There’s a special kind of fear only parents know: Will I raise my child to be a respectable, upstanding, happy, smart (and the positive adjectives continue) member of society?
These questions will, at some point, plague the most confident mother and father and for good reason - you’ve created a human being, and you want some kind of assurance you're on the right track.
Professor Julian Stanley of John Hopkins University conducted a mammoth study of highly intelligent children and tracked their career and intellectual progress over half a lifetime – 45 years to be exact – in an effort to distil the most ideal environment for their development.
In 1968 Stanley had met Joseph Bates, a 12-year-old genius, and gave him a number of tests – including the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SATs) – all of which he passed with incredibly high results.
Eventually Bates was given admission into John Hopkins at the tender age of 13 as an undergraduate, and Stanley sought to replicate the young boy’s success.
Stanley continued with a Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, and later founded the 'Centre for Talented Youth', open to teenagers who scored in the top one per cent for the entrance exam.
Camilla Benbow, dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University, who was once a part of Stanley's program, has come up with a number of instructions for parents to maximise their children’s intellectual growth:
1. Expose your children to different experiences
2. Support them not only on an emotional level, but also on an intellectual level
3. Ensure that you have a positive and strong relationship with their teachers
Smarter students will often need more challenging work, and the extra support a teacher can provide - if willing - will do wonders for their progress.
4. When your child is particularly interested in a subject or a hobby, give them opportunities to develop their abilities
5. Praise their effort, rather than their ability
This helps them to develop a ‘growth mindset’ which emphasises progress rather than stationary ability.
6. Encourage your children to ask questions and take intellectual risks
Exposing them to failure early and emphasising that this is part of their learning will encourage them in later life.
7. Avoid using labels like ‘gifted’ and ‘highly intelligent.’ These can become burdensome
8. Have your child’s abilities tested
Not only can this strengthen parents’ arguments for teachers to provide the child with more challenging work, but it can also reveal any disorders or issues the child might have, like dyslexia, ADHD or hyperactivity disorder.