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Why your child’s IQ is less important than you think & what REALLY predicts whose kids will excel in life?

As a behavioral scientist who works “in the trenches” with parents on helping their kid find their potential, one of my favorite activities is assessing for “giftedness” using a variety of intelligence tools. All of us parents want to feel like we have the smartest kid on the block, so it is no surprise that when I am about to report a child IQ scores, they are on the edge of their seat and holding their breath. I understand. What is one of the best feelings to have as a parent?? That my kid could be the next Einstein! Oh my gosh, she/he is GIFTED!! Let’s celebrate!

And yet over-valuing intelligence (especially as defined by an IQ test) is one of the most dangerous attitudes to have! Why? It’s simple: success is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. How you end up in life is much less about your IQ points and much more about how hard you work, how hungry you are to excel.

A second point I would make is that people make too big a deal out of IQ scores. Psychologists have not tended to talk much about how much IQ can be improved, but my experience tells me it can be improved to some degree. But only hard workers will improve their IQ’s!!! Do you get where I am going with this? What kinds of kids would put in the work to improve their IQ’s? The “scrappy” hard-working ones!! I wrote a blog about how important it is to be “scrappy”(https://www.doctorbrunner.com/an-f16-pilot-cuts-to-the-bone-a-vital-trait-we-as-adults-and-parents-need-to-cultivate/), as discussed by an F16 pilot friend of mine who gave me his perspective on what was similar across all his pilot colleagues. By the way, the chances of becoming an F16 pilot are less than making the NFL. The air is really thin up on that professional mountain because when you have climbed to that level you have achieved something very, very rare indeed. His perspective was one striking similarity among all the pilots: they were all scrappy.

You say, “hey, my kids in the gifted program and that means something to me buddy!” My reply: “what relative importance do you give their “giftedness” as compared to their work ethic, character development, and their own level of insight in their own skill gaps?”. If this question leads you slack jawed you’ve got a problem!!. Too many parents over emphasize intelligence and under emphasize character, work ethic, and moral development. Intelligence will get your child much less mileage than you think in a global neighborhood of competition where your kid will always compete with smarter kids.

What will distinguish you kid is not their IQ, but…

IQ + work ethic + level of character refinement + robustness of moral compass = life outcome

Put that equation on your refrigerator and live it and breathe it every day!! Every kid is born with certain raw material in each of these areas, and it is your grueling job as a parent to every day be looking for the weakest link in this addition formula and developing it. Why? Because raising a child who is balanced will protect them from many more hazards (drugs, laziness, depression, anxiety, etc.) than raising a merely intelligent child.

If they are merely intelligent, they are still just as likely to derail because intelligence by itself is not a protective factor. But balanced development is a HUGE protective factor. Some of the most successful criminals are geniuses. Their parents likely thought they were little Einsteins, and they probably were! Their parents also likely did not invest enough time in work ethic, character refinement, and moral grounding.

Yes, you need to develop key areas of intelligence. For your information, children qualify for gifted placement in schools based on either their…
-Verbal IQ (vocabulary, ability to carry out analytical reasoning,
-Visual-Spatial IQ (their ability to solve visual puzzles, sometimes called NonVerbal IQ).

Yes, we want to develop these areas as parents, because they are important intellectual skills that are critical to everyday decision-making.

But here is my point: what is the best way for your child to be “gifted”? The best gift they can have (and/or that you can cultivate in them) is a great work ethic. So, if you want to ensure your child will succeed, stop over-focusing on whether or not your child is in the gifted program, or can speak 5 languages before they are 2, or can play a violin while doing an Irish jig, and start focusing on developing the following core skills that compose work ethic:

ability to handle frustration due to commitment to a longer term goal (kids who learn to stay committed to a higher ideal or goal and work through frustration are ramping toward success)

ability to put off immediate gratification due to a longer-term goal (ability to delay gratification is a key scientific predictor or those people who become leaders)

ability for child to acknowledge their skill gaps honestly by handling criticism from adults maturely (if you are a parent who protects your kid from the criticism of teachers and other parents – get your fold out couch ready – because that is where your kid will reside once they leave the comfort of college)

degree of conscience; level of guilt or true and genuine remorse when misbehavior occurred. You would think that the phenomenon of apologizing was EXTINCT!! Those children who deep in their nervous system feel remorse when they do wrong are the ones who are more likely to steer clear of simply feeding their own desires. They have a sense of something greater than themselves that they want to contribute to.

Is there data behind my opinion? Why yes, there is. There is no scientifically compelling data that shows that the higher your IQ is the more likely you are to succeed. In fact, business psychologists who work with the world’s leading CEO’s are finding that it is not technical or analytical skills that will predict which leaders will be MOST effective. In other words, the best leaders are not necessarily the smartest analytically speaking. Rather, the best leaders may even be introverts, but they have a hunger for producing the very best quality product, and they never stop wanting to DO IT BETTER. They are scrappy!

Read more by getting the book Good to Great, one of the best books ever written about what it really means to lead. Read this book, and raise your family with its values in mind. Want to know more about how to raise a moral leader? Go to my other blog: https://www.doctorbrunner.com/helping-your-child-be-a-moral-leader/

When you are in your rocking chair, you will look back and see that those kids who were the hardest workers accomplished the most for themselves and the world. You won’t even remember if they were in the gifted program.

Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.