September 22, 2004
The following is a brief look at strategies for improving your child’s intellectual and cognitive functioning. Click here for an IQ test, and here for the scoring criteria. For more, go to Chapter 6 of Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.
Also, for a CD on enhancing your child’s IQ from Dr. Frank Lawlis, Dr. Phil’s mentor and former professor, click here.
Create an Empowering Internal Dialogue
An internal dialogue that is negative promotes failure. Simply put, children can and do think themselves into poor intellectual outcomes. There is also a strong mind-body connection. Depressed thoughts depress energy, action and the ability to think clearly. They shake your child’s faith and create doubts about what he can really achieve.
A positive internal dialogue can dramatically enhance intellectual performance. As a way to eliminate negative self-talk and build self-confidence, teach your child how to practice positive responses. For example:
I’ll do the best I can, and that will be the best I can do.
I studied hard for the test, so I should do well.
I worked hard on my homework.
I’ll be OK; I can do this.
Practice Controlled Breathing Exercises with Your Child
One of the most efficient and effective methods for stimulating a child's mental processes and performance is controlled breathing. Research shows that schoolchildren can increase their grades if they do breathing exercises prior to tests or assignments; these exercises also reduce test anxiety. Controlled breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn boosts memory, concentration and problem-solving abilities.
Teach your child to count to five when breathing in, and then to five again when breathing out. Repeat this breathing cycle about six times; the entire routine will take only a minute. Instruct your child to use this breathing exercise before a test, exam or other assignment in which problem-solving or recall comes into play. Breathing patterns cannot be taught just once. They need to be practiced so that they become a positive habit. Remember — matching inhalation and exhalation time is the key.
Perform Mental Gymnastics
Playing games that stimulate the mind, particularly those that make use of strategy, will build verbal skills, plus improve powers of concentration, perception and reasoning. Here are some recommendations for brain-building games you can do as a family:
Increase Opportunities for Verbal Interactions as a Family
Engaging your children in conversation helps develop their language and vocabulary skills, particularly between the ages of 16 and 26 months, when a child's language is developing very rapidly. No matter what your children's ages, you should discuss with them topics such as school, friends, their interests and activities, projects they create, trips you've taken together or current events. What emerges from these interactions will be children who feel valued and are smarter, better adjusted and more intelligent.
Encourage Repetitive Reading
It's no big news flash that reading to your children helps nurture a love of language and promotes bonding " both of which optimize a child's intellectual potential. It also helps toddlers enhance memory, improve attention span and build vocabulary.
Create a Stimulating Environment
In Family First, Dr. Phil explains 15 ways to create a mentally stimulating environment for your child. The following selection from the book can help develop your child's ability to process information.
Introduce Music and Rhythm into Your Child's Life
Even if your children aren't musically oriented in terms of singing or playing an instrument, introducing music and rhythm into their world may enhance many aspects of their academic performance. For example, many children find the rhythmic stimulation of drumbeats makes it easier to focus on doing homework.
Music provides mental gymnastics through the learning of its symbol system, plus it increases creativity. Anything you can do to enhance the creativity of your children is certainly worth doing.
Active Body, Active Mind
Physical activity, including playing sports, boosts blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain. When the brain is supplied with freshly oxygenated blood, concentration, thinking speed and complex reasoning are all enhanced. Children who are physically active perform better in school — a finding that has been confirmed by more than 50 years of research. Physical activity in children:
Nourish Young Minds
The importance of nutritional balance with foods that provide a high yield of vitamins and minerals cannot be overstated when it comes to enhancing your child's mental capabilities. Better-nourished children simply function more effectively on a cognitive level.
When you fail to feed your kids wholesome foods, and serve overly processed foods high in sugar and fat, it can negatively impact their mental processing abilities and potentially affect IQ. In a well-publicized study of one million schoolchildren enrolled in the New York City school system, IQ scores improved by 14 percent after additives, dyes, artificial flavorings and color were removed from their lunches!
The chart below lists brain foods, and their mental fitness benefits, which can enhance your child's brainpower.