21 July 2009

Nothing More Intellectually Elite Than Forced Giftedness

I read another couple of books that got me thinking. Oh the reading and the thinking, before you know it people are going to start thinking SAHMs can talk about more than toddlers and cloth diapers! This time around it started with Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart. I know this book has been around for a while and I am clearly the last mommy on earth to get it together and read it, but I have to tell you, it was SO interesting! I like how the book nicely balanced the call for better educational opportunities for kids of all demographics who have talents, or gifts, while tempering the craze for generating gifted kids via excessive “enrichment.”

The question whizzing around in my brain, a brain that I am sure falls into the realm of “staggeringly normal” just for the record, is as follows. I wonder if we can correlate the increase in “enrichment” for kids with the extended adolescence that has simultaneously been reported? While we all have our kids best interests at heart when they are taking kiddie-gym, trilingual immersion programs and music lessons, with the intensity of our dedication to their achievement comes a bit of a risk. It is very easy to head into “helicopter parent’ territory here. Many kids now lead lives that are micromanaged by adults at all times. It is very easy for that habit to go on indefinitely. Are these toddlers who have busier academic schedules than most PhD candidates, the same kids who call home from college in hysterics because they can’t find the textbook they need or because a professor is not giving them the special consideration their charter high school teachers so often granted? One does have to wonder if the larger issues of the so-called “narcissism epidemic” and extended adolescence stems from the “gifted, special, snowflake” mentality that is currently considered the gold standard of “good parenting.”

This premise is actually investigated in another great read: The Trophy Kids Grow Up by Ron Alsop. Mr. Alsop uses his book to explore the nuances of Millennial Kids (born 1980-2001) as they hit their teenage years, college and the work-force. While there are some benefits to the kind of uber-parenting my generation received, the co-dependent back-lash needs to be investigated. Children who were molded into giftedness by zealous parents now feel a need to bring Mom and Dad to job interviews. Coincidence? I think not.

As a parent this information puts me in a bit of a quandary. Am I am bad parent for wanted my kids to be just average. Granted, if one of my children was flagged as having a high aptitude for something, it would be worth exploring, but I just don’t feel a need to force my girls into some perception of talent. I am hoping that my kids to learn to be creative, intellectually curious and reasonably self-sufficient people through good old fashioned play and exposure. While my toddler has been enrolled in more than her fair share of activities, we usually only have one going on at a time, and we only do it as long as it is fun. Between you and me, I think the time she is spending building block villages for her mini-animals, or pretending to be a cat, is much better for her brain development than Baby Einstein videos and formal sign language lessons. It’s crazy…I know.


Ginger said...

I have to admit, I don't think there's anything wrong with "average". I'll be tested soon enough on all my pre-conceived ideas of raising kids, but I do think the over scheduling and crazy "your child must do X, Y, AND Z or they will never succeed, aaaahhhhhh" system seems to have created some monsters. And I definitely think you're right, the time spent with their own imaginations, playing in their own worlds can't be understated (IMO).