As a person who has spent a life-time coaching performers (just short of 60 years), it occurs to me that parents of the highly talented (genius if you will) child have not done a particularly great job. I have no question about their intentions nor their love for their child. Recognizing how unique the child is may have them miss what might be the most important factor in parenting this special child.
Every child is unique. However, some are rare, just not the usual. Some require dealing with more attention like that given to the 10 year old with the golden voice or eight year old math wizard or the 14 year old who hits the ball out of the ballpark. The parent may expose the child to an idea, but they are the one who is going to do the work. I think we want to encourage their efforts and make sure we don’t kill their enthusiasm in the process.
The bottom line is that no matter how talented, how high the I.Q. might be, no one can outrun being human. We learn by experiencing stuff. We learn from our failures or at least, that’s the opportunity. We do the best with what we love to do and what we think someone else thinks.
Yes we can encourage them to try things, but when it is all said and done they have to do the work. Of course we need people to guide us (teachers, coaches, parents). No one ever told me I needed to practice shooting the basketball. Give me a ball and a hoop and I would be out there all day. Matthew Syed in his book, “Black Box Thinking” says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be great at anything. And, that is a lifetime event.
However, no matter what, it is the child’s life and no one else is going to live it. Each child needs to make decisions and some are going to fail. Great! The best time to learn and grow is out of a failure. Children want to please their their parents. The 8th grader who is 6’6” tall is going to be pushed to do what? Play basketball, of course. The question is, will he love the thousands of hours necessary to fulfill people’s expectations?
What if he loves to paint or play a guitar or sing? People will be telling any genius that he needs to do something that earns him a good living. I say doing what you love at the highest level and there will be a way to make money. Parents, teach the child to respect people, keep their word and work hard for what he wants and loves to do. The last and maybe the most important thing for them to learn is that they can bounce back from any disappointment. Never ever give up. The only real failure is not doing that.