there are various scientific findings on how the intelligence quotient of the young can easily be improved.
The key to intelligence is language, explains Stern. Because we create ideas about them. Language enables us to think about complicated matters, to express our thoughts and to understand the world.
Reading helps with language development and trains concentration. Studies that have found a connection between the size of the home library and the intelligence quotient of children also deal with the positive effects of reading.
The sociologist Joanna Sikora of the Australian National University found that having a lot of books in the household gives children an advantage in language development. Her research team compared data from adults between the ages of 25 and 65 from 31 countries. From a number of 80 books onwards, the researchers observed an improvement in linguistic competence. This effect increased up to a size of the house library of 350 books.
Another data analysis shows: A household with many books extends the educational path of a child by around three years - in contrast to a child who grows up in a household without books.
That is why Stern recommends reading to the child as much as possible and reading with them. When the child is old enough, parents should provide the child with books. Interactive reading in particular improves linguistic competence. When reading aloud, for example, the youngsters should always be able to throw in their questions. That encourages him to think along.
2. Early contact with peers
Being with people of the same age promotes cognitive processes, explains the psychologist. Because children are more unrestrained with one another than with adults. You can share your interests while playing together and just try it out. Parents and educators usually only have limited time and patience for this.
Preschool is a place where children can spend time with their peers. This also improves IQ, as cognitive researcher John Protzko from the University of California found out in a meta-analysis. According to him, the preschool can improve the performance in the intelligence test by around four points and even by seven points if the respective educational institution focuses on language development.
Breast milk is good for brain development. This is the conclusion reached by the analysis of a population-based birth cohort study with newborns. The original study was made in Brazil in the 1980s. Using this data, researchers working with epidemiologist Cesar Victoria examined the effect that breastfeeding had on the infants at the time 30 years after birth.
To do this, they measured the IQ of almost 3,500 former test subjects. Participants who were breastfed for twelve months or more did around four points better. The researchers blame long-chain fatty acids in breast milk for this result. They play a central role in a child's brain development.
However, this study has come under fire. Because, according to Cesar Victoria himself, important data are missing to rule out disruptive factors. For example, the mother-child bond or the home environment could also be responsible for the improved IQ.
That is why Stern also thinks: If you don't breastfeed, you won't ruin your child's future. Breastfeeding is one factor that helps boost the intelligence found in genes. However, the effect is not so great that non-breastfeeding mothers have to worry about harming their child.
One factor that does not directly affect intelligence, but does affect motivation to learn, is praise. A praise should actually motivate or reward an effort. But praise can be used up, says Stern.
This is how psychologists Jennifer Henderlong and Mark Lepper from Reed College in Oregon see it. You have evaluated over 100 studies on the topic and advise applying praise to a specific achievement and not to a property. Otherwise, the child may get the impression that they don't have to do anything in order to be praised. In addition, praise must be sincere. If it's too general, exaggerated, or obviously manipulative, it will harm the child because they may not feel they are being taken seriously.
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