Yes, you read it right. The question is, ‘can your child be a genius?’
The simple answer to this question is ‘yes’.
The 21st century discoveries about the human brain and its functioning have revealed the astounding fact that human abilities are not fixed at birth. In other words, what you are able to do with your life is not fixed when you are born. It is not all in the genes. It is not just nature: nurture plays a significant part in the moulding of what a person is, and what he/she can be.
Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity refers to the amazing ability of the human brain to modify its structure and functions according to the changes within the body and/or in the external environment. (‘Plasticity’ comes from the Greek word ‘plastos’ meaning molded).
In his book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., offers an introduction to the brilliant scientists advocating neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they’ve transformed. The book describes real life stories of stroke patients learning to speak again, and the amazing story of a woman born with half a brain that restructured itself to work as a whole. It is a book that changes the way we think about our brain, its nature, and its potential.
The genes we inherit from our parents are finite, no doubt about that. However, our brain’s ability to develop is infinite. New brain cells are being born all the time, and to keep them alive and growing, we have to stimulate them.
Herein lies the promise of neuroplasticity in the moulding of children into adults who are capable of realizing their potential. For, genius is nothing but a human being who has realized his/her innate potential! What Mozart, Einstein and da Vinci had was innate potential plus the right environment.
All geniuses started life in exactly the same way. They had parents who supported the development of their individual gifts and talents. They had the right environment and stimuli that led to the optimal development of themselves.
Discovering and developing your child’s gifts and talents
You can think about your child’s gifts as the merging colours of a rainbow. The possibilities are endless. All children are born with three natural abilities that provide them with the potential to think like a genius: the abilities to think, to learn and to develop their own individual way of thinking and learning.
Some pointers on how you can help your child fulfil his/her innate potential are given below.
- Do not waste their time. The biggest waste of time in a kid’s life is the useless shows on TV and the video games on their laptop/tablet/smart phone. Instead of tuning to the television all the time or cutting it out fully, choose the programmes that they should watch, based on their educational, informational and entertainment value. In the same way, select the kind of games they can do on the internet. Not all games are good, and not all games are bad.
- Boredom is a warning signal. If your child says that he/she is bored with school, or with life in general, that is a sure signal that his/her creativity and thinking skills are not challenged to the optimal degree. Find out what is causing the boredom. Talk to the teacher and find out if more challenging activities can be given. At home, give opportunities to use his/her creativity.
- Encourage questions. Children are born naturally curious. They ask ‘why?’ questions all the time. If parents and teachers can give opportunities to develop their natural curiosity and thinking capacity, they will learn faster and better. Never discourage questions and curiosity.
- Allow children to explore their environment. Allow them some degree of freedom. Children raised in an overly protective environment will lack brain stimulation and chances of growth. Let them play in the mud, and get dirty occasionally. Let them introduce themselves to strangers, under your supervision.
- Give your child plenty of problem-solving opportunities. Problems present themselves all the time. It could be ‘how to ride your bike without an accident?’ or ‘how to face a bully at school?’ Encourage your child to find solutions to problems own his/her own, but offer help when needed.
- Teach your child how to identify relationships between things. What is common between a school and your eyes? Well, both have ‘pupils’.
Riddles such as these explore the commonalities and relationships among things. Engage in such riddles and games with your child, so that their lateral thinking abilities develop. Puzzles are a great way to develop this ability to think outside the box.
- Exercise Increases Brain Plasticity. Research conducted at the University of Pisa in Italy, as well as many other studies around the world have shown that exercise enhances neuroplasticity. Exercises are not just for obese adults! Children who do not move around much and sit in front of a screen most of the time are not likely to develop their cognitive and social skills.
- Get them to read. Most parents know the benefits of reading, but few take concrete steps to get their children reading. It is most important that parents read to children when they cannot read by themselves. Surround the kids with lots of interesting books. Set aside a time during the day when the whole family will read. There are plenty of good books for kids to read.
- Keep a tab on school performance. There is plenty of research that shows that parental expectations predict kids’ academic achievements. Let your kids know that you expect good grades from them, all the time.
- Get them emotionally secure. Envelope your kids with love and care. They should have a strong sense of security and stability during childhood. Avoid too many changes all at once, such as shifting schools.
- Give them opportunities. Take your kids to animal shows, science fairs and concerts. Let them join the school scouts team if there is one. Buy them a bike so that they can move around on their own. Take them to good movies. The idea is to give them as much exposure as possible, as many experiences as possible.
- Inculcate positive values. The world does not need a Frankenstein or antisocial geniuses. Intelligence gone the wrong way can do unimaginable harm. Positive values such as love, respect, optimism, care for the weak, helpfulness and honesty should be inculcated in the child from young.
- Build up their confidence. Give them plenty of positive feedback. Build a ‘can do’ attitude in them. Let your kids know that they can be whatever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do, with their life. There are no limits for possibilities.
Ultimately, it is the parents and their parenting style that decides a child’s future. Each child is unique. Parents will have to adapt the guidelines above to suit their own children’s needs.
Can your child be a genius? Yes, he/she can be, if you give him/her the right environment, the right stimuli and the right guidance.