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Episode summary:

Children often believe that they aren't smart or that a subject is too hard if the way they're taught is incompatible with their preferred learning style. In this episode, Susan shares the importance of helping children understand the varied flavors of intelligence, and the importance of each.

Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.

Things you'll learn from this episode:

Why bright children sometimes struggle academically

The value of helping children understand learning styles


How to help kids change negative conclusions about their intelligence

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I'm Susan Stiffelman. I'm your host, the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence. I'm also a marriage, family and child therapist, a teacher long time parent, coach, and educator. And I'm very glad that you're here.This podcast is all about helping you raise confident, caring children with more joy and fewer power struggles. It's been my joy in my honor to share some of the things I've learned in the 40 plus years that I've been doing this work as a teacher and a therapist and all of those things. So let's get started. But first I want to make sure you're getting all of our updates by visiting and signing up for our newsletter because you'll get lots of great news and inspiration, and we have some wonderful programs coming up, including a class that just opened up on teaching right-brain kids, the times tables in an hour, that's the multiplication tables.

So check that out, make sure that you're signed up later in November, I'll be offering a masterclass on learning the language of boys with Maggie Dent. So be sure to stay in because I've just opened up registration for this class on mastering the multiplication tables. I thought I would devote this week's episode to talking about learning style. In case you aren't familiar with the idea of multiple intelligence or different ways of learning. Let me tell you a little bit about it. We come into the world, each one of us with our own particular way of best processing and learning and taking in memorizing, absorbing integrating information. And I love the work of Dr. Howard Gardner because he identified a variety of intelligences, including logic, mathematic, verbal linguistic, musical spacial, body kinesthetic, the naturalist, interpersonal intelligence and interest personal intelligence. So there's so much great information out there about it, but the idea is that we aren't all the same and we aren't supposed to be, imagine if there was only one type or two types of intelligence that we each had as we arrived on the planet.

You know, let's say that we were all logic mathematic or verbal linguistic, which by the way, are the two types of intelligence that are most acknowledged and rewarded in a traditional classroom. So you might be very good at math. You might be very good at reading and writing and those sorts of things. And those are, again, the things that are kind of glorified in a traditional school setting. Not so much the musical, not so much the spatial, not so much the body kinesthetic, certainly not the naturalist or nature or the interpersonal or even the interpersonal. We tell our kids not to talk so much to each other, the classroom. So if the world were populated just by people who were smart in the logic mathematic or the verbal linguistic, you know, there'd be certainly some advantages. And for those of you who are very strong in that area, thank you for your contribution to our wonderful world, but we also need music.

We also need art. We also need people who can tune into themselves and reflect and share with their insights. We need people who are really great at establishing rapport with one another and people who, you know, inspire us by their athletic ability or their performance and dance. So we need everyone. We need all types of intelligence. And if you happen to be a child who is gifted musically or spatially verbal, you know, visual spatial, you may not have the best time in a traditional classroom because here's the thing. Most teachers understandably teach in the way that's most compatible with their personal learning style. So if you are a verbal linguistic person, you're strong and reading and writing, this is how you like to take in information. And you become a teacher. It's going to be natural that you'll teach through the written word. But if you're a really visual child in that classroom, then you're going to be sitting there tuning out the teacher, daydreaming doodling in the margins of the worksheet that you're supposed to be working on.

And the sad thing is that so many kids who are not traditional learners struggle in school, they feel stupid, or they have meltdowns because the work is too hard or they compare themselves to other kids. The smart kids who don't seem to have trouble like they do this idea can really burn itself into a child's sense of himself as a learner and influence the choices that he makes as he grows up. So for instance, I can't become a veterinarian, even though it's always been my dream. I love animals because I have to take math class classes and I'm, you know, terrible at math, but that's not true because when we help kids understand that they can take in concepts or information more in sync with how their particular brain learns. It's fantastic. All kinds of possibilities emerge. When we understand that we just need to be on friendly terms with our favored learning style.

You can probably find out that this has proven true for you at some point in your life. So think about how you like to get directions, to get from point a to point B. And let's say, you've asked Mary, Mary, how do I get from where we are now? Point a over to point B. Now, if Mary's a verbal learner, she's going to tell you that you should go two blocks up maple street, then turn right, then go left at Elm, past the gas station and take a soft left on Oak Avenue till you come to the third house on your right now, if you're also a verbal processor, then these directions are going to work pretty well for you, especially if she says them a couple of times, but if you're a highly visual learner, you're going to be lost. By the time she tells you to go two blocks to maple, the rest of the information is going in one ear and out the other.

And you may find yourself really frustrated or even annoyed with Mary for making things so hard. But Mary isn't trying to make things hard. She's just giving you directions in the way that her brain likes to get directions. So she likes to hear the steps recited one by one. It's just that if you're a visual learner, that isn't how your brain wants to receive directions. You want to see things mapped out in a visual way. Now, if you don't know this about your brain and how it likes to learn, or how it best processes information, you may walk away from this interaction with Mary thinking. You're not as smart as Mary or that you're terrible at directions. But if you understand that every brain has its preferred way of processing information, then you won't come to that negative conclusion. You'll say to Mary, thanks so much for trying to help me get to point B.

However, my brain processes information visually, could you sketch it out for me? Could you do a little drawing while nobody's right or wrong? You've simply acknowledged the truth about how you best learn directions. You've advocated for yourself and ask for what you need. And pretty soon you find yourself at point B little map or sketch in hand for years, I worked with creative right-brain kids who struggled academically. And one of the things I loved about teaching them, things like the times tables using this more visual playful strategy was that it forced them to question the conclusion that they had come to about their ability to learn other things that they had decided were too hard or that they weren't smart enough to learn. Meaning when we're taught something in a way that's compatible with our particular learning style, we can learn all kinds of things that we thought were impossible.

So you can introduce your kids to this idea by taking the multiple intelligence test online, it's free, just do a search for Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence tests. Take it as a family. It's a great way to broaden your children's understanding of what it means to be smart. And it can encourage them to think about their particular brand of genius. Now, I have to say something. If your kids are on their devices all day long, their passions and their gifts can get covered over or masked. But sometimes I have found that kids who are playing video games all day or doing it because it's the only place in a non traditionally gifted child's life where he can feel successful. So, anyway, I hope I've piqued your interest and gotten you to think about learning styles and the many flavors of intelligence. And if you have a youngster who has struggled with the times tables, I hope you'll check out art class on mastering the multiplication facts.

The live session is going to take place on October 28th. And of course you'll have access to the replay indefinitely. It's actually the first time that I'm offering a class that you can bring your kids to. If you want, you don't have to, you can definitely take it yourself and then teach your children the system. But you're welcome to take it together. We're going to have a lot of fun. You'll even get to see my interesting attempts at drawing, which is kind of entertaining. So that's it for today. I hope you'll help your kids explore their own learning style. I encourage you to take the multiple intelligence test as a family and have fun with it as always. If you've enjoyed this episode, please, please take a minute. Just write a review. If you would, and leave a rating, your feedback really helps us reach parents. And of course, stay in So you're, up-to-date on all the inspiration and the classes and programs. In addition to mastering the multiplication tables, I'm going to be offering wonderful class November 12th with Maggie Dent on learning the language of boys. So make sure you're getting all the All right, then I remember no matter how busy life gets look for those moments of sweetness and joy. I'll see you next time.