Elementary School, Great for All Ages, High School, Middle School, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#99 Bob Sternberg on Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, and Success

Psychologist Bob Sternberg joins Fireborn to talk about how there is more to succeeding and thriving than testing well. He says “You don’t have to be the best student in your class to have something to contribute to the world.” That’s an excellent message to get across to kids because in school you are so often assessed based on grades that it may be hard to remember that you have value even if you aren’t the best in your class. In this episode, we talk about how to help your child really take that message to heart.




What skills are tests missing?


  • People need to aware and adept to the ambiance of the rapidly changing world in order to succeed. This applies both for businesses and in social aspects of life.
  • Schools don’t reward creativity, but actively penalize it. School want things done a certain way. For example, if the student does not solve a mathematical problem the way they were taught, but wrote the correct answer, they would still lose points for not following the way they were taught to solve the problem.

What can parents do?

  • The best thing to do is model creativity and not be dogmatic about it. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your own creativity to your kids. Be flexible in your own life.
  • Encourage your child to look at problems in alternative ways and take sensible risks.
  • Help your child realize that when you do things creatively you may get beaten down, but that’s ok, you have to be resilient in the face of objections or resistance.
  • Reward creativity.
  • Sometimes you have to look at things differently from how you have in the past by letting go of the things you may have once believed was true.

Common Sense or Practical Intelligence

  • This means knowing how to respond to different kinds of practical and social situations; such as handling conflict and making judgements of things that our “worth your time.”
  • Common sense or practical intelligence is weakly correlated with IQ type and academic intelligence. “Being a star student doesn’t buy you any common sense.”
  • Common sense or practical intelligence is important. Tests don’t value your ability to navigate the world, however

What can parents do?

  • Make sure your kids are talking to you about their problems and challenges with others.
  • Help them work through the problems they may have (don’t just tell them the answer) by discussing possible options with their advantages and disadvantages. This encourages social problem solving. By telling kids what to do it’s hard for them to develop common sense because then they don’t have experiential basis of what to do.
  • You should model common sense because children are more likely to do what you do, not just what you say.


  • Wisdom means using your knowledge and abilities for a common good. It’s taking the smarts you have and applying it to make the world a better place.

What can parents do?

  • Show that as a parent you value a common good. Show that you care about making the world a better place and you hope they will too.
  • Think about what to do to make the world a better place.
  • Have your child do prosocial things that will help whatever issues you think are important.

Find one’s passion

  • Parents can help their child find the “thing(s)” that’s right for them. This may be something parents did not have in mind. Parents can help encourage their child to find what excites them, whether or not it excites the parents. Just make sure that it doesn’t get them in trouble.
  • Parents may try to impose their value system onto their child, and that doesn’t work. It may not be what’s best for them.

What can parents do?

  • You may try a lot of things with your kids and find that most don’t work. Expose them to different kinds of experiences and interests, knowing that most won’t work.

Parents should show genuine interest and be willing to devote their time and mental resources to kids. When your kids talk, listen to them. When they need help be there for them. Don’t be intrusive and try to take over their life. Invest yourself in making the kids who they can be. This takes time and patience.


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