Intelligence In Context

One of the rewarding things about having kids is the fact that they can bring us parents endless delights in their accomplishments. There may be some parents who don't care much about what their kids have accomplished but they stand to be the exception rather than the rule in this regard. A majority of us would always want to stand side by side with our little ones and savor the moment of elation as they receive their medals or trophies. Many of us still would go through unimaginable troubles, even sacrifices, to help them harness their full potential and be recognized for having done so. Oftentimes, however, we as parents may put a lot of expectations upon our kids and may end up disappointed with them, with their school, with their teachers, even with ourselves when they fall short. I think it's time that we look at their intelligence in context. This time, we will be talking of intelligence in the more traditional sense, as opposed to the multiple intelligences sense

I would like to call our attention to one of the traps that parents fall into in their expectations. The first of this is the "all or nothing" trap. Some parents think that their kid is either the best by being number one or nothing at all if they are not. In a realistic world, nothing beats being the top kid. But then still in this realistic world, not everyone can be the top kid all the time. People in the corporate world understands this very well. The unending rivalry between ABS-CBN and GMA for example is a case in point. One station cannot hold on to its sweet spot of being number one for too long. It doesn't mean, however, that losing the number one status equates to that station's deteriorating programming. In fact it may have improved in its program mix and selection and still lose the honors because the competitor has improved its program mix and selection more. In the case of our kids, losing the number one spot doesn't necessarily mean our kid is deteriorating or is not realizing his potential. It may be that the competition has improved more than our kid has. To realistically assess then whether our kid has improved or is realizing his potential, we must look at a different parameter other than rank. A sure way to do this is to look instead at the grades. Does it show a high mark? If we are looking at a track record, do the grades show improvement? Are the 90s and 91s moving up to 94s or 95s? If they do, then we know that our kid is doing fine, even if he is not in the top spot. We are actually putting his intelligence in context. In a highly competitive environment, one can be brilliant and still not be number one.

When I entered high school, straight from a barangay elementary school, I finished my first year ranked 3rd in our class of around 200. This looked like a downgrade from the first honors that I garnered from my Grade six class. But in reality it was not. The situation just got competitive and the town kids had their initial advantages. On the second year, I improved to the 2nd position. Finally, i graduated in high school as class valedictorian and armed with this trophy thought I could go out into the big city to conquer it too. I failed, or at least that's how it should look if I didn't put my measure of intelligence in context.

Entering U.P. made me realize that the environment can get more competitive still. After all, I was just one among the 4,000 or so who passed the UPCAT of the more than 20,000 examinees who applied back then. These days, Diliman Campus only is processing almost 30,000 examinees yearly. Including other U.P. systems can easily double this number. First semester came and I found myself still in the top 10 of the incoming freshmen class. I got into the Dean's List with just a few of other first year students. But I found that although I may have been doing better on paper, there were really brilliant students in my classes. One can play mahjong the whole night before the periodical exams and still get perfect scores. It changed the way I looked at intelligence then. I gave up on the idea of competing against others and learned to compete against myself instead. I made sure that I am pushing myself more, raising my grades every semester and no longer fighting for number one. I defined my success by my progress and mine only, not in relation to others. Had I stuck with that, I would have ended frustrated.

To the parents from this parent, I encourage you also to do the same. Our kids love studying and learning but undue pressure from us can spoil the fun for them. Even left unsaid, they may still feel the pressure that we feel when we push them too much because they need to be number one in their class. Ensuring that they improve their grades every period is success enough. And it is a success they can enjoy with us. If they have to lose, let them lose the number one spot instead of losing their love for learning and competing because most of the time, it is simply frustrating.