Appropriate Expectations

brown dog on grass

Here in the U.S., most everyone knows what an IQ test is. Many of us probably had one type or another while we were in school. It’s a so-called “intelligence” test. These tests are given when we are young and still in an active learning mode. However, these tests can be dangerous, and here is why this is possible.

First of all, it is difficult to quantify “intelligence.” These IQ tests really measure knowledge, which is a far different thing. Second, people get classified on the basis of their test scores. If this test is done in school, teachers get an idea about how smart our kids are, and then they treat them that way. The kids get the idea from the teachers about how smart they are, and then they behave that way. It’s a downward spiral doomed to frustration and failure for all concerned.

There is an infamous study, done decades ago, where teachers were told that a certain group of kids had enormous potential, but were not living up to it. They were also told that another group of kids were not very bright. In actuality, all the kids had roughly equal ability. They tested these kids at the end of the year, and they found that the children whom the teacher thought were bright had improved their IQ test scores by nearly 10 points! The other group had gone down. The beliefs the teachers had actually played out in the way they taught the two groups. One of the worst kinds of ripples in a pond.

This was yet another version of the self-fulfilling prophecy. It underscores how our own thinking drives behaviors, all determined by our beliefs. What we need to do is not measure and label our kids, but encourage each and every one of them to use their unique talents and vast potential. It’s not so much what we know, but what we can use of what we know that makes the difference. It’s moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset when we celebrate the effort over the result. It’s building persistence and resiliency, rather than tearing them down.

Children tend to live up to what is expected of them, and so do most adults. We want to see everyone as capable, bright, and creative and teach them to see themselves this way – from the very beginning.