There was a time some years ago, when my wife Tinta mentioned how someone we both knew, who always passed her school examinations with flying colours, was so intelligent.
I recall having to dispute that assertion, as I responded that, being a “straight A” student did not necessarily prove an individual’s intelligence – but rather, merely how they were able to grasp concepts taught them at school, and remembering them during examinations.
For me, intelligence meant far much more than this – but encompassed the capacity of the mind, especially to understand principles, truths, facts or meanings, to acquire knowledge, and apply it to practice.
The operative term here being, “the ability to apply what had been learnt to practice”.
In fact, I gave Tinta the example of my own personal experiences – in which, I made a choice to drink alcohol, yet having learnt at a very early age (both from school, and what I witnessed in my community) the adverse effects of such a life.
Did that show any intelligence on my part – in spite of relatively good performance in my educational learning, and the amazing knowledge amassed?
Not at all – since no intelligent person would make choices they knew quite well will most likely result in messing up one’s own life, and that of those around him.
True intelligence was when I finally made the life-changing decision to totally quit drinking alcohol.
I felt the same painful thoughts a few days ago, when watching a heartrending news story on a very young teenage girl, who was encountering harrowing complications, on account of a pregnancy she was carrying – in which, she had undergone several surgeries, and was currently admitted in hospital, where she has spent some time.
I found myself thinking – this is so sad, as this young child had not only likely ruined the rest of her life, at worst (or, made it very difficult, at best), all because of two minutes of “fun” with her boyfriend.
As it turned out, those few minutes were anything but fun!
This teenage girl’s tragic experience made me start thinking of how we, as parents, were seriously negating our responsibilities in training our children on how to be intelligent.
We appear to have surrendered our roles and responsibilities to schools – under the fatally flawed and false belief that the book learning imparted on our children was actually intelligence.
That is why we then have the mistaken and deluded belief that, their passing examinations with flying colours, was sign of exceptional intelligence.
As already alluded to earlier, intelligence transcends an individual’s capacity to merely understand principles, truths, facts or meanings, and remembering them during examinations or in one’s preferred job as an adult – but, critically, touched on the ability to apply this in one’s everyday life.
Therefore, it is not nearly enough for our children to learn that having unprotected sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex, may result in pregnancy – since, believe it or not, all those teenagers, or even adults who fall pregnant with “unwanted or unplanned” children, are fully aware of this fact.
However, our children need to be actively trained on how to think.
This has to commence in the home from a very young age – as soon as they can talk – whereby, we inculcate in them a capacity to meticulously and diligently question any decision they may want to make, so as to ascertain the expected benefits, the possible consequence, as well as how they intend dealing with such ramifications…and at the end, deciding whether proceeding will still be worth it.
As such, let us say, a child asks to attend a party (even at the age of two years old), parents need to first question why he or she believes they need to attend, what the benefits will be, how they intend behaving, what the possible downside to any chosen behavior could be, and how they intend handling that.
In fact, we need to allow our children to learn that there are consequences to their every decision – and, we should let them “lie in their own beds” so to speak, and avoid coming to their rescue everytime their actions backfire.
This will train them to take responsibility for their actions from a very early age – preferably, well before issues of drugs, alcohol, sex, and other temptations come their way.
When this capacity to critically evaluate and interrogate every decision they may make, and taking responsibility for any consequences thereafter, becomes an entrenched habit and a part of their DNA – they will be better equipped for the torrid, tempting, and confusing life ahead.
That is what we can confidently call “intelligence” – and, it has very little (if anything) to do with their performance at school.
As with my own personal experiences – actually, some of those who did poorly than I at school, proceeded to make far much more intelligent (wise) decisions in their lives.
Let us not delegate our responsibilities as parents to our children’s schools and their teachers – since, what is taught there is far divorced from empowering them on how to handle life, as this can only be trained at home.
As with my earlier example about attending a party – this training can never be achieved through lecturing our children, but practical experiences.
In fact, training has seldom been theoretical.
When a football team is training, they will rarely be seated around desks, and taking notes from their coaches – yet, will be on the field, and learning in a practical manner, in order for their skills not only to be sharpened, but to become a part and parcel of their DNA.
As a matter of fact, anything taught theoretically becomes inert knowledge – that is stored in the mind as simple information, which is seldom transformed into much practical use.
It is time we stepped up as parents, and stopped making excuses for our glaring absence in our children’s moulding and sharping.
Indeed, we may be too busy trying to make money to put food on the table, pay their school fees, clothe them, and have a roof over their heads – but, all that will count for nothing when our children become substance abusers, pregnant, or even commit suicide due to an incapacity to deal with the consequences of their misguided choices.
Let our responsibility as parents be the number one task, always at the top of our priorities – since, there can never be anything more precious or important than our own children, and their futures.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org