I know that there are many gifted children in the world. At age three, I could read the newspaper. Was I gifted? Maybe, or maybe just intelligent. IQ tests reveal me to have superior verbal ability, yet way-below average ability to build furniture from IKEA (or build anything for that matter). I am not making light of folks who are trying to raise gifted children in our very cookie-cutter, this-approach-works-for-every-kid educational system as I know that a gifted child is indeed rather special and yet comes with his or her own downfalls.
However, I find it highly problematic that weekly in my online reading and Internet surfing as a parent, I get bombarded with articles titled, "How To Tell If Your Child Is A Genius," and "Is Your Child Gifted?" We have become obsessed as a nation and as a generation of parents with revealing our utterly amazing children and endowing them with superior intelligence, as well as pressuring them to go above and beyond in the ways in which we as parents define as success.
"Look," I see on my Facebook news feed, "My kid can speak Spanish at age two! He's so smart!"
Even I indulge my friends in the "see how smart my kid is" dialogue.
Our kids may seem smarter today but actually, they're just exposed to more at younger ages due to many kids being in daycare from birth, as well as expected to perform at higher levels than my generation did as children. So to my friends who say, "These kids are so much smarter than we were," I say, "If they are, this isn't always a good thing!"
Why do we feel the need to unearth some sort of greatness in our children's brains? And by need I mean, a "pressure" as parents to produce the perfect offspring. What if your kid is just an average kid who could care less about the alphabet and would rather scream the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme song at the top of his or her lungs rather than enjoy a music lesson or a book? Is this child no good?
Seriously, how many geniuses does this world really have? There are very few Einsteins and instead just many individuals with above-average intelligences. If there were that many Einsteins, these geniuses wouldn't be all that special.
Perhaps the problem lies within us as parents. That we feel less than if our kid is just barely skating by academically and with no serious potential for that to change in the future. The real problem exists in our own self-esteem as a generation of parents. To some extent we can't just let kids be as they are going to be. They have to be special! Amazing! Do something in this world! No, they can't be some average everyday pedestrian. They must be otherworldly.
To the parents raising gifted kids, I salute your effort to engage those children as well as support them in their difficulties. Is my own child gifted? Maybe. I don't know. I know she is a unique kid (to me) with a strong personality. I cherish this. She has the verbal skills and social maturity and ability to pick up cues way beyond her years and it can be a blessing as well as extremely difficult. Her quirks may be too quirky for others or perfect for some. No matter what she is -- gifted, ordinary, average, or intelligent -- I enjoy her as is.
To the parents raising "kids," I say, enjoy them. Enjoy them if they are late to read, late to tie their shoes, or too early to achieve everything. Stop worrying if you're not enriching their minds. Most likely you're doing a fantastic job providing your child with a rich learning environment and if you truly aren't, sure, then you can worry. But for now parents, put away the gifted articles and the questionnaires and see your child as who he or she is, and not what lofty dreams you're expecting your kids to achieve. Kids have way too much pressure today and not enough fun.
In fact, throw everything out the window today and go out there and have fun with your kids. That is what childhood is supposed to be: not intense stressful homework and demanding academic tests (touché American public school system!). Remind your child today what being a kid is all about. Finding joy in the everyday adventures and realizing that there is adventure in the every ordinary, below-average day, because to a child nothing is truly ever ordinary.
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