How do you boost your child’s IQ? Fam­ily Mat­ters

DAVID DI­DAU DELVES INTO PSY­CHOL­OGY, COG­NI­TIVE SCIENCE, SCHOOL AND HOME LIFE IN HIS NEW BOOK, MAK­ING KIDS CLEV­ERER. LISA SALMON FINDS OUT MORE

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

UN­LESS you’re the par­ent of a child ge­nius, chances are you’d love to help your child be­come more clever. But where do you start, and is it even re­ally pos­si­ble?

For­mer teacher David Di­dau be­lieves it is – and he’s out­lined what he thinks are key fac­tors in his new book, Mak­ing Kids Clev­erer: A Man­i­festo For Clos­ing The Ad­van­tage Gap.

This isn’t just about pil­ing more pres­sure on kids to be aca­dem­i­cally ex­cel­lent, how­ever. David delves into the realms of psy­chol­ogy, so­ci­ol­ogy, phi­los­o­phy and cog­ni­tive science, draw­ing on re­search as well as his own years of ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion to re­veal the strate­gies and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that seem to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in mak­ing chil­dren clev­erer – to help them ‘live hap­pier, health­ier and more se­cure lives’.

He be­lieves in­tel­li­gence is partly ‘fluid’ and partly ‘crys­tallised’ (based on the 1971 the­ory from psy­chol­o­gist Ray­mond B Cat­tell, who broke in­tel­li­gence into these two cat­e­gories). Fluid in­tel­li­gence re­lates to our abil­ity to rea­son and solve prob­lems, while crys­tallised in­tel­li­gence is ba­si­cally what we know (the knowl­edge we hold in our mem­o­ries) and the abil­ity to ap­ply this to new prob­lems. It’s the crys­tallised part that’s “rel­a­tively straightfo­rward” to in­crease, David states.

“In­tel­li­gence is in­flu­enced by our genes,” he says. “Some chil­dren are just born with a greater po­ten­tial for clev­er­ness than oth­ers. How­ever, there’s good rea­son to be­lieve that we are al­ready get­ting clev­erer in some re­spects as we be­come more knowl­edge­able, and by con­cen­trat­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that can be changed, we might be able to make all chil­dren clev­erer.”

While fluid in­tel­li­gence in­creases dur­ing child­hood de­vel­op­ment, peaks in our mid-20s and then gen­tly de­clines, David says crys­tallised in­tel­li­gence can go on ac­cu­mu­lat­ing through­out life. “Who wouldn’t want to be clev­erer? If you’re clev­erer, not only will you do bet­ter in school, but you’ll also be more cre­ative, demon­strate bet­ter lead­er­ship skills, earn more, be hap­pier and live longer,” he says.

Here are David’s seven top tips...

1. DON’T OVER­ES­TI­MATE WHAT YOU CAN DO

“ONE of the most trou­bling find­ings of re­search into rais­ing in­tel­li­gence is that par­ents have far less im­pact than is com­monly sup­posed,” says David.

He says a pair of iden­ti­cal twins reared in the same home aren’t much more alike than twins reared in sep­a­rate homes, and ex­plains: “What tends to make us like our par­ents isn’t their par­ent­ing but their genes. The ef­fects of par­ent­ing on IQ seem par­tic­u­larly con­clu­sive. There’s noth­ing any­one can do about their genes, so our power to shape chil­dren’s en­vi­ron­ments is all we have. And per­haps all we need.”

2. READ TO THEM

DAVID says that while read­ing to chil­dren won’t nec­es­sar­ily pass on the habit of read­ing, or even have a per­ma­nent ef­fect on their in­tel­li­gence, their mem­ory of what you read to them is likely to per­sist. So read them sto­ries that take them out of their fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment.

3. BROADEN THEIR MINDS THROUGH EX­PE­RI­ENCES

TAKE ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to en­rich chil­dren’s ex­pe­ri­ences, and try to take them to mu­se­ums and gal­leries, ad­vises David. “Even though our in­flu­ence on our off­spring will wane, their mem­ory of life ex­pe­ri­ences will, at least in part, be re­tained,” he says. “You can’t in­flu­ence your chil­dren’s per­son­al­i­ties by the time they’re adults, but you can give them ad­van­tages that make a dif­fer­ence to how well they un­der­stand the world.”

4. TALK TO THEM

TELL chil­dren about dif­fer­ent times and places, dis­cuss cur­rent af­fairs, and ex­plain how the world works.

“All of this lodges some­where in their mem­o­ries and it all helps them make sense of the un­fa­mil­iar, ab­stract con­cepts they en­counter in school,” says David.

5. NEVER UN­DER­ES­TI­MATE PEER POWER

UN­LIKE the ef­fects of par­ent­ing, peer in­flu­ences seem to have a much more long-last­ing im­pact on chil­dren’s at­ti­tudes and val­ues, says David. “What­ever their group val­ues, is what they’ll value. It’s very hard for any­one, es­pe­cially a teenager, to set them­selves apart from the as­pi­ra­tions and an­tipathies of their peers.”

And this can af­fect in­tel­li­gence – as if a child’s friends don’t

ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits of hard work and per­sis­tence, the child won’t ei­ther.

“If a child’s peer group val­ues hard work and good be­hav­iour, in­di­vid­u­als within the group will learn more,” says David. “What starts as a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude to school work might well end up as a dif­fer­ence in av­er­age IQ.”

6. CHOOSE A SCHOOL FOR ITS PUPILS

ONE of the most im­por­tant vari­ables for de­ter­min­ing chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tional suc­cess is the peer cul­ture at their school, ex­plains David. There­fore, he sug­gests par­ents don’t se­lect schools based on aca­demic suc­cess. In­stead, he ad­vises par­ents to choose a school where chil­dren will be happy and where the ma­jor­ity of pupils have a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards ed­u­ca­tion.

“This is far eas­ier said than done, but it’s the thing most likely to have a long-last­ing pos­i­tive ef­fect on your chil­dren,” he says. “Send them to a school where it’s cool to be clev­erer and work hard.”

7. DON’T BE­LIEVE THE HYPE

THERE are many sup­posed ways to in­crease in­tel­li­gence, but David says many of them don’t make any dif­fer­ence. Play­ing brain-train­ing games sim­ply makes you bet­ter at brain-train­ing games, noth­ing else, and al­though lis­ten­ing to Mozart may help you ap­pre­ci­ate clas­si­cal mu­sic, it won’t make you clev­erer. Plus, he sug­gests that al­though play­ing chess might be chal­leng­ing and worth­while, “don’t bother if you think it will help raise your in­tel­li­gence”.

Di­dau Au­thor David

In­tel­li­gence is de­ter­mined by our genes but there are things we can do to im­prove it

Mak­ing Kids Clev­erer: A Man­i­festo For Clos­ing The Ad­van­tage Gap by David Di­dau is pub­lished by Crown House Pub­lish­ing, priced £14.99.

Chess might be fun but it won’t boost in­tel­li­gence

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