Coming to terms with my own experience as gifted - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 120 Old 11-10-2010, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My oldest is 6 and in first grade at our highly-rated public school.  This is bringing up old issues in me that I thought were buried.  Has this happened to anyone else?  How did you deal?

 

I learned to read at age 2 and was reading things like the Dune series at age 7.  I don't know my IQ or where I stand on any spectrum.  I know I am a auditory-sequential learner and intellectually creative, but not artistically.  I was gifted but at a time where testing and grade advancement were frowned upon.  It was thought to mess you up socially/emotionally.  Didn't matter b/c I rarely had friends anyway until high school, when I was so bored that I started tuning out and doing drugs.  I enjoyed college and graduated with above a 4.0.  I did one year at Yale Law School but hated it b/c I always got so bored and frustrated with the one way that people and professors would look at a topic, when it could be seen in so many ways.  My personality orientation is that if I become interested in a topic, I will study it for long enough to get an understanding of the basic epistemology and theory, and then get bored with any detail follow-up, so long-term study drives me nuts, though I have a very broad knowledge of lots of stuff.  I was made by my father/allowed myself to feel like a failure for leaving law school, even though it was his dream and not mine.  I am soooooo much happier now, but sometimes feel a pang when I hear of classmates working for the President or being really wealthy. 

 

My oldest being in school is bringing all this up.  He is like his father, very social and personable and creative and a visual-spatial learner.  I didn't hothouse him in reading as a toddler like my dad did with me, yet he taught himself to read in kindergarten and can now read Time magazine if he wants.  But he rarely wants to, as like I said, he takes after his father in interest and learning style.  I sometimes think that if I had taught him to read at age 2, he would sit around reading all the time as I did at his age, and that would be better b/c it is how I "got so smart."  But then again, the fact that all my life I have only thought of myself as being "smart" has not necessarily been totally positive for my emotional development, as I feel like it forced a lot of expectations upon me (I'd go to med school, etc.) which I then rejected out of fear of failure, so I don't want to force my expectations on him.  So if you've made it this far, what it comes down to is this: I feel that I don't want my kids to only self-identify as smart b/c of the grief it caused me, but I also don't want them to not capitalize on their intelligence to make their lives easy/important, b/c I sometimes think I should have done something really impressive rather than dropping out of the impressive race.  I'm afraid it's going to get worse b/c ds2 is like me in personality and then I have dd who looks like me and has such verbal ability and then ds3 and he is only 7 weeks old so who knows what he will be like.  I need to get a handle on this now.


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#2 of 120 Old 11-10-2010, 08:52 AM
 
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I just read this blog yesterday and posted it to my Facebook account because I thought it was so spot on.  http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/apply/the_selection_process_application_reading_committee_and_decisions/applying_sideways.shtml

What we should be giving our children is:

  • Do well in school. Take tough classes. Interrogate your beliefs and presumptions. Pursue knowledge with dogged precision. Because it is better to be educated and intelligent than not.
  • Be nice. This cannot be understated. Don't be wanton or careless or cruel. Treat those around you with kindness. Help people. Contribute to your community.
  • Pursue your passion. Find what you love, and do it. Maybe it's a sport. Maybe it's an instrument. Maybe it's research. Maybe it's being a leader in your community. Math. Baking. Napping. Hopscotch. Whatever it is, spend time on it. Immerse yourself in it. Enjoy it.

 

I think these things kind of sum it up.  We should be allowing them to pursue their own passions, encouraging them to "be nice" and to do their (own, personal) best in school.  I think that by focusing on those things we allow them to create their own self-identities. 


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#3 of 120 Old 11-10-2010, 03:04 PM
 
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I relate to this post a lot.  I also feel like it's important to avoid having kids build their self-concepts around being 'smart,' because it can be really crippling.

 

I am pretty worried about projecting expectations onto DD.  One thing that I feel is really important to keep in mind is that statistically she probably will not be as 'gifted by the numbers' as I was (I tested between the 1:10K and 1:100K range, DH was never tested or anything but he's pretty smart) because of regression to the mean.  I've been working in a child psychiatry clinic recently and I've seen a number of average-to-smartish children of very accomplished parents whose major problem in life is the fact that, well, they just aren't as intelligent as their parents.  I feel like every time DD does anything even mildly 'smart-ish' (she's way too young to be identified as gifted) DH is all jumping up and down over it and I really don't feel like that is a healthy way to respond.

 

Gifted is as gifted does, yk?  I've done reasonably well for myself in life but I definitely feel I would have been better off if the emphasis had been put on achievement through effort rather than on any kind of innate talent.  There's a fair amount of research that backs up that approach as well.


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#4 of 120 Old 11-10-2010, 06:10 PM
 
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Whether one is smart or not, everyone benefits from cultivating discipline. I find most things easy to learn or obvious, but the discipline of making meaning clear to others helps me. The key to overcoming fear of failure and building self confidence seems to be in applying oneself consistently through a disciplined approach. Law school may not have been your niche, but you probably have some area of your life where you can see the fruits of applying yourself. Helping your children see the good in that area may provide a model for a healthier approach to giftedness than that with which you felt burdened.

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#5 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you.  I see several comments to the effect of it is better for bright kids to learn the importance of achievement through diligent effort and focus.  Maybe this was my problem as nothing required diligent effort and focus when I was in school.  If that is true, then ds1 is in trouble b/c he never has to work at anything.


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#6 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 07:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Galatea View Post

Thank you.  I see several comments to the effect of it is better for bright kids to learn the importance of achievement through diligent effort and focus.  Maybe this was my problem as nothing required diligent effort and focus when I was in school.  If that is true, then ds1 is in trouble b/c he never has to work at anything.



There is something in some aspect of life that would require effort of him that he would love. For some kids its music, for some it's sports (my kids swam competitively for years) and for some it's something else (one of mine thrives on the pressure of being in plays). I think that when we limit the way we see our children to their IQ, we cut off HUGE chunks of them.

 

I also think that some kids are naturally more into reading than others, and that's OK. My DD who is a drama queen (in a good way!) isn't a huge reader. She loves being with people and DOING things.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#7 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 01:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mambera View Post

Gifted is as gifted does, yk?  I've done reasonably well for myself in life but I definitely feel I would have been better off if the emphasis had been put on achievement through effort rather than on any kind of innate talent.  There's a fair amount of research that backs up that approach as well.


When I first saw this research mentioned I was totally floored. It explained so much about my own insecurity.

 

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Whether one is smart or not, everyone benefits from cultivating discipline. I find most things easy to learn or obvious, but the discipline of making meaning clear to others helps me. The key to overcoming fear of failure and building self confidence seems to be in applying oneself consistently through a disciplined approach. Law school may not have been your niche, but you probably have some area of your life where you can see the fruits of applying yourself. Helping your children see the good in that area may provide a model for a healthier approach to giftedness than that with which you felt burdened.


absolutely. I struggle with this myself still. Thinking that things should come easily to me.

Both DH and I have baggage around these issues and we've tried to think it through and be careful choosing educational settings where these negative things will not be repeated. I've also been very inspired by some great books and ideas of learning- one good one to look at is "Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius" (not b/c you have to become a Montessori devotee, but actually I find there is some really good review of the research on learning in this book). Also I think that there is some book maybe called "mindset" and then there is also the book "nuture shock" which I think has a chapter that addresses the "peril" of praise and the negative aspects of kids valuing themselves for innate talent, rather than for their ability to work hard, and to grow and change.

 

I was labeled at gifted and in an all-gifted school that promoted an "innate" view of intelligence. My mom was extremely wrapped up in her own feelings of pride about my specialness, and took many long years to kind of grow up enough to let go of all that. However, my own family (mom and sister are both surely 2E) used to frequently say things that undermined me, suggesting that school was "easy" for me (it wasn't. I worked really hard in school for my good grades. The difference was, my sister also worked really hard and was smart and didn't do particularly well, but it really rankled me to be always sort of pooh-poohed like that). My husband, who is now an artist, just missed the cutoff for the gifted school and he was also left back in first grade (his birthday is 2 days after the cutoff). He felt always like he was dumb and a failure, in some part because of that. He was pulled out for gifted AND remedial classes until High School, when he stopped doing the remedial stuff. He's incredibly brilliant in some ways that were never drawn upon in school- like he'd never even seen a math manipulative until we were touring preschools or our son. I think DS shares his dad's visual-spatial learning style and truly amazing artistic talent, but luckily for DS, he is also socially comfortable, physically coordinated, and athletic (rather than DH, who was tall and gawky, and very shy). For sure there are some personality traits that can make life a lot easier.

 

Anyway, I hear where you are coming from and I recommend you continue to come to terms with your own experiences growing up... isn't that one of the big challenges of parenting? Having to relive it, in a way, and the fear that somehow we'll inadvertently repeat the negative parts of our experiences?


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#8 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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Thank you.  I see several comments to the effect of it is better for bright kids to learn the importance of achievement through diligent effort and focus.  Maybe this was my problem as nothing required diligent effort and focus when I was in school.  If that is true, then ds1 is in trouble b/c he never has to work at anything.


I have never had difficulty learning anything. I have been an autodidact for as far back as my memory allows and have an enormous base of knowledge and understanding, gained deliberately. It is certainly not all academic, either. My reason for bringing this up is that there are people for whom "diligent effort and focus" has a very different meaning than for others- even gifted others. I do talk to my children about practicing skills in order to hone them, but my main emphasis is not on trying hard: I emphasize rationally determining personal values and then aligning one's thoughts and actions therewith. Whether aligning one's thoughts and actions with one's values requires diligent effort/trying hard, or next to no effort whatsoever because it comes naturally, is all beside the point. I want my children to live a happy life.

 

To live happily, one must have purpose, which requires determination of values, and following through with purpose almost certainly requires knowledge, understanding, skill, and wisdom. It is neither here nor there how much effort one must expend in order to achieve one's goals. It just is what it is. Imo, any emphasis on the amount of effort required only segregates effort from the realisation of one's values (through accomplishment), when they are inextricably linked.

 

The decision to apply my effort is always an "if-then" proposition, and this is how we address our effort expenditure. It is incidental that sometimes it takes more effort to achieve one thing than another.

 

Granted, there is a significant conflict of interest when a child is required to perform, such as in a school setting. Rare is the child who views "good grades" as just one option among many. Also rare is the child who can rationally determine personal values with such a weight of imposition as the outcome-based/externally-imposed/rewards-punishments system that mass schooling tacitly requires of children.

 

I personally think it is a disservice to a gifted child to require that s/he undertake activities that require trying hard for the sake of requiring him/her to try hard: for what? It just doesn't address the larger picture and life of the individual. I don't waste my time doing arbitrary things just to make myself try hard. I do what interests me, and some aspects of doing so require more focus, more attention, more effort than others. This is not a big deal if a person has a foundation of rationally determined personal values; to him/her, trying hard is an irrelevant distinction. S/he simply does what it takes to accomplish the desired process and outcome. I wouldn't address effort in any other way than "if-then" propositions because that is really the issue. "If" you want to be an aeronautics engineer, "then" you will do the work to gain the skills necessary to do so. "If" you want to raise rabbits for meat, "then" you must do the work that provides the necessities for doing so. You must build a hutch with a protected warren area, which means you'll need to use tools and materials, which means learning how to use those tools, and how to properly manipulate the materials to construct the hutch, which is necessary for keeping the rabbits- "if" you want this, "then" you will do what is necessary to have it. I don't see any reason to discuss the perceived amount of effort whatsoever; it is incidental to the goal.

 

But that's just me. I detest both the assumption that I must have tried hard to accomplish what I have, and equally, that my pride in my accomplishments should be directly proportionate to how hard I tried/how much effort I expended. I treat my effort expenditure as personal information. Why is it anyone's business how hard I try? It just seems petty to me. I am equally pleased when I accomplish something with ease as I am when I expend great effort. Why shouldn't I be? I have integrity of character to assure my own self that I am not lazy and that I don't cheat myself of the joy of productivity and honest work. That is enough for me.

 

smile.gif


Well, I've been absent for 8 months, and during that time, it turns out that I have completely transformed. You are all precious. Thank you for being here and sharing your lives. You are truly a gift. namaste.gif Jan. 23, 2012

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#9 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 09:18 PM
 
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There is something in some aspect of life that would require effort of him that he would love. For some kids its music, for some it's sports (my kids swam competitively for years) and for some it's something else (one of mine thrives on the pressure of being in plays). I think that when we limit the way we see our children to their IQ, we cut off HUGE chunks of them.


I totally agree with this.  I didn't have to work at school to get As, until I got to college.  But I LOVED dance, and I had to work at that because I was only adequate at it.  It was a passion, and even though I wasn't THE best, I did MY best.    I was "bored" in school, but cultivated other things, and other interests outside school.  I loved school because I was a social person and just liked being there, bored or not.  I found other ways to occupy my brain while I was sitting there.   Being bored is a problem for some people, not for others.
 


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#10 of 120 Old 11-11-2010, 11:34 PM
 
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Anyway, I hear where you are coming from and I recommend you continue to come to terms with your own experiences growing up... isn't that one of the big challenges of parenting? Having to relive it, in a way, and the fear that somehow we'll inadvertently repeat the negative parts of our experiences?


 

 

This is so true. Sometimes in the effort to avoid repeating the negative, there is an over-reaction (over-correction, I guess) that creates other issues. 

 

I think some parents struggle with separating their identities from their children's. They view their children as extensions of themselves. They encourage the same interests and activities and discourage (sometimes inadvertently or unconsciously) different pursuits. I find it helpful to reassure myself that my dc will have their own experiences, good and bad, as they grow, and they most likely will be different from mine.  

 

OP, if I'm reading your post correctly, you seem to be most concerned about the burdens of external expectations and nurturing internal motivation to achieve goals that are satisfying personally to your child. Encouraging children to pursue their own interests, to engage in self-directed learning and set their own goals from an early age will help nurture internal motivation to accomplish those goals. As they achieve those goals, they'll have the confidence to ignore external expectations. I think you should give yourself credit for leaving law school when you recognized that it didn't suit you. There are a lot of unhappy lawyers, despite material and career success, who haven't found the courage to make that change. You've set a good example for your dc to set their own goals and work toward them, even if they choose unconventional paths.

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#11 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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Why would you assume we are suggesting work for work's sake?  Obviously the child should be able to choose activities that he/she finds fulfilling.  It is simply a fact that when children are reinforced for their innate intelligence rather than for results that they consciously, intentionally strove to achieve, insecurity is fostered.

 

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

 

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I personally think it is a disservice to a gifted child to require that s/he undertake activities that require trying hard for the sake of requiring him/her to try hard: for what?


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#12 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 01:40 AM
 
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I feel that I don't want my kids to only self-identify as smart b/c of the grief it caused me, but I also don't want them to not capitalize on their intelligence to make their lives easy/important, b/c I sometimes think I should have done something really impressive rather than dropping out of the impressive race.

 

I don't see why they'd have to self-identify as smart in order to capitalize on their intelligence.  So long as you make it a point to recognize them as whole people (and demand they do the same for others), and also expect them to do their best, they can do anything.

 

The way I see it, being smart is like being pretty or fast.  You can design your whole personality around it and obsess about it, but ultimately, that's pretty narcissistic.  I want my kids to be good people, people who care about others and who have the moral courage to act on that.  It doesn't matter how pretty or smart or fast or creative or accurate they are, because the moral person will use his talents to help others, not to impress others.

 

And just like a beautiful woman might choose a career that has nothing to do with her beauty, and a tall, strong woman might choose a career that has nothing to do with basketball, there is no reason a person with a fast brain should have to choose a career or field of study that requires a lot of brains.  My high-school valedictorian (who kept her GPA by staying out of AP... but anyway, she could have probably aced AP as well) is an elementary-school teacher.  I don't know what her IQ is but there's no way it's under 135.  She was sharp.

 

Not exactly what you'd think of as genius territory, but I thank God there are people like that, that incredibly intelligent and kind, who are sucking it up and teaching in public schools for the public good.  It's an honor for us to have her there.

 

Focus on doing your best with what you have, because you owe it to the human race, and you really can't go wrong, IMO.  wink1.gif

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#13 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 02:27 AM
 
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This has been on my mind a lot recently as well. I spent my school year being pretty miserable. I was the weird kid. I always questioned everything, and was seen as a trouble maker, stubborn, rude, or even stupid. My peers didn't like me much, but that was a two-way street as well. My teachers routinely accused me of having received parental help to write essays, because "I could not possibly have written that myself". I felt unfulfilled academically and boredom led to bad results in school, as well as general trouble making - since I already had that label, it was a pretty short leap. And the advantage was that peers actually started liking me smile.gif. It took everything I had and a move abroad not to drop out of school. At least school was more of a challenge when it was in a language I hardly spoke! I spent all those years thinking there was something wrong with me, and that I was inferior, or at least that it was "me against the world". Then I did an IQ test for a job, and found out what was really "wrong" with me. That was a huge relief, and very eye-opening. I hear those of you who say that the label "smart" was a burden, but it might just be better than "trouble" or "weird" smile.gif

 

My kids are four and nearly two, and are a lot like me in many ways. I don't want to kill their love of learning, their curiosity, and their personality. I want them to be able to learn as much as they want about any subject, and not just as much as the school system requires for a test. I also think it is important not to underestimate the social aspect of giftedness. I have decided to homeschool my children because I think it will best enable them to follow their interests and learn as much as possible, without the pressures of school - boredom and social problems. We also live abroad (and homeschooling is not actually legal here) and that brings additional challenges.

 

Thank you for opening this thread. I think we all encountered problems of some kind while growing up that are related to being "gifted", mainly a lot of heartache. Sharing experiences helps, I think, and using our own experience to make sure our kids have the best possible start is also healing.


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#14 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 03:15 AM
 
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My husband and I have almost-matching IQs (both between 150 and 160). Our DD's IQ is also in this range. DH and I were raised completely differently, though.

 

Formal education was a low priority in my family. The emphasis was on family togetherness, common sense, and work ethic (but not in terms of education -- more like helping with the family business, maintaining the house, etc). I went to schools that were far from academically rigorous and received straight As with almost no effort. The only things I ever learned in school were basic phonics and basic math. Everything else taught was stuff I'd already learned on my own, or stuff I memorized right before a test then promptly forgot (state capitals spring to mind). I was unschooled from 8th grade onwards. I never did any kind of extracurricular lessons or anything like that. I did pursue my own hobbies and interests extensively. I never went to college, nor had more than a passing desire to do so, and my parents never really brought it up either. It was kind of assumed, I think, that I'd get a minimum wage job when I was 16-18 and figure out where to go from there. And that's what happened -- not without some major mistakes along the way (my first H comes to mind) -- but always with my parents' friendship, though never with their financial support.

 

Formal education and career were very high priorities in DH's family. His parents are highly educated, upper middle class professionals. He went to a very, very academically rigorous school -- some of his classes were actually pretty darn hard, even in his strongest area (math) -- and that's saying a lot, heh. He was required to play an instrument and practice daily, etc. His parents emphasized academic achievement and career goals over pretty much everything else and were forever going on about how he wasn't living up to his potential. He was expected to go directly from high school to college, to delay marriage and family, etc., etc. Pretty much the mainstream "standard" these days, I think. What actually happened was that he left home in the middle of the night soon after his 18th birthday and moved thousands of miles away, married me, and started a family at 19. (His mother shat herself, quite possibly literally.) He's been starting and stopping college since he was 21 but is about a month away from graduating with a Comp. Sci. degree now.

 

The short version is that DH was pushed and challenged heavily as a kid, whereas I pretty much meandered through my childhood like a long stroll through the woods.

 

I have no idea if it means anything, but I'm a much happier person than DH and definitely have a lot less baggage. DH is in his last semester of college and really struggling to do the work he needs to do to graduate because it feels meaningless to him. I had an awesome career/business until I was diagnosed with MS (I still do, I guess, but I don't work many hours anymore). DH is dreading getting a job once he graduates because he has gone from loving his chosen field of study to despising it. Why? Because pursuing his interests through college has turned those interests into chores instead of enjoyable pursuits, and he still can't think of an academic setting as something positive. It does not help matters that his parents are STILL "riding his ass" to do well in school, get a job they think is good, etc.

 

I have infinitely better self-esteem than DH, too, although we both identify primarily as "smart"... mostly because that is what (in our minds, anyway) differentiates us more from regular people than anything else. DH does have doubts about his "smartness" at times, though he knows better logically. Above all, his parents left him with the lingering impression that his efforts weren't good enough. I was "bragged on" for my intelligence and good grades, but it was a much bigger deal that I was a willing participant in our family unit.

 

Thankfully, DH has been steadily recovering from his parents over the last seven or eight years, and we completely agree that our children should be raised more like I was and less like he was. We're relaxed homeschoolers (bordering on unschoolers) and haven't found any need (thus far) to challenge DD artificially. She does a fine job of that herself as she pursues her own interests.

 

I wonder sometimes if the motivational differences between DH and I are because his challenges in childhood were artificially induced (things his parents made him do), whereas mine came from within (subjects I chose to pursue). Either way, our experiences don't mesh well with the idea that praising innate intelligence rather than effort is a bad idea. I'm the one who was praised and "built up" for being highly intelligent, while DH was not and was instead praised for effort (what scant praise he got... but he didn't put in much effort, either).

 

--K

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#15 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 05:22 AM
 
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Originally Posted by EdnaMarie View Post

And just like a beautiful woman might choose a career that has nothing to do with her beauty, and a tall, strong woman might choose a career that has nothing to do with basketball, there is no reason a person with a fast brain should have to choose a career or field of study that requires a lot of brains. 

 

OMG I LOVE this.  Where were you 15 years ago when I had this talk with my mother???  lol.gif  This would have come in really handy. 


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#16 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 10:54 AM
 
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You can post it on facebook when you know she's checking hers... LOL!

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Where were you 15 years ago when I had this talk with my mother???

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#17 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 11:36 AM
 
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DOn't be worried too much about your son, if he has your support and guidance and his teachers, he should be able to find his own path. Bring the subject up to his teachers, see what talented/gifted services the school or district has. If they don't have much, make a plan with the teacher to find ways to challange him. I was reading at 3 or 4, and when I was in kidergarden, in addition to gifted and talented services, I was often the teacher's 'helper'  being paired to 'tutor' other kids, or listen to them read. I guess I had the right personality to 'help' someone else. And the gifted and talented services got me out of the class room and with other advanced kids, we'd do Junior Great Books series, Odyssey of the Mind, Word Masters, National Geography Bee, etc for a few years there, a classmate's mother, who was fluent in Russian, would come once a week to have mini Russian classes with the gifted kids.

 

I was one of those kids that everything was easy, or if it was gym or sports, at least I did ok. And my schools weren't hard or too challanging, so college was kindof a wakeup for me. I'm glad I took some college classes and AP classes in high school, it help a little. But I didn't feel like a failure, I suppose because I didn't have my heart or dreams set on any one thing in particular, I think that was becuase I could do so many thing pretty well, I couldn't choose or decide what I wanted. For example, I initially thought of studying Biology in college, well, the first 2 courses I got a C and barely a B, so I reevaluated expectations for myself. I excelled in Spanish, so I decided I should focus on something I was better at and had a passion for.

 

If your son can learn to find those qualities in himself, he should be fine whatever he does. Start with some music lessons, any instrument, or even voice.  Make a deal for a certain amount of time, say until 4th or 5 th grade, and then reevaluate. Don't let him quit anything too early. I'm sure there were plenty of times when I was little I didn't want to practice or go to lessons, but they decided I'd do it until 5th grade (started in kindergarden) and by that time, I had found value in it, I wasn't a prodigy or anything, but I began to enjoy it, and challenge myself, and to this day, even though I don't get to play often, I can play for the pure enjoyment of it. (if music REALLY isnt his thing, then go for art lessons, drawing, clay, foreign language camp, whatever) Having those things "outside'  from the easy school work is a great place to find 'challenges' and opportunites for expaning their potential.

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#18 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 11:48 AM
 
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Please read the following with a kind voice because that is how I am in real-life. smile.gif I write in a way that sometimes seems curt to some people, but it is mostly because I literally have five to ten  minutes to respond, and my post is a stream of consciousness. In spite of this, I really do enjoy participating even though I choose not to spend a great deal of time editing for emotional content- again because I have five to ten minutes and want to contribute my perspective to the discussion.

 

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Originally Posted by mambera View Post


Why would you assume we are suggesting work for work's sake?  Obviously the child should be able to choose activities that he/she finds fulfilling.  It is simply a fact that when children are reinforced for their innate intelligence rather than for results that they consciously, intentionally strove to achieve, insecurity is fostered.

 

http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/

 

I am unsure which "we" you mean; I certainly wasn't opposing a "we" at all. I was responding regarding both the topic and the OP's summary of what she'd understood from the responses she's received. I also don't think it's obvious that the child would be able to choose activities that are fulfilling either, especially in a school setting where there are arbitrary requirements of children and adults.

 

The article you linked is about praise more than anything, and my criticism of praise for effort would be equal to my criticism of praise for innate intelligence. My point was that addressing the amount of effort a person exerts is an approach that likely has no objective merit or benefit to real life. It can convince children in school to choose the "harder" puzzle, as in the article, but that just shows the conflict of interest I referred to earlier. Establishing personal values, rationally, is the real issue regarding one's exertion of effort in one's life, gifted or not. I wanted to lend OP support in her assertion that some people simply do not have to exert much effort to accomplish the same as others, and some people choose to exert their real, hard-working effort to things they value, which may not be those things required by performance in school. That the child in the article refused to do work that required him to be able to write in cursive, which he refused to learn because he thought it was hard, just shows the mixed up value system he is being taught is real. Gifted children and adults can be duped, too, and this, imo, is an example of just that.

 

If the child understood that cursive writing was the skill between him now and his later becoming the super hero he wants to be, there is little doubt that he would undertake to learn it. Maybe he wouldn't, but nobody asked him, and he was NOT given a choice at all! He was required, with no attachment to a value whatsoever. Being gifted, he likely has an intuitive sense of what really matters, and if it doesn't really matter that he learn and be excellent, or even just proficient, at cursive writing, then it only makes sense that he would resist being coerced ("cajoled") into doing it.

 

My whole perspective is that effort is a means to an end. But the end must be meaningful, and to be meaningful, it must be attached to a personally held value. Nobody becomes joyful about expending effort by being forced to do what they consider meaningless work for the sake of work, by attrition- at least not that I know of. Learning cursive for the sake of learning cursive, regardless of the effort involved by the individual, is not justified without a lot of qualification, which has not been offered. In reality, nobody must learn cursive to live, and most activities don't require cursive writing. In fact, most of the time, cursive writing is discouraged, while block printing or typing are required. 

 

So, I think that addressing the underlying need for rationally establishing personal values, is paramount, and is really the issue. Addressing effort is parsing the reality unnecessarily, and truncating the effort from the work from the accomplishment. I am advocating for a more wholistic view of the human being and his/her endeavours than addressing effort as if it were separate from values necessitates, erroneously, in my opinion and experience.
 

smile.gif

 

ETA: It seems from what the article reports, that the researcher didn't really grasp what was being tested or what the results actually meant. The results (as reported) showed that praise has a profound effect on decision-making in children, not that being praised for effort is better than being praised for innate intelligence. I would have chosen the easier puzzle regardless of how I was praised simply because an arbitrarily administered test with no cognates to my actual life, and the utter insult of being praised for completing such a low-level test, is truly a complete waste of my time.

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#19 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 12:00 PM
 
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Ultimately, I believe we are better parents when we question our own hangups, and learn to identify what is beneficial for our children and how that differs from what would have been good for us as children.  Growing up, I don't recall anyone at all ever advocating for me.  Today, it makes me feel like a failure, like I took all the wrong paths, based on advice people would have wanted for themselves, but which was totally wrong for me.  Years ago I vowed to myself that I would make every effort to always do what's best for my daughter, NOT what I wish someone had done for me.  It's hard, though! 

 

I recently read "Work Left Undone: Choices and Compromises of Talented Women".  I had a really hard time focusing on reading it for my daughter, and not for myself.  It's a research- and anecodote-based synopsis of different fields and the impact women have made in them - or rather, the lack of impact - why they made the choices they did, what educational and social obsticles they encountered, and how their choices affect their sense of self-worth. What really impressed me was the broad definition of "creativity" used in the book; in addition to the expected chapters on lack of females in math and science, there were also chapters on the arts (where -  surprise, surprise! - they are similarly underrepresented in terms of output).  There were chapters on school-age children and teenagers, and the language we use to encourage, discourage, and stifle them.  The book also addressed some very interesting cultural issues faced by some women.

 

The school-age chapters are especially interesting for parents of girls, but I think there's valuable information there for parents of boys too.  The woman who lent it to me said "If I had a girl, I would want someone to tell me to read this."  It's about 10 years old, and I'd really like to believe some of the data has shifted in the last 10 years, but I doubt it.  It's a good read; I think you would relate to it.  Here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Work-Left-Undone-Compromises-Talented/dp/0936386762/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289590649&sr=1-10 

 

I credit this book for reminding me that I'm still young, and I DO still have options.  For the first time in 12 years, I am actually considering returning to school for the degree I always wanted (but got talked out of).  I burned out in college (not because the work was too hard, but because I didn't care about it), and thought I would never want to go back.  Now, I think maybe I do!

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#20 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 12:52 PM
 
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lurk.gif.  OP, I relate to your post and have been struggling with this myself recently.  Interesting discussion.


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dizzy.gif Wading slowly and nervously into this homeschooling thing.

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#21 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 01:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View PostI personally think it is a disservice to a gifted child to require that s/he undertake activities that require trying hard for the sake of requiring him/her to try hard: for what? It just doesn't address the larger picture and life of the individual. I don't waste my time doing arbitrary things just to make myself try hard. I do what interests me, and some aspects of doing so require more focus, more attention, more effort than others. This is not a big deal if a person has a foundation of rationally determined personal values; to him/her, trying hard is an irrelevant distinction. S/he simply does what it takes to accomplish the desired process and outcome. I wouldn't address effort in any other way than "if-then" propositions because that is really the issue. "If" you want to be an aeronautics engineer, "then" you will do the work to gain the skills necessary to do so. "If" you want to raise rabbits for meat, "then" you must do the work that provides the necessities for doing so. You must build a hutch with a protected warren area, which means you'll need to use tools and materials, which means learning how to use those tools, and how to properly manipulate the materials to construct the hutch, which is necessary for keeping the rabbits- "if" you want this, "then" you will do what is necessary to have it. I don't see any reason to discuss the perceived amount of effort whatsoever; it is incidental to the goal.

 

But that's just me. I detest both the assumption that I must have tried hard to accomplish what I have, and equally, that my pride in my accomplishments should be directly proportionate to how hard I tried/how much effort I expended. I treat my effort expenditure as personal information. Why is it anyone's business how hard I try? It just seems petty to me. I am equally pleased when I accomplish something with ease as I am when I expend great effort. Why shouldn't I be? I have integrity of character to assure my own self that I am not lazy and that I don't cheat myself of the joy of productivity and honest work. That is enough for me.

 

smile.gif


I have  to say there's a lot here I agree with.  We all have our growing up gifted hang-ups wink1.gif  For me I have a little bit of a different perspective.  One thing that really stuck with me my entire life was some bullying that I dealt with in elementary school.  In one case two girls in the gifted program claimed they had seen my IQ score and that I barely made it into the gifted program and it was only because my dad was a teacher that I made it in (my parents assured me that was not the case and later tests I took seem to refute that by quite a bit actually...).  Then a couple of years later a teacher threatened to remove me from the gifted program after I had failed two grammar tests (I'm more on the math side of things but I always hated pointless grammar lessons so I put almost no effort into them).  Both experiences made me really question my intelligence.  Add into that that my parents did the whole just praising for hard-work I actually was quite delusional about academic abilities for a long time (probably well into college) and thought everyone could be at the same level if they just put more effort in (I actually thought that others were not studying enough and that's why I would break the curve and they would be upset at me).  Once I hit grad school I learned that it was quite the opposite.  I actually studied a lot less than others and my lack of study skills really made me have to rethink quite a few things (and made me struggle for quite awhile... it's still something that I struggle with)!!! So I kind of agree that just praising for hard-work isn't the be-all-end-all solution either.  I'm not sure what is...

 

One other funny side effect of always being pushed to work hard is I ended up choosing my career by what subject came hardest to me.  While I do enjoy what I do and plan on continuing in it, I don't think it's necessarily the best fit for me.  There's one career path that I specifically didn't choose because I thought it was "too easy" and sometimes I really, really regret that!  My parents always told me to follow my interests but they never advocated much for me at school.  I have a feeling if I would've been put in more advanced classes in the subject that was "too easy" for me at the time I might have been more encouraged to stick with it into college. 

 

When it comes to DD the one thing I've learned from past experiences is to be more involved in her school to make sure she's getting her needs met at her level.  That doesn't have to mean that I will push her but rather make sure that she's getting new and exciting material at the level that she's working at.  I honestly don't know where I stand on the whole praising for hard work thing.  I've read Nutureshock and I get what there saying but I also think you have to raise the child you have and keep in mind their past experiences and who they are as a person.  Some kids might very well become perfectionists if you tell them they're smart to others it might give more confidence.  As with all things statistical there are exceptions...

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#22 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 02:32 PM
 
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 Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post


Please read the following with a kind voice because that is how I am in real-life. smile.gif I write in a way that sometimes seems curt to some people,

 

I'm not offended. smile.gif  I am also quite direct on the internet, and only slightly softened down from that in real life (but still very straightforward), and I mean no offense by this nor do I take any when others are similarly direct.

 

 

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I am unsure which "we" you mean; I certainly wasn't opposing a "we" at all.

 

It's a few posts back, but the OP said something like "Several people have commented along the lines that praise-for-effort is better than praise-for-intelligence," and it seemed as if your post was a response to this.  Perhaps I was wrong however. 

 

 

Quote:
  I wanted to lend OP support in her assertion that some people simply do not have to exert much effort to accomplish the same as others, and some people choose to exert their real, hard-working effort to things they value, which may not be those things required by performance in school.

 

True, and true, and both unrelated to my point, which was that emphasising the child's innate abilities is likely to contribute to timidity and unwillingness to take on challenges.

 

I see that your point is more about encouraging the child to choose challenges that are meaningful for him, and with that I wholeheartedly agree.

 

It does seem that you are implying that if the child is allowed to choose challenges freely, then he will automatically put in whatever effort is necessary to excel.  I actually do not think this is true; it has not been true for me and there is a good deal of research from people other than Dweck that shows that external rewards and praise can substantially alter motivations that were previously internal (and not in a good way).

 

E.g. you can take a bunch of children who enjoy drawing pictures and tell half of them they will get a reward for drawing a picture, and allow the other half to play freely with the available drawing materials.  A week later if you offer them all paper and crayons again, the reward group will be likely to refuse to draw a picture unless they again receive a reward.  Whereas the non-reward group will continue to draw as happily as they ever did.

 

Quote:
  The results (as reported) showed that praise has a profound effect on decision-making in children, not that being praised for effort is better than being praised for innate intelligence.

 

Well, it shows that children who are praised for effort are likely to choose more challenging tasks and to feel better about their choices.  "Better" is a totally subjective, but personally I certainly prefer that outcome to the alternative - praise for innate intelligence, which produces a child who feels anxious about maintaining a status over which he feels he has no control, and thus avoids intellectual challenge.

 

I would have chosen the easier puzzle regardless of how I was praised simply because an arbitrarily administered test with no cognates to my actual life, and the utter insult of being praised for completing such a low-level test, is truly a complete waste of my time.

 

I feel that seeking challenge is valuable.  And I would prefer (insofar as possible) to foster this attitude in my child also.  Not the attitude of choosing an easier task only because it is easier, which is what the majority of the children who had been praised for intelligence did.


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#23 of 120 Old 11-12-2010, 07:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Galatea View Post

Thank you.  I see several comments to the effect of it is better for bright kids to learn the importance of achievement through diligent effort and focus.  Maybe this was my problem as nothing required diligent effort and focus when I was in school.  If that is true, then ds1 is in trouble b/c he never has to work at anything.

 

I would phrase it differently -- I think it's important for kids to find something they're passionate about and willing to work at. There's a difference. Being passionate about something will carry you through the boring bits, usually. Being interested will keep you searching for more.  I want my kids to take pride in what they've accomplished or learned to do. Whether or not that required a lot of effort or a little effort, I want them to be willing to do the best they can in the circumstances.
 

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Originally Posted by daytripper75 View Post

I just read this blog yesterday and posted it to my Facebook account because I thought it was so spot on.  http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/apply/the_selection_process_application_reading_committee_and_decisions/applying_sideways.shtml

What we should be giving our children is:

  • Do well in school. Take tough classes. Interrogate your beliefs and presumptions. Pursue knowledge with dogged precision. Because it is better to be educated and intelligent than not.
  • Be nice. This cannot be understated. Don't be wanton or careless or cruel. Treat those around you with kindness. Help people. Contribute to your community.
  • Pursue your passion. Find what you love, and do it. Maybe it's a sport. Maybe it's an instrument. Maybe it's research. Maybe it's being a leader in your community. Math. Baking. Napping. Hopscotch. Whatever it is, spend time on it. Immerse yourself in it. Enjoy it.

 

I think these things kind of sum it up.  We should be allowing them to pursue their own passions, encouraging them to "be nice" and to do their (own, personal) best in school.  I think that by focusing on those things we allow them to create their own self-identities. 

 

I really like this. This is more or less what m parents instilled in us, and I think it helped create basically well-rounded people. They had children with varying academic abilities (not intellectual but academic, there is a difference). We've all found a role in life where we are happy and able to pursue what we're interested in. For some us, that's in our professional life, for others it's in their private lives. But the one thing that my parents were very clear on: Pursue your passion. It didn't matter that the passion wasn't likely to bring great wealth. They never batted an eye when I changed my major from pre-med to German. (I would have made a lousy medical doctor, it was the right choice.) Nor did they worry about ultimate grades. They wanted us to do our best and be able to be proud of what we'd done. The only person who could judge that was the person who'd done the work.
 

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Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post

I personally think it is a disservice to a gifted child to require that s/he undertake activities that require trying hard for the sake of requiring him/her to try hard: for what? It just doesn't address the larger picture and life of the individual. 


No, but I do think that children (and adults) do need to be encouraged to try new things to see if they'll like them and encouraged to continue with something that might seem hard to get over the learning curve. I've seen that with my dd and piano. She WANTS to be able to play piano. She loves music. But she also has a hard time practicing some days, and gets frustrated when things are hard. Learning to get beyond that point is good for her, because it teaches her how to deal with frustration and that she can work through problems step by step. O

 

ur ds, on the other hand, is adamant that he does not want to learn to play a musical instrument. I've resisted the urge to sign him up because it'd "be good for him". His interests now are in sports and in writing. He finally made the connection last year between practice and achievement in sports. He wanted to be able to catch a baseball better, so he practiced. He would not have made this connection unless we'd gently encouraged him to try a new sport. It turns out that baseball is a very very good fit for his personality and his learning style. He likes it.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by PreggieUBA2C View Post

"If" you want to be an aeronautics engineer, "then" you will do the work to gain the skills necessary to do so. "If" you want to raise rabbits for meat, "then" you must do the work that provides the necessities for doing so. You must build a hutch with a protected warren area, which means you'll need to use tools and materials, which means learning how to use those tools, and how to properly manipulate the materials to construct the hutch, which is necessary for keeping the rabbits- "if" you want this, "then" you will do what is necessary to have it. I don't see any reason to discuss the perceived amount of effort whatsoever; it is incidental to the goal.

 

But what happens when you want to be come an aeronautical engineer, but passing the classes is really really difficult for you? How do you learn to persevere? I'm asking this as a genuine question.

 

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Originally Posted by EdnaMarie View Post

Not exactly what you'd think of as genius territory, but I thank God there are people like that, that incredibly intelligent and kind, who are sucking it up and teaching in public schools for the public good.  It's an honor for us to have her there.


Ah but here's where intellectual elitism can creep in. Maybe she's not 'sucking it up' by teaching in the public schools. Maybe she honestly enjoys and gets great pleasure out of teaching well. Maybe that is her passion. Why do we have to think of doing something less than a rocket scientist as 'sucking it up'?

uote:
Originally Posted by karanyavel View PostHis parents emphasized academic achievement and career goals over pretty much everything else and were forever going on about how he wasn't living up to his potential.

IMO, that's enough to make a lot of people hate school. If your parents emphasize one aspect of life over everything else, and then to top it off, tell you that you're not doing well in that one area, it's got to affect your self-esteem.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by flightgoddess View Post
Make a deal for a certain amount of time, say until 4th or 5 th grade, and then reevaluate. Don't let him quit anything too early. I'm sure there were plenty of times when I was little I didn't want to practice or go to lessons, but they decided I'd do it until 5th grade (started in kindergarden) and by that time, I had found value in it, I wasn't a prodigy or anything, but I began to enjoy it,

 

I agree that it's good to try out things, but I think a span of K-5th grade is a bit harsh. I'd say a year, or a term or whatever makes sense.
 


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#24 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 01:32 AM
 
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Ah but here's where intellectual elitism can creep in. Maybe she's not 'sucking it up' by teaching in the public schools. Maybe she honestly enjoys and gets great pleasure out of teaching well. Maybe that is her passion. Why do we have to think of doing something less than a rocket scientist as 'sucking it up'?

 

I think anyone who's teaching in public schools is sucking it up.  Sorry, that did sound elitist.  Teaching is HARD, it is extremely badly paid for its importance and difficulty, and it is looked down upon by many, to boot!  A lot of people--some of whom couldn't even teach if they wanted to--don't teach and don't want to because they look down on it.  I think it takes a lot of personal courage for anyone to become a teacher and put themselves out in front of kids and parents like that.

 

That is all I meant.  Not that she's somehow "sucking it up" and not doing rocket science.


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#25 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 04:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you to everyone for such an interesting discussion.  Lots to think about. 

 

I called my oldest brother to ask him about this as he is super-smart and has a child.  He is pretty laconic, and all he said was, "Dad is the reason why you were always so afraid to fail."  Now I did a lot of therapy around my dad, and am not angry with him anymore, but I suppose in my efforts to accept and forgive, I didn't think about the actual effects on my education/goals/etc.  He wanted me to be a child model, but my mom was concerned about the effect it would have on me, so she didn't allow it, and he thinks if I had done it, I would be more self-confident.  Then I remember in 3rd grade I brought home all As and 1 A-, so of course his response was, "Why did you get an A-?"  It's not that he was not supportive of my interests, b/c he never cared about my many major changes in college.  It's just that whatever I did, I had to be the best, so I stopped wanting to compete at a really young age.  I rode horses and played piano, and got to the level at which you were expected to start competing, but I didn't want to compete - I just wanted to ride and play for the pleasure of it.  Same with law school, in a way - I found it interesting at the beginning, but when I saw that most of the students and law firm associates saw it as the end-all of competitions (the prize was a Supreme Court clerkship), I panicked about being stuck with a bunch of people like my dad, and I quit. 

 

My brother used to work at Goldman Sachs in the 80s, and he was asked to do something unethical, and he refused and quit, thus giving up a huge salary.  He then sailed the world for a year, crossing the Atlantic by himself, and yet my dad was just mad at him for giving up the position.  My first summer job at law school I worked at a big firm, and my tasks included finding ways to screw retired steelworkers out of their pensions and proving that lead paint didn't really hurt children, for which I was paid $10,000 a month.  I felt like making an effort was pointless, b/c what they wanted seemed completely arbitrary, and sort of like they made me redo things just to haze me, b/c I couldn't tell a difference in what they wanted.  They would give such vague instructions, and then criticize whatever work I produced.  That, combined with the total lack of moral compass inherent in the job, made me miserable.  I lasted 6 weeks, during which I cried under my cherry-paneled desk every day, and then I quit and left law school.  My dad didn't talk to me for 4 months.  My mom said that he was upset b/c he never had such opportunities and so he couldn't understand why I would give them up, when he viewed it as a golden ticket.  I saw it as escaping a life of competition and lack of morals and ethics.  Even if I weren't doing such obviously wrong tasks, I felt that spending 80-100 hours a week racking up billable hours for the rich was a pretty poor way to spend my time on earth.  Now, years later, my husband, mom and I have a shorthand for this - we say, "If I had been a child model, I would be on the Supreme Court."  My dad still doesn't find it funny.

 

So.... yeah.  How do I not do this to my kids?  Was it his focus on competition that was the problem?  Was it my being a girl that was the problem (my mom sent me to an all-girl school from K-8 b/c she knew how girls got socialized to not be smart in regular schools)?  Where did effort come into this?


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#26 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 05:44 AM
 
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IMO part of it is the perfection/best thing.  Sometimes it's hard for people to differentiate between THE best and YOUR best (which I guess is competition, as you mention).  Especially when someone is gifted, "Your best" often blurs with "The best".  Focusing on the A- instead of congratulating on the remaining As is a perfect example.  And FWIW, I consider the best effort a person can put forth at the time to be a changing thing, dependent on mulitple factors, so maybe I would be able to get an A on a test topic one time, and 6 months later the best I can do on the same topic is a B because there are other things going on and I wasn't able to focus the same way on it; my effort was the best I could do both times, but the results were different.  Expecting maximum focus and maximum results every time is just an exhausting proposition for most people, even gifted people.  Sometimes good enough really is good enough.

 

I had a job situation where I was asked to do something unethical and completely out of the scope of my job description (call a competing company posing as a prospective client and find out detailed information about the other companies services, rates and software), and I told them I wouldn't do it (first, I'm a horrible liar; second, I was a quality manager and not in sales or service; third, I didn't want to become the "go to" for things like this, because it made me realize these were ever so slightly sketchy people who would not have my back if I got caught doing something like this).   I wasn't fired and didn't quit since it was not that big a deal to me, just not a path I wanted to start down with these people....and when I told my parents about it, my dad said, "What a jerk." (about the owner who asked me to do it, not me :lol ).  

 

I also think a lot of this has to do with having your parents' *support*, even when they don't agree with what you did (within the confines of legal/nonhurtful activity).  I've done LOTS of things my parents didn't agree with that they thought if I would have done differently it would have been more positive/productive for me, but they would just express their position and why they thought I should do what they were suggesting, and then drop it and not use it as an "I told you so" if things didn't turn out the way I thought they would.   We jokingly muse about what might have been sometimes, much like your child model/supreme court joke, but they know I am really satisfied with my life as it is now and have no regrets about paths not taken. 


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#27 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 06:15 AM
 
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 double post


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#28 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 06:24 AM
 
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Derp.  I just reiterated your point. Nevrmind.  :lol


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#29 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 07:13 AM
 
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Man, my dad did a number on me, too... and it's just coming up again after I had worked on it in therapy a few years ago.  He definitely expected a lot of me, but never gave any kind of recognition for anything I did... just things I didn't do well enough.  That can really warp your sense of self, imo.  At least it did to me.  Bleh.


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#30 of 120 Old 11-13-2010, 09:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karanyavel View Post. Either way, our experiences don't mesh well with the idea that praising innate intelligence rather than effort is a bad idea. I'm the one who was praised and "built up" for being highly intelligent, while DH was not and was instead praised for effort (what scant praise he got... but he didn't put in much effort, either).

 

--K

 

But it doesn't sound like your DH was praised much at all. The message he got was "your best isn't good enough." I think that we can all agree that telling our kids that their best isn't good enough isn't great parenting, no matter what their IQs or passions, or our views on "effect" vs "innate ability."

 

One of the things I like about activities other that school is that its so much easier to talk to my kids about how they feel about how they did, what their goals are, and whether or not they had fun. Swimming in particular was great for working on the concept of *personal best.*

 

I can't help but tell my kids how amazing they are, which is praising them, but I also like to have lots of conversations with them that aren't about what *I* think about what they are doing. I like to talk to them about how *they* feel about it. 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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