Susan Engel, a professor and author, discusses past methods of gauging a child's intelligence and alternative stategies that can be used.
Read an excerpt from "Red Flags or Red Herrings?: Predicting Who Your Child Will Become " below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.
At three, Stevie was jubilant and inventive, a lively little guy. He had a wiry, lithe body, brown, cheery eyes, and wide cheeks. In a photograph taken of him when he was four, he is lounging on the limb of a tall tree, his arms draped casually and comfortably over a branch. He looks spry and savvy, as if he knows what the photographer sees and gets a kick out of it. What doesn't show is any sign of the fierce intensity that later became such an integral part of his intelligence—for better and for worse.
His nursery-school teacher wrote this about him in his midyear evaluation: "Stevie loves to paint and enjoys experimenting with new techniques. Last week, he tried using two paint brushes at once. He is an avid block builder and often spends hours making complicated structures. He enjoys helping our janitor clean the room at the end of the day and almost always helps move the chairs and sweep the floor. Stevie needs to learn that teasing is not a good way to make friends."
A year later, the art teacher from the same school sent home a note to Stevie's mother: "I would like to talk to you briefly about Stevie. Until now, he has always loved arts and crafts so much. He's been one of the most prolific students in the woodworking area, but recently, he seems to have lost interest. He appears completely indifferent to what he makes. He seems like a different child—even his hand-eye coordination has slipped backward. He doesn't seem to have the interesting ideas for projects that he did just a few months ago, and his wood projects are carelessly put together."
Stevie's mother, Francis, was concerned. Highly intelligent, well educated, and extremely ambitious, Francis assumed that all three of her children would excel at school. It was a given, from her perspective, that her children had superior intellectual ability. Both she and her husband were smart and came from academically oriented families. Her husband was a well-regarded doctor in Boston, with a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University. Francis was a freelance book editor who had been the president of her class at a top women's college. They read constantly, discussed the news at dinner, went to art museums, and traveled. Stevie's older sister and brother were top students. What was wrong with him? Perhaps he just wasn't as smart as the rest of the family.
Is there anyone who doesn't want his or her child to be smart? Whether you live in a family of schoolteachers or a neighborhood of factory workers and farmers, everyone values intelligence. There are few jobs where it doesn't matter, and most of us intuitively know that smarter people do better in all kinds of settings. They get more done, have better ideas, learn things more quickly, are better at their jobs, are often more fun to be with, and can solve unexpected problems.