Frustrated with the Gift of Gab? Consider the Word-Smart Strength Behind It

An author who confesses that her childhood nickname was “Chatty Kathy” is someone I know I’ll appreciate.

In 8 Great Smarts:  Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences, Dr. Kathy Koch presents the multiple intelligence theory of Dr. Howard Gardner in an accessible guide for parents wishing to help children understand and grow their natural strengths.  Kids who understand a little bit about the 8 smarts won’t ever have to wonder “am I smart?” even when reading and math (the school smarts) aren’t their favorite subjects. Instead, parents can support their children in asking, how am I smart?”  The answer will open up a lifetime of fulfilling fun.

Using Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s kid-friendly application of Gardner’s theory, Koch presents a summary followed by a chapter on each intelligence or “smart”:  what it looks like, what kids who have this strength tend to prefer, and how they can apply their specific strengths (picture smart, self smart, word smart, body smart, logic smart, music smart, nature smart and people smart) to succeed in their studies and to fully enjoy their leisure.

8 Great Smarts is insightful for anyone; parents and teachers will gain self-knowledge as well as applying the information to better support their children.  Koch is a master at showing how the traits we often find annoying in children indicate strengths that can be channeled in positive, fruitful ways.

The bouncy, wiggly child, for example, may have kinesthetic, body smart strengths.  The kid who’s always humming or drumming may be demonstrating his music smart.  The child who comes home covered in mud may well be nature smart, and the one who argues you to death has logic smart to burn.  An introverted daughter may need to see the hidden strength of self smart, and the son who surrounds himself with buddies has people smart going for him.  Does your child color on the walls when you aren’t looking?  Perhaps her picture smart is seeking expression.51wKrVLDdUL._SX365_BO1,204,203,200_

Do you struggle as I do with verbosity?  There’s a gift hidden in all that chatter:  you possess the linguistic intelligence:  you’re “word smart.”

Word smart is seen in the love of story and poetry, in the ability to rhyme and pun,  in speaking well, defending a point of view, in telling (and getting) jokes.  Combined with the particularities of their other strengths, word smart children may one day enjoy working in education, advertising, comedy, politics or religion.  They may be called upon to write or speak for an organization or cause.

But “strengths can get us into trouble,” Koch warns as she enters into a discussion of the challenges of the word smart strength:

Word smart children can be prideful in their intellectual abilities and school grades.  Feeling good about one’s strengths is one thing, but feeling superior to others because of one’s gifts is another.  Word smart children may want to show off their knowledge and/or vocabulary.  They may tend to look down on others who don’t appear to have their literary skills or who don’t get good grades.  They may become unteachable, believing the know enough because they tend to be well read.

Recognizing myself, the pesky word-smart girl nicknamed Babbling Brook, I began to feel defeated and embarrassed at this point in the chapterBut Koch admitted that she, too, was a word-smart child whose family had nicknamed her Chatty Kathy.

My parents could have seen my chattiness as a problem to eliminate,” Koch admits, “but they saw it as a strength to develop.”  Koch doesn’t want word smart people to put down or fight against this strength, but humbly understanding that all gifts come from God, to develop it in healthy, helpful ways.

If her parents hadn’t encouraged her word smart strengths, Koch reminds the reader, she would never have been able to write 8 Great Smarts or found Celebrate Kids, Inc., an organization that helps parents and kids across the nation recognize and develop their strengths.  Every person, no matter what their particular combination of “smarts,” has been given them for the service of others.

Nevertheless, Koch advises parents to teach their word smart children about sins of the tongue:

  • gossiping
  • teasing
  • lying
  • arguing

I know the pain of these sins all too well.  And noticing the word unteachable in the above paragraph, I’d add presumption to my own list of word smart pitfalls.

Yet Koch’s book helped me embrace the gift rather than wallow in its embarrassing defeats.  Word-smart people may have painful, prideful pitfalls, (everybody does, after all) but realizing these weaknesses are tied to a strength God wants to set free is a humbling, happy thought.

The delightful advice of the scriptures is for every unique, unrepeatable soul, even the Chatty Kathys and Babbling Brooks among us:

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace (1 Peter 4:11).



This post is part of a series (see A Lenten Invitation from a Babbling Brook: Focus on Speech and Silence). To receive new installments, you’re invited to Follow Sparrowfare by placing your email address in the box in the right sidebar (mobile users will find it below). Please share the posts that speak to you.  In this contentious time, let’s spread the word about the importance of our words.