Valuing Your Kids' Unique Intelligence

Seeing our children for who they really are

By Sue-Ann Lee | 27 September, 2017

It is easy to mistake academic excellence for intelligence, especially when you have grown up in a society that measures ability and talent by performance. Before my husband and I had children, we were adamant that we would embrace their unique personalities, giftings and talents. But, when our first child started school, we found that ideal much easier said than done.

Our oldest daughter is a highly-intelligent, creative and free-spirited child. She has never been one to conform. In kindergarten, as part of their lesson on ‘Life Cycles’, the class was asked to draw butterflies. While everyone else drew a butterfly or two, our daughter Skyler, was the only student to draw a family of butterflies. Now that she’s 10, she's a voracious reader, loves creating with her hands and excels in thinking out-of-the-box. Needless to say, she is a whizz at playing Pictionary.

Not just exam smart

Unfortunately, our academic curriculum does not always offer wiggle-room to encourage Skyler’s unique giftings and, time and again, we’ve seen her teachers struggle to “figure her out”. Standing firm on our decision to be our children’s cheerleaders has often left us feeling like we were swimming upstream. But, when an article in The Straits Times earlier this year mentioned that only 2 per cent of parents surveyed felt that their children needed to be “exam smart” in order to fare well in our future economy 1, I was heartened to discover that there were more parents like us!

In fact, the survey noted that when it came to preparing children for the future, they recorded the highest percentage of parents who believed this included exposing them to “life experiences” and different cultures as opposed to just focusing on improving academic ability. If we want to help our children maximise their learning potential and see them grow into well-adjusted, successful adults, nurturing their unique intelligences is key.

Do we know our children?

While most of us have probably heard about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (first developed by Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983) that lists out 8 types of intelligences, how many of us actually know which ones our children possess?

How can we help our children tap the potential of their unique giftings if we have not yet identified what they are? Another survey, conducted by the United Overseas Bank in May of last year discovered just that only half of the parents surveyed were familiar with their children’s giftings and most of them were unsure of how to access that potential 2.

“How can we help our children tap the potential of their unique giftings if we have not yet identified what they are?”

In her book, 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences, Dr. Kathy Koch helps parents recognise their children’s “multiple smarts”. She breaks down the 8 different intelligences into simple-to-remember “smarts”: word, logic, picture, music, body, nature, people and self.

According to Dr. Koch, understanding your child’s intelligences, starts with a keen observation of what they do when no one is watching. Discerning your child’s behavioural patterns, natural abilities and choices that they make on their own accord, will help you discover their unique mix of strengths.

Being their greatest supporter

As parents, we must remember that when we prioritise developing our child’s strengths above overcoming their weaknesses, we are helping them realise that they can be successful. As Dr. Foo Fung Fong - a medical doctor who has worked with disadvantaged children, youth and families, and raised three successful children of her own - says, "the most important role to play in your children's life is to be your child’s supporter. Encourage them wholeheartedly and love them unconditionally.3"

“We should prioritise developing our child’s strengths above overcoming their weaknesses.”

This journey of discovery into my children’s talents, passions and strengths has deepened my appreciation for how special each of them really are. This, for me, has been a valuable form of encouragement to continue to support and celebrate my children so that they may grow up as independent adults with the confidence to make a difference in the world.

© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

Wish to build a stronger relationship with your soon-to-be teen? Join us for an unforgettable afternoon at Create with Mum (for mums and children 11-14 years old) at

1 Yeo, J. (2016, July 11). Teach your children well. The Straits Times. Retrieved from

2 Yang, C. (2016, September 26). Most parents no longer focus only on grades: Poll. The Straits Times. Retrieved from

3 Yahya, Y. (2017, February 25). Parents put high value on critical thinking, creativity. The Straits Times. Retrieved from



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