Children who use their intuition learn better, stay safer and enjoy more success.
The word ‘smart’ makes most of us think about thinking, intelligence, and the brain. Companion words like reason and logic also come to mind. Yet remembering some of the trouble Star Trek’s first officer Mr. Spock got into while relying strictly on Vulcan logic reminds us we have a distinctly human quality that enhances our capacity to understand. We call it intuition, and increasingly it is revealing itself to be a useful tool in science, business, school and everyday life.
Children who use their intuition effectively will learn better, develop more satisfying relationships, stay safer and enjoy more opportunities for success in the working world than those who function using logic alone. But is intuition simply an innate talent some people have more of than others, or is it possible to nurture it in our children?
Distinct from “instinct”
Instinct is a built-in human trait that can keep us out of harm’s way or motivate us to feed a baby night after night despite our exhaustion. Instinct tends to be an “inborn pattern of behaviour” that often drives us to react to specific situations in a predetermined manner. In animals, it might be the annual spawning activity of salmon, or the huddling of male penguins in the depths of polar winter. Though the thesaurus suggests instinct and intuition are interchangeable, the two are really very different.
Other than our rational mind, one important quality that separates us from other mammals is our self-awareness or consciousness. Our perceptions create an entirely distinct life experience for us. Intuition is directly linked to this inner perceptiveness or sixth sense [after sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch]. Intuition is what connects us to a vast supply of creativity and inspiration that goes well beyond what our limited mind can imagine.
The language of intuition
Everyone is born with the innate capacity for intuitive perception. Yet it may seem elusive because it isn’t concrete – we can neither point to it nor measure it – so how does intuition work? It turns out intuition will speak to us through our other five senses. In the same way that children see a colour or hear music or taste food differently, so will their particular experience of their own intuition be unique. Just as they need to learn to distinguish sights, sounds and tastes, so too do children need to learn to ‘listen to’ or perceive the messages of their intuition.
What to look for? Flashes of insight might be just that – flashes – bright pictures that seem to pop into your mind’s eye. You may experience an inner voice or you may have a feeling – shivers up your spine or a tingling at the base of your skull. These are possible physical indicators of a connection with an insight, a new solution to a problem or the truth about a situation. The vocabulary of intuition includes phrases like “I sense” or “it seems” rather than “I think”. Asking about these feelings and encouraging kids to describe the sensations of insight helps kids to better recognize them over time.
Nurture it and it will come
When we say someone possesses good ‘business sense’ or ‘numbers sense’, we’re referring to their ability to effectively combine reason with intuition. Famous scientists such as Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk have historically honored the powers of intuition over logic in the realm of problem solving and scientific discovery. And recent studies show that over 60% of business managers worldwide report they use intuition more than rational decision-making in business dealings.
The most important thing we can do to nurture our children’s intuition is to pay attention to it. Young children usually have very sharp intuitive abilities. However, when they are inundated with continuous mental noise in the form of media, electronics, social interaction and even classroom talk, their natural intuition can become dulled. In addition, adults often believe we ‘know best’ and so discount or override our children’s intuition. Overuse of the rational mind can also throw us out of balance and disconnect us from our intuitive skills.
It helps to do activities that quiet the thinking mind’s constant chatter – a walk in the woods, journaling, abstract art/craft making, etc. Fostering inner awareness takes practice, just like sports or music. Learning to heed intuition also requires trust – in ourselves and in our children. Consciously choosing to support them in listening to their intuition will help them build better relationships, solve more complex problems, connect to their creative imagination and make smarter, safer choices for themselves every day.