NASA scientists launched a study where they designed special tests to measure imagination and creative intelligence in 4-5 year olds. Out of the 1,500+ kids tested, guess how many scored at a genius category?
That doesn’t sound right. 98%? Either that test is rigged, or you and I are Einsteins. That definitely can’t be right.
The truth comes out in the follow-up tests. The same kids were tested 5 years later. Guess how many scored in the same genius category?
5 years later when they’re in high school?
And finally, when they’re adults (average age of 31)?
That sounds more reasonable, but begs the question: what happens to kids’ intelligence as they get older?
Aren’t we supposed to get smarter and more capable as we grow, learn, and experience life?
It turns out that being born with genius levels of creative and critical thinking skills means nothing unless said skills are actively sharpened.
The conclusion of this study reveals more about parenting, schooling, and outside influences during early childhood development than it does about the children’s actual abilities.
How do we get most, if not all kids, to grow up to maintain the same level of scoring, as they once did as a kid?
In other words, how can we enable exceptional thinking in every kid, so that what’s once considered genius becomes a new normal?
How can we make childlike wonder normal in adults?
For one, parents need to encourage the same growth mindset in the kid they do when they’re babies, infants, and toddlers. During these years, most parents provide guidance by example, positive reinforcement, and unconditional love.
Once toddlers start going to (pre)school, their approach and attitude slowly starts to shift. The mindset change happens slow, it happens subconsciously, and it happens with good intentions.
They take on a more invasive approach. Instead of guiding, they instruct. Instead of explaining why, they begin to define how and what.
They begin benchmarking their kid’s performance against peers.
They begin pressuring their kid into partaking in cultural norms: most boys get pushed into sports, most girls get pushed into dance, crafts, or worse, no extracurricular activities at all.
They begin defining expectations of good behavior, core values, and life goals.
If these expectations aren’t met, or the kid pursues unexpected or alternate paths, the love becomes more conditional, the reinforcement more negative, the mindset more fixated.
The creative walls, so to speak, begin caving in, leaving less room for free thinking in the kid.
The education system – not to be confused with the actual teachers that are limited by budgets, bureaucracy, and outdated models of teaching – further compounds the problem. As does outside influence, such as TV, cell phones, and social media.
For all the kids that lack a strong foundational support system, it’s only a matter of time before the outside influence outwrestles the influence of parents, teachers, and siblings.
The math doesn’t lie: add up the hours a kid interacts with an electronic device versus interacting with real-life people that inspire, teach, and entertain in a more productive way.
The most premature question grownups ask kids: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Another factor is money. Growing up, getting a taste for money, and constantly thinking about how much you have to spend and how much you have to earn shies you away from paying close attention to the creative aspects of music, arts, and languages. Instead, the kid begins framing everything in the perspective of how it relates to their career choice.
If it won’t help you make more money, or land your dream job one day, it’s not important.
Another factor is validation.
The worst question every kid obsesses over in his or her mind: what will people think (or say)?
Creative ideas are sometimes cool ideas, but they’re almost always weird ideas, unconventional ideas, or offensive ideas. A genuine sense of style attracts or repels crushes and cool kids.
Growing up, and seeking acceptance or approval in the form of friendships and dating makes you think about how to impress others, and less about expressing your self.
It all adds up
The transformation doesn’t happen in a single knockout punch, it takes years of beating in messages that erode originality, and reinforce conventional thinking. All of the above factors combined, the influence chips away, not just at outside-the-box thinking, but more importantly, free thought, and compels kids to grow up as stereotypical adults.