The radiant intelligence of the child

Posted by Samantha on January 17, 2011 in Thought for the day |

What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.

Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis (1856-1939)

It’s typical of Freud (whom I greatly admire though I disagree with him a lot) to turn a really positive observation about children into a negative statement about the human condition!

So let’s just focus on “the radiant intelligence of the child” bit.

Children are equipped with an extraordinary intelligence and capacity to learn.  They have an insatiable hunger for learning and growth.  They are naturally and wonderfully curious.  Everything is endlessly fascinating to them (not just the things you don’t want them to touch!).

I just LOVE that stage when they’ve mastered walking (what an achievement in itself that is) but they never go more than a few steps before seeing something that stops them in their tracks and they just HAVE TO stop and admire!

I have a lasting memory of my little boy aged 17 months on a lakeshore, just FASCINATED by all the pebbles.  Every step was followed by a big “Oooohhhh” and down he’d go again to pick up yet another (virtually identical to my eyes) pebble.

Today, there’s a part of the window-sill in his bedroom that is still covered in pebbles gathered in a similar fashion.  And our doorstep is never free of similarly un-leave-behind-able sticks, twigs (“I’m going to make a broomstick”) and branches.

This is the radiant intelligence of the child in action.  But it goes a lot further than an appreciation of nature.  Look at the magnificence of how they learn to speak.  Or read.  Especially English!  What a huge achievement that is.  Throwing and catching.  Eating and drinking.  Sweeping and pouring.  Tying and folding.  Every day they are learning and it’s nothing short of miraculous.

Each week they add new skills to their repertoires: physical, emotional and intellectual.  They’re flexing their muscles in every way we can imagine.  It is the most natural thing in the world for a human being to learn.  It is part of who we are.  Learning is what we do.

Trust your child’s capacity to learn.  Encourage it.  Marvel in it.  Enjoy it.  Next time you are tempted to frustration with your child for what they have not yet learned; stop.  And choose to notice instead how much more they can do today than this time 6 months ago, or one year ago.

They are learning all the time with that radiant intelligence of theirs.  Have patience.

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