Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Post: Just Because my Child Says "Female" Doesn't Mean That She is Smart

Today we are so lucky to have a guest post from my good friend Shawn McGormley. I have known Shawn for about six years, since we were roommates during our primary training. Shawn is AMI Montessori trained for both Primary and Elementary, and makes beautiful materials for both groups which she sells here.
This is her response to everyone who's ever called her daughter "smart" when they really mean that she is knowledgeable. Enjoy:

Lately Dakota has started using the terms male and female with her Schleich animals (which happen to be anatomically correct). Most of the time it is with the females. We have read books to her about baby animals where she sees the babies feed from the mother. The main book was a board book aimed at toddlers. When there is an obvious difference in an animal I might mention that it is a female or male. I have just given her this word instead of "girl cow" or "mommy cow." She knows that female means girl and sometimes mommy.

I don't believe that knowing this word (or other "advanced" words) means that she is smart. Young children are sponges. They want to know the names of things. If I only had a nickle for every time that Dakota has asked me "What's that?" in the last two months! She often asks about things that she already knows. I think that she is checking to see if there is a more specific name that she hasn't been taught yet. She knows it is a dog, but she doesn't know that it is a German shepherd.

Dakota may or may not be smart, but knowing what a female or a chimpanzee or a lemur is at 2 1/2 does not mean that she is smart.

1 comment:

  1. I agree completely. When my son Jack (3) speaks to people they will often say, 'You're so smart' or 'You're such a clever boy'. While I think it is so incredibly important for children to have positive self-esteem I often feel that hearing 'you're so smart' all the time can actually have negative effects. Sometimes it sounds a little patronising. Like he is not really being listened to. At times he seems frustrated, I think he would rather someone talk to him rather than at him telling him he is 'so smart'. Often times I think, they're just words, he knows them because he has exposure to non-fiction books regularly. Young children's minds are like sponges; absorbent minds :) Why do we have to put labels on them; smart, gifted, shy, timid? Why can't they just be themselves? I am fiercely protective of people labelling Jack.