Can You Make Your Kid Smarter?

My husband and I argue all the time about trying to do things to make our kid smarter.  He thinks anything less than an "A" is, well, a disgrace.  (Of course, he still remembers the SAT scores of his high school friends -- and we're talking bell bottoms and platform shoes the first time around, here).   I, on the other hand, always an average student, don't think grades matter all that much.

Hey, you're talking to someone who got 380 on her math SAT -- and I'm not living under a bridge somewhere!

Larry's on our son all the time about his homework, and what he learned in school today and is desperate to help Phillip bring his "B" in honors algebra up to an "A" (never mind that it's a high school course and 8th graders are taking it), and for a short time made him take a course of study through Johns Hopkins in math for gifted students.  And -- here I'm going to brag -- he has turned out pretty smart.

But it had nothing to do with us, I always knew.  And now, it looks like I'm right.

A new study says that reading bedtime stories, engaging in conversation and eating nightly dinners together are all positive ways in which parents interact with their children, but according to new research, none of these actions have any detectable influence on children’s intelligence later in life.

You know those friends.  Kids reading at two.  Speaking Mandarin at three.  (Though I do have a friend whose two-year-old can put a map of the United States together, each state in its proper place, in a jigsaw puzzle, and I sure can't do that).  Graduating from college at 11.  (OK, I don't know anyone's kid who's done that, but judging from all the bragging around, there are parents convinced they have a child who wil.).

Don't get me wrong.  I'm very proud of my child.  Secretly, I'm thrilled that someone who came from me isn't flunking math.   

But this recent study by Florida State University, which compared kids who were adopted to those from natural parents, found evidence to support the argument that IQ is not the result of parental socialization, according to newswise.com.


The subject of how much influence parents have on intelligence has long been debated. Some research that shows parents who socialize their children in accordance with certain principles like reading with them often or having nightly family dinners, have children who are smarter than children whose parents do not do those things.

But study author and criminology professor Kevin Beaver notes that there's also the argument that it’s not a parental socialization effect, but that intelligence is passed down from parent to children genetically, not socially. In order to test these two explanations, that's why Beaver used an adoption-based research design.

“We thought this was a very interesting set-up and when we tested these two competing hypotheses in this adoptive-based research design, we found there was no association between parenting and the child’s intelligence later in life once we accounted for genetic influences,” Beaver said.

 He adds that previous research might have looked like parenting was having an effect on child intelligence.  "But in reality, the parents who are more intelligent are doing these things and it is masking the genetic transformation of intelligence to their children,” Beaver said.

Bottom line?  The way you parent a child is not going to have a detectable effect on his IQ.


So, can I take credit for my kid's intelligence?  Of course not.  I may have read to him a lot when he was little, and helped him try to learn to read (I was so thrilled when he could pick out "the"!), and talked to him until he wished he knew the words to "Shut up."  But he's his own person, and he has always been.  I'm just glad he's mine.



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