Some weeks back, I was privileged to have spend an afternoon with Dr. Thomas Armstrong on understanding the topic – Awakening the Genius in Every Child. I first attended a workshop on the topic at SmartKids Asia 2014, which is held in Singapore Expo and subsequently, we had an informal high tea session with media friends and fellow bloggers at Table Manners (one of my favouite restaurants!), Changi Point on the same day.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong

Dr. Thomas Armstrong – Awakening the Genius in Every Child

I was so glad that i dragged the husband along with me that day, because it had been a really insightful afternoon as parents with 2 young toddlers.

Much was covered during the workshop session like the 12 qualities of genius. Basically, genius comes in all shapes, sizes and genres, and unfortunately, not like how we have defined it here in SG – examinations, grades and how well you do in school. In fact, he felt strongly against our education system here – because it is the EXACT OPPOSITE thing that you should do, should you want to awaken the geniuses in your child. I’ll elaborate further later, but here are the 12 qualities of genius he talked about.

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12 Qualities of Genius [Source: Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s blog]

Do you see the above qualities in your child? 

Just when Dr. Thomas Armstrong was explaining the 12 qualities of genius that is present in kids at birth, i have a living example right there and then.

#jeromechoo

Jerome, curious about the people around him, and tugging at a stranger’s bag!

And then, subsequently, he took off and went exploring the room! There was a narrow aisle at the side of the room and he just walked straight down the aisle, exploring the territory, unafraid, totally happy and curious.

#jeromechoo

Jerome strutting down the aisle!

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Jerome running away from mummy!

He literally walked around the entire room, up and down the aisles and even took items out from someone’s paper bag (goodness we are friends and she was totally forgiving about it). At one point in time, Jerome even walked right up to Dr. Thomas Armstrong and he is being cited as an example in the talk. OMG. Mummy me was totally embarrassed but i guess the kid has his #onesecondoffame.Dr. Thomas Armstrong also covered the conditions that could suppress the genius in the child, some of which comprises of the family environment, dysteachia and media-ocrity, broadly defined in the pointers below.

Homiliation (family environment of the kid)

  • Dysfunction family (e.g. broken family)
  • Disadvantaged family (e.g poor family without the resource to stimulate the child)
  • Fast-Track family (e.g. pushing the child before they are ready and teach prematurely – doesn’t this sounds familiar to our kiasu culture?)
  • Rigid-Ideology family (e.g. instilling fear or hate in child for others)

Dysteachia

  • Testing & Grading (we are all so familiar with this!)
  • Talk & Tedium
  • Textbooks & Worksheets (i know right….?)
  • Tracking & Labelling (Isn’t this what our educational system does?

Through such, there could be a fear in kids to fail and be labelled. Instead of developing them cognitively, emotionally and growing the complex and diverse capabilities of a human being, the system train them to somewhat be robots – do things all the same way to beat the system, and suppress the genius in the child.

Media-ocrity (what kind of media are we exposing our kids to nowadays?)

  • Mind-blowing violence
  • Trivial content
  • Insipid Language (he stated an example of a cartoon with no dialogue but just nerdy laughter throughout)
  • Stereotypical Image (hello, barbie!)

I feel very strongly on the bit on media-ocrity because i have been lamenting to Der that the cartoons for kids these days are HORRIBLE. Have you actually watched the cartoons on cable tv these days? Not ALL are bad, but a lot of them are quite bad!! Sigh. I wished we had a lot more of the better programs that those that really teaches zero values and all. I have a lot of cartoons on my ban list for Jerry because i cannot understand why would anyone let kids watch those cartoons?! The lack of story lines….. (ok, i rather not talk about it. Sigh.)

How do we then awaken the genius in them?

  1. Reawaken genius in ourselves first
  2. Provide simple experiences (e.g simple building block toy to stimulate vs computer games)
  3. See genius in many colors (child could be word smart, logic smart, picture smart, body smart, music smart, people smart, self smart or nature smart)
  4. Create a genial climate (allowing the kid to have the freedom to choose, allow open-ended exploration, freedom from any judgement, honouring every child’s experience, believing in every’s child genius and supporting optimal nutrition).
#jeromechoo

Jerome exploring a little hook on the carpeted floor.

See, i was trying to practice what Dr. Thomas Armstrong was preaching right in the room. Letting the child the freedom to explore, and honouring his learning experience. This kid, he eventually managed to figure out its a hook that you can pull… he pulled it up to reveal a hole in the ground. Such a AHA! moment for him that he kept doing it non stop thereafter! Anyway, i digressed!

Dr. Thomas Armstrong also touched a little on the topic of optimal nutrition and that we should give the child the necessary nutrition for it to grow healthily and well in order to develop the geniuses in them. Children learn in multiple ways – seeing, thinking and doing. Good nutrition helps support overall growth and development in these 3 key areas. Nutrition can also affect early brain development and learning. Well, in gist, good nutrition = good health = good condition for learning! (Read: How Nutrition affects Multi-Dimensional Learning)

Nutrition is also especially important in the first few years of the child’s life since early childhood is a crucial period for cognitive, social and emotional growth some key important nutrients can be found in our milk powder today such as DHA, Lutein, Choline, high quality Alpha Protein and dietary fibre, just to name a few. (Fact: S-26 Promise GOLD has up to 5x more DHA, 40% more Lutein and 20% more Choline as compared to previous formula)

There was just so much for me to absorb, but totally insightful. I left the seminar room flooded on thoughts about what we thought was right could potentially do more harm to the kids! We moved on to the media Q&A session next at Table Manners and I was a little late (transporting two kids in and out of their strollers + driving over and finding a parking lot is quite the hassle and i wished i opted for the shuttle service that was provided).

Media Q&A Session with Dr. Thomas Armstrong at Table Manners, Changi Point.

The Q&A session was extremely insightful and helpful as well. Dr Thomas Armstrong talk about the society in general being too quick to label kids with ADD or ADHD when these kids in fact could be extremely good on certain skills and could contribute equally to the society. I remember him citing an example of companies employing adults that have been previously labelled with autism to read computer programming language and to pick up errors in them because they are extremely good at doing that.

He also brought up the topic of Nature Deficiency Disorder – city kids being sufferers of nature deprivation and that we should let the kids go out in the wild nature and let them run/explore and interact with the nature. I made a mental note on this to bring my kids to countrysides whenever possible.

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“Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein

The key takeout from the session that i had, was that children should PLAY. Uninhibited play. As much as they want, how they want it. They should define their own rules and we should just let them be. They have this natural curiosity about things, and should be left to explore their curiosity, playfulness, imagination, creativity and all, without much intervention on our end. We should just ensure that they are within safe boundaries and keep a watchful eye for danger, but otherwise, let their imagination rule.

source : tumblr.com

I know its hard, we always think we know better right and try to correct the kids. Now, i urge you to think before you do that the next time… because you are likely to inhibit the genius in your child. So, think again, and let them have open ended play. You might end up learning something from them!

Group picture with Dr. Thomas Armstrong with fellow bloggers

We ending the session with a group picture with fellow parent bloggers. Am sure all of us went back home and looked at our kids differently that day. and errmm, i couldn’t resist but jumped in to take an individual shot with Dr. Thomas Armstrong thereafter.

Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Jerry & me (photo credit: Irene)

Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Jerry & me. Photo credit: Irene

P.s. If you are keen on Dr. Thomas Armstrong workshop, here’s the slides on Awakening the Genius in Every Child.

About Dr. Thomas Armstrong
Dr. Thomas Armstrong Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and specializes in multiple intelligences. He is an award-winning author and speaker who has been an educator for the past forty years. He has authored fifteen books which has been translated into twenty-six languages and appeared on several national and international television and radio programs. Articles featuring his work have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today.

Disclaimer: I was invited by Rise & Shine to attend the “Awakening the Genius in Every Child” workshop and high tea session with Dr. Thomas Armstrong that is sponsored by Wyeth|Nutrition as a Rise & Shine Partner Blogger. I am compensated for my post but all thoughts and opinions are of my own.