Multiple intelligence is a theory that postulates that children's cognitive profiles can be classified into eight kinds of intelligence - linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic.
Many parents (not just in India, even globally) place a premium only on the first two types of intelligence - linguistic and logical-mathematical. As a whole, even our society classifies only children with these types of intelligence as being the "smart kids".
Every child is a mix of multiple intelligences
The idea behind multiple intelligence is that each child has different strengths in each of the areas of multiple intelligence. This is a common sense idea that says that no two children are alike and therefore they need customized approaches. There are many practical examples. If you are the parent of multiple children, your approach to each of your children is different. To make one drink milk, you may have to tell stories while with the other you may have to let them walk around between each sip. Each is unique and different. The concept of multiple intelligence is the same. Each child is unique in their intelligence patterns and identifying their strengths can help them develop better.
Multiple intelligences are a pathway to education
Multiple intelligences are best used when parents and educators treat them as individualized pathways to education and development. Usually we as parents and educators focus only on linguistic and logical-mathematical reasoning. All children may not have inherent strengths in these areas. Instead of classifying them as "average" or "not so smart" kids, we need to educate them through the intelligences that they are strong in. Another way to think of them is as a "learning style". Each child likes to learn differently and multiple intelligences can be considered as various learning styles. Finding the one that is most suited for the child, will help the child learn faster and easier.
For example, many schools teach the concept of a square with a statement such as - "A shape where all sides are of the same length and are at right angles to each other". This statement can be easily parsed and understood by a child who has strong logical-mathematical intelligence and he/she will define a square as this. But a child with spatial intelligence may not understand what a square is, based on this statement and our conventional systems will give them poorer marks/grades for it. But if the child's multiple intelligence profile shows that they are spatially inclined, a parent or teacher who gives the child four toothpicks and shows them how to make the shape will realize that the child immediately grasped the concept. Why? Because this child can visualize things spatially, the matchsticks helped them understand a square rather than the logical theorem. Similarly, a child who is bodily-kinesthetic intelligent may understand the square better if they are taught to make a square using their own fingers.
So what should parents do? First, identify your child's multiple intelligences. Use the right techniques for each type of intelligence to educate your child. When the stream of information coming to child is on the pathway that makes it easy for them to understand, each child will learn and develop quickly. There is nothing complex here. It is pure common sense. It is merely about making learning interesting for a child. Multiple Intelligence is a way for you to put a framework around what may interest your child.
Are multiple intelligences a stereotype?
No. They do not have to be. These should be treated as pathways not predestined roles. For example, it does not mean that a child who is musically intelligent cannot learn mathematics. Instead of teaching them conventional mathematics parents can expose them to the mathematics that are inherent in music. Rhythms are based on numbers, tempos and beats are based on numbers, ragas are basically mathematical constructs. If your child grows up understanding the mathematical concepts behind ragas they would have learned more about applying mathematics to create something than by plainly memorizing theorems.