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EDITS REQUESTED: How do you talk to your kids about the way society feels about differences in intelligence


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EDIT:  I realized in the night that I included information about family dynamics that really weren't mine to share.  I'm going to edit those out, but if you quoted me, or referenced my family member, can you delete too?  @Scarlett, @gardenmom5, @prairiewindmomma, @GoodGrief3, and @Not_a_Number 

I'll leave the part about the school.  I think this is a good conversation, so I don't want the whole thing to go away, but I shouldn't have brought family into it.

 

We're looking at schools, and some of the schools that we are considering for my youngest, who is quite bright and does well in school, are academically selective.  I feel like we're trying to give one message about what that means, but my kid is getting a different message from the schools themselves, and from some family members, and my kid, who is ten, is confused.

I'd love to hear from other people about how you talk to your kids about intellectual or academic differences between siblings, or family members, or classmates, and how you counteract messages that your kid hears that you may not agree with.  Particularly, if you have kids with different abilities, or if one kid has gotten opportunities due to their abilities that a sibling or cousin or friend might not get.  

 

Edited by BaseballandHockey
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I assume that those schools highlight exclusivity. I get it, but I hate it. We explain that everyone has different luck, talents, opportunities. And that just because one person is more academically suited doesn’t mean that he is better than anyone else anymore than someone with certain physical attributes or someone fabulously wealthy is better than anyone else. We concentrate on character and the responsibility one has to be one’s best in one’s particular situation. And then repeat that it’s all luck of the draw and something with which you are gifted does not make you better.

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We never mentioned to others about what our kids were doing for what reason-- so my son went to Ireland when we lived in Belgium to go to an academic camp-  no need to mention that not everyone can go.  Same for camps that both dd's went to.  

And we have had a bit of sibling rivalry here about what each was good at- namely that dd2 was good at engineering and dd1, who is fantastic at research and writing quickly well organized documents, was envious of dd2 for that ability.  Nothing much we could do about it.  DD1 just has to get over it.  She is making slightly more money than dd2 as a technical writer si that helps a bit.  Though dd2 will eventually make more (she is younger so less experience now) but I hope she never discusses salary with dd1 again.

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I am from a Buddhist/Taoist family where me and my cousins all went to Roman Catholic preschool and elementary schools. My husband is from a Taoist family and went to a Roman Catholic middle school. My husband and I are agnostics. So we just remind our kids that everyone is different and the most important thing is not to do harm. 
 

My dad used to compare me with my cousins when I was in elementary school and it backfired. My aunt’s husband would blurt out comparisons when he is worried about his children (usually when they aren’t around). My in-laws blatantly compare 😞 , their only daughter don’t care but their son (hubby’s older brother) does. My husband is the “smartest” and the youngest among his siblings and he does hear connotations of “academic elitism” in conversations at school and at home. 

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2 minutes ago, TravelingChris said:

Though dd2 will eventually make more (she is younger so less experience now) but I hope she never discusses salary with dd1 again.

My in-laws try to pry about salary. My husband just say that he hands the whole paycheck to me and I do the taxes so he doesn’t know. My in-laws rarely talk to me, thank goodness. 

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I have a cognitively impaired child who is the oldest.  It's an issue we've faced everyday since my youngest was in 3rd grade and bypassed his older brother, who is fully aware.  We focus a whole lot on each one's strengths and special abilities.  We talk a lot about what is most important in a person and what should be valued in someone, aside from intelligence.  My special needs kid is the most accepting, nonjudgmental person you could meet.  At the end of the day, we emphasize that each has a special path to their own goals and greatness,  just as we all should, so it make no sense to compare.  It is not easy when one is on a path to driving, college, independence and one will always be with us and cannot have those things.  

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Some of that vibe is what led us to homeschooling so I get it too.  With the kids we always talked about "fit" and everyone is different.  My oldest especially really understood that because he went to 2 years of school and was fairly miserable in a very well regarded school.  We introduced the kids to the concept of marketing pretty early and to take anything like that with a grain of salt.  If relatives bring it up, etc, we would downplay.  "Yep, 6 year old read all the Harry Potter books.  He sure likes reading!  I think that new book club will be a great fit.  How about that weather?"

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Our 10yo can basically perform above our 12yo in all subjects except for handwriting and piano at this point. It is apparent to her and can't be hidden because when they were younger they did their subjects together, and some (like history) still are. And she has a high competitive drive where he really doesn't care less, so it's taken a lot of mindset coaching this past 2 years or so.

We emphasize that different people are different. He has blond hair, you have brown hair, it is a difference where it just IS, not that one is better. You have brown eyes he has green eyes, and one isn't better than the other. We phrase that one has a stronger interest, not necessarily ability. We tell them that we don't want them to be the best at something, but want them "to be the best at being you."

Growth mindsets, competing with oneself instead of others, and how you choose to spend your own time are emphasized here. I discourage comparison between kids; they do it sometimes but I emphasize phrasing it in positive ways as possible. I come down hard on anyone saying they are better than someone else, or that someone else isn't good at XYZ. Complimenting one another is a huge thing that I try and work on, where they can recognize the others' qualities without jealousy and be able to see the good in themselves, too. It's been tricky to manage these conversations but we are getting better at it.

The idea of talent is a starting point but hard work and time spent learning/practicing is always necessary regardless of ability: We talk a lot about that.

I am fortunate in that we don't need to spend time correcting thoughts/attitudes from schools and peers since we homeschool. Grandparents have been a problem, though. Rinse and repeat the growth mindset lessons. 

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We talk some about people having different gifts and also the role of work.  We also talk about how wisdom is different from intelligence.  One of my kids had an interesting insight when we were talking about the chapter about status and intelligence in Screwtape Letters.  It was something about if the best architect in the world were there...and kid said that unless you were designing a building it didn't matter if they were a great architect.  Being the best at something only makes you 'more important' when you are doing that thing. Once you are doing something else, your status at something unrelated is irrelavant.  So, a smart kid could go to a magnet school and a great dancer could go to a conservatory but neither is helpful when it's time to go camping.  🙂  My kids also do a lot of activities so that they are unlikely to be the best at all of them, which is good...it's good to have something keeping you humble.  

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I think it's very important to encourage humility. But I also think it can be tough to be a "book smart" kid. It's not like being a great dancer, or being good at games, which will win you social status with other kids. Adults tend to encourage academic kids to play down their achievements in the name of not showing off. We don't do this in the same way to, say, star athletes. Everyone deserves to be respected for their strengths!

Edited by Little Green Leaves
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I have a child with a very high IQ.  (she was the student teachers wished they had), School was boring. Until she was an IB Dip, then she was happy for the first (and only) time in her academic career.   College was boring,.  I didn't care about how society viewed intelligence,  my concern was how she viewed other people.   

When she was younger, she thought she was "normal".  She thought everyone else was as smart as her, so those kids who didn't perform like her, confused her, and she unfairly thought unkind things about them. 

I tried to get her to understand not every one was as smart as her (It took a formally administered IQ test for her to believe me)  - but everyone still had intrinsic value as human beings, they still deserved to be treated with respect, and they still had something to offer her, something she could learn from them. (One of my church leaders shared the story of his father out walking with Einstein (they were both teaching at Princeton).  They came across a farmer's field, and didn't know what the plant was.  so - they asked.  The famer had something to teach two of the most brilliant scientific minds of their day, and they were willing to be taught by him. - I shared that story with her.  a lot.)

If a child is particularly intelligent, not only is it a lie to tell them they're not smart, but it is misleading as then they expect everyone else to have the intelligence that they do and they are confused (or worse) when most of the people they meet don't.   

as for schools/programs that cater to super smart kids - those often foster intellectual snobbery, but the kids can see the difference between  themselves and society/their peers all by themselves.  So, it gets back to, reinforcing the intrinsic value of human life.  That that value trumps intellect.  

There's currently a 12yo at Emory? studying Aerospace Engineering?.  He understands - and he will say,  he just remembers more and learns faster.  He doesn't think he's any better than anyone else.   

eta: intellect is just one "gift/talent".  some people will never excel at anything - but they still deserve to be treated with respect.

Edited by gardenmom5
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Both of our boys were academically gifted. We tried to make them appreciate and be thankful for that, but we spent a lot of time pointing out/showing appreciation of different areas that others excelled in. None of us are very handy or creative, so it was easy to heap praise on people who can fix things, are artistic, are particularly empathetic "people persons," etc. I guess we just tried to continually point out how everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and that it's a good thing for the world that people are so varied.

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We have this conversation a lot.

MY oldest is very very academically brilliant. But she struggles with people skills, she has a hard time getting along with people, she struggles with anxiety, she struggles with making friends...

My second dd has to work very very hard for school. She's bright, but it still requires a lot of effort for her to be successful and she probably never will be as academically successful as her sister. But she is amazing with people and she's amazing with processing hard life stuff in a healthy way. 

Not sure yet where my other 2 lie on the scale, but if things go the way that I think they will be somewhere in between my two older girls. 

We talk about MANY different ways to be successful. And that we need all kinds of people to make the world go round.

MY dh works in a blue collar environment, even though he's a certified professional engineer. He's also really smart. But he doesn't read people as well and can sometimes be hard to get along with. He does express appreciation often for the gifted mechanics and electricians that he works with. He also expresses envy of their practical skills.   He talks about his grandfather who never went to college and how smart his grandfather was about mechanics and growing things. His grandfather was almost blind from cataracts and was able to repair a broken lawn mower by TOUCH. 

We are fortunate that, although my dh works professionally, he works for a utility and sees a need for every team member, whether well-educated or not, to be doing their job. We also have a farm where practical hands on life experience is important. My kids can learn that all of the types of  brilliance, whether academic, mechanical, people skills, artistic, etc. all can contribute to making life better for others.

And that's what is the most important thing...how well do each of us use our gifts to give joy to others and help make the world better. That is my challenge to my kids. It goes right along with 1 Corinthians 13, quoted here from the Message

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love

 

No matter what gifts we're given, the main thing is using our gifts to the best of our abilities to love others. 

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30 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

I have a child with a very high IQ.  (she was the student teachers wished they had), School was boring. Until she was an IB Dip, then she was happy for the first (and only) time in her academic career.   College was boring,.  I didn't care about how society viewed intelligence,  my concern was how she viewed other people.   

When she was younger, she thought she was "normal".  She thought everyone else was as smart as her, so those kids who didn't perform like her, confused her, and she unfairly thought unkind things about them. 

I tried to get her to understand not every one was as smart as her (It took a formally administered IQ test for her to believe me)  - but everyone still had intrinsic value as human beings, they still deserved to be treated with respect, and they still had something to offer her, something she could learn from them. (One of my church leaders shared the story of his father out walking with Einstein (they were both teaching at Princeton).  They came across a farmer's field, and didn't know what the plant was.  so - they asked.  The famer had something to teach two of the most brilliant scientific minds of their day, and they were willing to be taught by him. - I shared that story with her.  a lot.)

If a child is particularly intelligent, not only is it a lie to tell them they're not smart, but it is misleading as then they expect everyone else to have the intelligence that they do and they are confused (or worse) when most of the people they meet don't.   

as for schools/programs that cater to super smart kids - those often foster intellectual snobbery, but the kids can see the difference between  themselves and society/their peers all by themselves.  So, it gets back to, reinforcing the intrinsic value of human life.  That that value trumps intellect.  

There's currently a 12yo at Emory? studying Aerospace Engineering?.  He understands - and he will say,  he just remembers more and learns faster.  He doesn't think he's any better than anyone else.   

eta: intellect is just one "gift/talent".  some people will never excel at anything - but they still deserve to be treated with respect.

This.  So much this.

Also, I had both the problem that my kids didn't understand (and still don't get it often and actually my dh often doesn't either), that most people are of lower intelligence but not lower worth.    (They don't understand the lower intelligence part--- they really don't understand why someone can't understand X or does Y when it makes no sense).  But, particularly with my oldest. he also has super low self esteem and is always super surprised when others think he is a good fit for a position etc.  He was so astonished that he beat out 500 people for a job (that he is super qualified for).  He thinks it is normal that someone memorizes so many medications, side effects, prices, etc, etc, etc and that his abilities are nothing special when, in fact, they are.  Somehow my dds have a lot less problems with self esteem though dd2 used to have very little social self esteem but not having issues understanding that she does have an easier time understanding than most others.

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Upon thinking some more, I think that one other way this shows up in our house is that my kids are fascinated by watching people in trades.  We had a stone patio put in, which involved leveling and building a retaining wall.  One of my kids sat outside and watched every time workers came.  They ask why we don't do it ourselves, and we say that everybody is happier if we do the jobs that we are good at and use the money that people pay us to pay people to do the jobs that they are good at.  We talk about the fact that many people could learn to do any given task if they focused on it, but most of us put our efforts on what we like, are good at, or what comes easily.  So, we should definitely respect other people who can do things that we don't know how to do.  We ask our parents, or the electrician, or the guy at the produce stand, for advice on how to do tasks and talk about how great it is that people know how to do things.  I think our big garden has helped with this, too.  Every time we have to figure out how to fight some pest, we talk about the people who already know how to do this and aren't we thankful that if our crop dies that they know what they are doing so that there is food to eat.  

We also emphasize that intelligence, or any other gift or ability, is useful for the purpose of making the world better.  Maybe it's on a big scale or maybe it's that by being the cheery and efficient checker at the store you've made life more pleasant for customers.  People who use their time to help teach kids (ball coaches, scout leaders) are celebrated for what they do, not the presence or absence of a college degree.  But, the purpose of being a great musician or physicist isn't to collect accolades - it's to bring joy through music or solve problems or contribute knowledge.  There's nothing wrong with celebrating wins in academic competitions, but just like winning a ball game doesn't make you a better person, neither does academic success.  

Edited by Clemsondana
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11 minutes ago, fairfarmhand said:

We have this conversation a lot.

MY oldest is very very academically brilliant. But she struggles with people skills, she has a hard time getting along with people, she struggles with anxiety, she struggles with making friends...

 

After we got her IQ results back, I did some research on people with high IQs . . . . that's common.

For dd, it also turned out she is (very high) on the autism spectrum.  she started somatic therapy (can be helpful for autistics), and all those other things - got a lot better.

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I've always figured that my job as a kid's parent is to reflect the world back at her the way it is, not the way I wish it were. 

So, for example, DD8 knows she's intellectually gifted. I don't see any point about being mealy-mouthed about it, because it's true. And not talking about it wouldn't make it less true, and she'd notice, anyway. 

She also knows she's a picky eater. And that she sometimes has trouble letting other people have their own rules in games. And that she isn't as intuitive about people's feelings as her sister. Those are also, in our family, simply statements of fact. 

I want my kids to be proud of their gifts and work hard at them. I also want them to be aware of their limitations and work hard at those, too. And I don't see any reason to treat intellectual gifts different than other gifts in this respect. 

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2 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I feel like we're trying to give one message about what that means, but my kid is getting a different message from the schools themselves, and from some family members, and my kid, who is ten, is confused.

It seems to me it's way more important you and he understand what the school means and what vibe they're trying to create. I went to a residential school for the gifted, and there was definitely a feel. It has probably changed over the last 30 years, as it was very exploratory, roots up, anti-institution/grades/etc. at the time. I think now it might be more stodgy and set in with a persona, maybe even pressure. But if you don't catch onto that and you're saying what you want it to be and it's not, that would be a mismatch.

Not helpful to give a rip too much what other people think, because at some point you have to make a decision for yourself about what is good for you. Choices like this involve trade-offs.

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11 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

I have no idea what this means. 

Sorry, I wasn't clear! Maybe it's too colloquial. 

Remember the line, probably an old proverb, "Pretty is as pretty does?" 

It means that however lovely you may be on the outside, the beauty or ugliness of your character define you far more than your looks. 

I've known a number of intelligent people who made really stupid life choices because they lacked self  restraint, or concern for others, or wouldn't work hard. However smart they were was wasted and ruined.

So we discuss intelligence with that factor in mind, in casual conversations. When my kid asks me how she compares with someone else, I use this phrase to remind her of what matters.

 

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2 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Particularly, if you have kids with different abilities, or if one kid has gotten opportunities due to their abilities that a sibling or cousin or friend might not get. 

What I've read is the siblings are usually within 10 points on IQs, so it has diddly to do with someone actually being significantly more intelligent than another. Strengths just manifest different ways. My ds can't write a sentence or do multiplication, but his IQ is higher than dd's who went to college on top scholarships and had crazy high IQ scores. Genes and IQ manifest lots of ways and we have to be who we are. Do what you do with EXCELLENCE. Love God, serve others, wake up every morning with a plan to serve. That's it. Not hard.

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Just now, PeterPan said:

What I've read is the siblings are usually within 10 points on IQs, so it has diddly to do with someone actually being significantly more intelligent than another. Strengths just manifest different ways. My ds can't write a sentence or do multiplication, but his IQ is higher than dd's who went to college on top scholarships and had crazy high IQ scores. Genes and IQ manifest lots of ways and we have to be who we are. Do what you do with EXCELLENCE. Love God, serve others, wake up every morning with a plan to serve. That's it. Not hard.

We're an adoptive family so that 10 point discrepancy does not apply to us. 

 

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13 minutes ago, TravelingChris said:

This.  So much this.

Also, I had both the problem that my kids didn't understand (and still don't get it often and actually my dh often doesn't either), that most people are of lower intelligence but not lower worth.    (They don't understand the lower intelligence part--- they really don't understand why someone can't understand X or does Y when it makes no sense).  But, particularly with my oldest. he also has super low self esteem and is always super surprised when others think he is a good fit for a position etc.  He was so astonished that he beat out 500 people for a job (that he is super qualified for).  He thinks it is normal that someone memorizes so many medications, side effects, prices, etc, etc, etc and that his abilities are nothing special when, in fact, they are.  Somehow my dds have a lot less problems with self esteem though dd2 used to have very little social self esteem but not having issues understanding that she does have an easier time understanding than most others.

1ds also tested as gifted, but with learning disabilities, (he is now being eval'd for ASD), he had terrible self-esteem.    Other ('average' intelligence) students didn't struggle like he did - so he thought he must be dumb (I could so relate - I also really struggled with undiagnosed LDs, so I thought that meant I was stupid.)

I put effort into pointing things out to him that he did.  Never "you're smart" - but "when you ___, that was very clever".  "when you ___, that required ___".  It helped to reframe things in his mind.  This was my kid who was building computers by himself at nine, and needed actual techies to keep ahead of him on the computer when he was 15.

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Just now, BaseballandHockey said:

We're an adoptive family so that 10 point discrepancy does not apply to us. 

 

Well then why are they comparing themselves? I have a friend who had that Bible verse about NOT COMPARING as her mantra in her house. Sounds like something to whip out. 

Is someone jealous? Why are they comparing? 

It takes a lot of self confidence to finally make a move to do something that is right for you that others don't yet see. It takes self confidence to break away from the crowd, to leave the path everyone else was going and go a different way. At some point, what they realize is their IQ means they were not meant to be lemmings. They're meant to THINK and they have the responsibility to think and make these choices. 

I don't know, I've kinda heard it from so many sides. There are the gifted deniers (people with above average but not gifted IQs) who think people just harp on it too much. Me, I know who I am because I've been a small fish in a bigger pond with people way crazy brighter and smarter than me. So then what they really mean is people who think are hard to control. 

It's loving someone to want what is best for them. To me that's real simple too. Someone shouldn't be trying to dissuade your dc if this is what is best for them, something that will be fulfilling and healthy and open doors. For many people with higher IQs, going to one of these schools is THE GREATEST THING. They're finally with their peers, finally getting challenged, finally have people to hang with who think as hard as they do, finally have the opportunities they wanted. I think I studied 3 languages at that school, I forget. We were able to take university classes for free. It was just totally sky as the limit. Now it's easy to DE but back then it was extremely uncommon and even AP was rare. 

So I think maybe some basic principles. We don't compare, we act in love, we want what is best for others. That's it. I can see why it's sticky. I think just validate everyone but tamp down comparisons.

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If it's the schools playing up the academic exclusivity, and the kids were buying into that, I'd probably have a discussion about marketing with them 🙂 It would be useful to look past the hard sell and list out the specific advantages and disadvantages of the schools.

I'm not sure we ever specifically discussed intellectual variance here. My daughters participated in a wide variety of activities, and it becomes evident in the course of that that people have different skills/interests/drives. I have one that tends to downplay her intelligence because she does not want increased responsibility, so it's not necessarily even something everyone values. If I'm being honest, in my youth I would have been happy to trade in some academic ability for better looks and athletic ability :-). Obviously, once one is applying to schools/jobs it is evident that not all the options are open to everyone, but, even then, it's not necessarily about intellectual differences.

Edited by GoodGrief3
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It's frustrating for gifted kids to hear they need to learn humility.  Pretty sure no-one is telling the athletically gifted to pipe down and get humble! Gifted kids often (not always) have unmet needs related to that giftedness, and better to meet those first and then see what character flaws are left over before stomping them down lest they get too big for their britches. Imo. (General comment, not directed at anyone here).

Otoh...let's just say there's a reason we never joined the gifted homeschoolers group. Oy! The kids were great, the vibe was weirdly utilitarian... 

Kids work out VERY early there is a range of abilities amongst their peers. Difference is very visible. All you can do to mitigate esteem effects at either end (inflation or deflation) is to talk about effort + progress, and celebrate both, whatever part of the spectrum they fall. 

It's very tricky. I'd communicate to a bright child that I enjoy his aptitudes, and, separately, I'd be ensuring he had internalised  the values-message that all persons have an intrinsic value, regardless of aptitude. 

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37 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

After we got her IQ results back, I did some research on people with high IQs . . . . that's common.

For dd, it also turned out she is (very high) on the autism spectrum.  she started somatic therapy (can be helpful for autistics), and all those other things - got a lot better.

Yes, it is harder for high IG people to make friends---- which is why both of us really enjoyed going to a university with lots of other students who were high IQ- and that is where dh and I met.  

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If the problem was one kid getting into academic school and another not, I'd emphasize that we choose schools to meet each child's needs.

"X school suits your cousin because it focuses on Y. A school is a good fit for you because it offers B. We want you both to be somewhere you can learn effectively."

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4 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

  They're finally with their peers, finally getting challenged, finally have people to hang with who think as hard as they do, finally have the opportunities they wanted. I think I studied 3 languages at that school, I forget. We were able to take university classes for free. It was just totally sky as the limit. Now it's easy to DE but back then it was extremely uncommon and even AP was rare. 

So I think maybe some basic principles. We don't compare, we act in love, we want what is best for others. That's it. I can see why it's sticky. I think just validate everyone but tamp down comparisons.

this.  
I can count on one hand the programs she's done where her entire brain turned on.  She completely lights up.  usually, half of it was shut down due to boredom. 

 

I refused to compare my kids -   each child needs to be able to shine in their own talents/gifts, and to feel important for who they are.  (four of mine are adults - they get together with each other, and have a great time together.)

I grew up where comparison was the standard.  (comparison is based in the ego of the person fostering the comparison).  It is destructive to sibling relationships.

 

 

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24 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

1ds also tested as gifted, but with learning disabilities, (he is now being eval'd for ASD), he had terrible self-esteem.    Other ('average' intelligence) students didn't struggle like he did - so he thought he must be dumb (I could so relate - I also really struggled with undiagnosed LDs, so I thought that meant I was stupid.)

I put effort into pointing things out to him that he did.  Never "you're smart" - but "when you ___, that was very clever".  "when you ___, that required ___".  It helped to reframe things in his mind.  This was my kid who was building computers by himself at nine, and needed actual techies to keep ahead of him on the computer when he was 15.

See that is what I really do not understand about ds.  He is the one with no learning difficulties compared to his sisters= dd1 couldn't learn to spell, and dd2 is a dyslexic but they both have a much more realistic view of their abilities than ds who is an excellent speller, good at math, good at reading, etc, etc, etc.  And it is inborn completely- he always thought everyone is just like him and even worse, he is worse than everyone.  But then he gets into a job situation or a position (like he is president of a large local group) and he does realize that others are doing or did worse jobs than he did = but it always comes as a complete surprise to him- just not to anybody else.

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Our latest round of discussion came while developing D&D characters.  Some things are just inherently how you come out and your lot in life to deal with (what your initial roll is).  Sometimes you can build on what you started off with (experience points). This might mean that someone who started off really high in an area goes even higher.  Sometimes someone who started off low in an area can get to average....but it takes a lot of work.

We have a lot of conversations about valuing kindness, love, and empathy in our house.  

When our kids were really little, our daughter who had brain cancer was quite gifted (like, measured by a neuropsychologist documented gifted--it was a baseline before a chemo trial).  As she became wheelchair bound and her face changed, people made all kinds of assumptions about her that were just wrong. We talked about that---she was the same girl that liked pink and drawing and was a good friend to play with but people thought things about her based on what she looked like (sidebar--racism convo).  So, we talked about what people should value, versus what people do value (sidebar--crazy amounts of money we pay to athletes and movie stars).  We also talked about how what people say about others often reflects their own hearts and minds rather than the person they are talking about.

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8 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

It's frustrating for gifted kids to hear they need to learn humility.  Pretty sure no-one is telling the athletically gifted to pipe down and get humble! Gifted kids often (not always) have unmet needs related to that giftedness, and better to meet those first and then see what character flaws are left over before stomping them down lest they get too big for their britches. Imo. (General comment, not directed at anyone here).

  

That depends - some of them need the message they AREN'T more important than someone who isn't athletically gifted.

that is not the same as telling them not to excel in their sport.  If they have the ability - they should develop it.  However, they shouldn't use it like a cudgel to think they're better than someone else.

Chariots of Fire has the scene with Eric Liddell - his sister is upset (angry) he's "wasting his time" running, when he should be about The Lord's work. He replies he feels God pleasure when he's using the ability God gave him.

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18 hours ago, GoodGrief3 said:

I'm curious about what you mean by different messages.

 

So it's being brought up by the school search process.  My kids really want to be together.  I think because they've lost a sibling, they value their sibling bond, and they've never been separated from school.  But most schools in my area either end at 8th or start at 9th, so with a 6th grader and a 9th grader they probably will be separated. One of the selective schools we're looking at is a private school that has both 6th and 8th, but my oldest would never pass the admissions test, and it's just too rigorous.  My youngest really doesn't understand why a school would make that choice.  He asked them in his interview "Why can't my brother come?"  "Don't you want my brother?" He's asked me if they think he's better than his brother, and if so does that mean that his middle brother was better than him?  They told him that they were sorry they didn't have program that was a match, that their program is built for academically talented kids, and his reply was to ask why they chose to build it that way.  Why didn't they build a school for everyone?  
 

 

Edited by BaseballandHockey
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4 minutes ago, TravelingChris said:

See that is what I really do not understand about ds.  He is the one with no learning difficulties compared to his sisters= dd1 couldn't learn to spell, and dd2 is a dyslexic but they both have a much more realistic view of their abilities than ds who is an excellent speller, good at math, good at reading, etc, etc, etc.  And it is inborn completely- he always thought everyone is just like him and even worse, he is worse than everyone.  But then he gets into a job situation or a position (like he is president of a large local group) and he does realize that others are doing or did worse jobs than he did = but it always comes as a complete surprise to him- just not to anybody else.

yeah . . 

2dd has very good people skills.  She was heading to south america, and before she left people would tell her how great she'd do when she was down there.  She thought everyone was just being nice, and they say that to everyone . . . honey, you've met people doing what you'll be doing, are they all the same?  no . . . .   are some better at it than others?  . . . . yes . . . .

 

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cringe.  I'd be afraid she was setting her dd up for failure with the amount of pressure.

dd didn't get into a program I'd applied for her to go to.   No test scores - pure lottery.  It was supposed to be more academically rigorous than it turned out to be.  She didn't get in.  With judicious consideration of classes, she got a better education outside of that school than she would have received from it.

Edited by gardenmom5
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Your youngest hit on a problem that vexed me at the same age and was behind my (disastrous) choice to cast my lot in at the local school. I still can't believe my parents allowed it, when I had (free) admission at a selective school.

I felt that a system providing extra goodies to students already advantaged by genetic/environmental luck was inequitable. 

I felt the moral choice was to allow myself to be schooled in a  comprehensive environment. Honestly, I still feel it was the right moral choice, but it was not a good choice for me as an individual. 

I wonder if your youngest needs to internalise a different message - 'Its ok for me to meet my needs'.

 

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My kids are close in age, and it was obvious that my youngest was academically ahead of the eldest before they were 2yo.  Coming from a family full of academically gifted and accelerated people, I worried about how this would affect eldest once it was obvious to her.  So I made it a point to mention areas where eldest has strengths over youngest, and I would equate the distinctions.  For example, "E learned how to read first, and A learned to ride a bike first."  As they got older, I could also point out academic strengths that stood out (to me) in my less-advanced child.  For example, eldest is superior in certain aspects of reading / story comprehension, like predicting what's going to happen next.  She is also more articulate.  In math, eldest is more detail-oriented whereas youngest gets concepts a lot faster.  Eldest is also more hard-working and responsible about school work.  Over the years, they have taken most of the same classes and had pretty similar results, so IQ by itself really has limited value.

So my first comment is - find some talents to appreciate in each child, and let them know you value the talents equally.

As for the kids comparing in a negative way - I always shut that down.  "Don't compare.  It helps nothing and makes nobody happier."

Oddly enough, over the past few months, my eldest has been getting higher grades than youngest.  The teachers had to recommend who was to take honors classes next year, and one of their teachers recommended eldest and not youngest.  Why?  Because youngest was focusing on too many things other than school work.  It's been a learning experience for both.

I could have put my kids into different learning situations based on their different abilities, but I chose not to do that.  I felt it would be a constant reminder to eldest of how their talents are valued differently.  It would also have been quite difficult for me as a single mom to participate in two different school systems.  And my youngest, who tends to avoid anything that wasn't her idea first, would likely need my support/nagging to keep up with the higher work demands of a school that actually challenged her all day long.  You could say I took the easy way out ... but it seems right for our family.

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I have spoken to relatives I feel are harmfully sending a competitive academic message.

One of my sons has already had anxiety and I was told he would be “at risk” through puberty.

One of my nieces is hopefully exiting full-blown anxiety as a high school student.

I have just said it.  
 

I have relatives where I couldn’t say it and we don’t see them very much at all.  With others I will push back and am comfortable to do so.  
 

It was not handled well in my generation and I’m not going to sit back and watch it in a second generation.  
 

Edit:  I don’t feel this way if conversations are between adults and these are honest concerns.  That is okay with me.  I have a problem with lots of comparison of who is taking what classes and grades between cousins.  

Edited by Lecka
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You can avoid the entire conflict by focusing on humility and hard work. One of my children has always been precocious and picked up academic skills very fast and fluidly. That child is also quickly discouraged and gives up if things are remotely difficult. My other child is not as fast, but they are a plodding, hard worker. Guess which quality serves life in the longterm better? 

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21 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

It's frustrating for gifted kids to hear they need to learn humility.  Pretty sure no-one is telling the athletically gifted to pipe down and get humble! Gifted kids often (not always) have unmet needs related to that giftedness, and better to meet those first and then see what character flaws are left over before stomping them down lest they get too big for their britches. Imo. (General comment, not directed at anyone here).

Otoh...let's just say there's a reason we never joined the gifted homeschoolers group. Oy! The kids were great, the vibe was weirdly utilitarian... 

Kids work out VERY early there is a range of abilities amongst their peers. Difference is very visible. All you can do to mitigate esteem effects at either end (inflation or deflation) is to talk about effort + progress, and celebrate both, whatever part of the spectrum they fall. 

It's very tricky. I'd communicate to a bright child that I enjoy his aptitudes, and, separately, I'd be ensuring he had internalised  the values-message that all persons have an intrinsic value, regardless of aptitude. 

So, that's an interesting comparison, because this kid is as strong athletically as he is academically.

And he definitely gets the message that he is a good athlete.  He knows, for example, that if people are picking teams, people want him on their team.  But people aren't telling him that the fact that he's a really good goalie makes him a better friend, or a better human being.  No one expresses the worry that if their kid goes to an athletically diverse school that their kid will have the "wrong" kind of peers.  

In his mind, when academics are treated like athletics, he's fine.  For example, he doesn't have a problem with the idea that if he goes to our local public school, he'll take a test and they'll decide what level math they take.  To him, that makes sense.  And while he hasn't expressed an interest in something like competition math, or spelling bees, I think he understands that.  

Maybe it's the area I live in, where there is an enormous amount of academic pressure on kids, and there is this idea that academically talented kids are superior.  Not just better at academics, but better humans.  

 

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21 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

We also talked about how what people say about others often reflects their own hearts and minds rather than the person they are talking about.

Yes, like the idea proposed earlier that we make ourselves feel better by comparing ourselves with others and highlighting their weaknesses. That's pathetic. Has nothing to do with you--I just want to rant. I get SO TIRED of the Sneeches thing with academics, life skills, etc. I have some uncanny abilities (learning complex new topics, etc.) and some distinct weaknesses (doing things randomly like planting flowers in a pot, I REALLY SUCK at planting flowers in a pot). I'm also terrible at putting leftovers away, like I had to have HELP to do this. And I get so sick of the whole good here, not here, because reality is the people who do that are 1) denying the reality that very few people are good at EVERYTHING (hello Jesus was perfect, most people aren't) and that our society suddenly WANTS those people who suck at flower arranging or life skills or conversation or social or whatever else when they WANT TO USE them for something. Happens over and over.

So I reject the premise that it's ok to make yourself feel better by comparing. Or if you're going to compare, just be HONEST about it instead of so stinking JUDGY. Lots of brilliant people are screwed up. Oh well, better than being BORING. Can't people just be happy being themselves? Do they have to sit around comparing and denigrating to feel better??? 

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I feel like if these are not your values it will shine through even if your son is exposed to these values.  
 

I think it can be disappointing to realize some people are saying things that aren’t in keeping with certain values and have to bring it up (to them or just to kids).  That is what I am thinking at least.


It’s clear these are not your values — I feel like your kids will see this too.  

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I'm also curious about "better peers."

My kids went to a Lutheran school from grades 1-8, and now they are in a public high school.  It's the first time they are noticing that there are a number of kids who literally do not care if they do well in school.  Kids who are flunking classes because they turn in zero homework.  It puzzles my kids.  And this was one of the reasons I paid the tuition for Lutheran school.  I did want them to be in a group of people whose families were genuinely interested in education.  I wanted that to feel normal to them.

I have nothing against public school families, but as a single mom, it was useful to have more than one voice telling my kids to work hard and do their best in school.  If their peer group had been blase or anti academic (as some are), it would have been a problem for us.

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23 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

They told him that they were sorry they didn't have program that was a match, that their program is built for academically talented kids, and his reply was to ask why they chose to build it that way.  Why didn't they build a school for everyone?  

So I have a question. Is this the dc with the anxiety? Just wondering. 

I think these are FINE questions and you should just flat answer him. If he wants his instruction in a mainstream setting, stay in the ps. That's not what this school does and they do it so they can offer special things they wouldn't be able to offer due to too few enrollees, etc. in a school that served a more diverse market.

And I think it's an interesting point for him to walk up to ask ask himself whether he wants to be in that environment with only intellectual peers. There's a whole argument there about the world being richer with diversity, blah blah. If he were in whatever other placement you're considering (presumably more mainstream), would he STILL be tracked with his peers? For instance, before the gifted school, I was still tracked in a regular high school for core academic classes, meaning I was still in a small, rather nondiverse group. I actually got MORE diversity by going to the gifted school because instead of hanging with 20 I was hanging with 200. 

So maybe just talk with him about it? His questions seem perfectly reasonable and there are answers. And really, he could have reasons why the vibe of the school bothers him. I don't think a gifted school is great for everyone just because the IQ matches. There could be reasons why he'd prefer a different placement. To me, that would seem really strong to be able to be with your sibling, ride on the bus together, share attending the same sporting events. I could see why that would appeal to him.

Maybe just keep talking it out? Like I said, the thing I'd be thinking about most is VIBE and what they're NOT telling you. 

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11 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Maybe it's the area I live in, where there is an enormous amount of academic pressure on kids, and there is this idea that academically talented kids are superior.  Not just better at academics, but better humans. 

You definitely want to sort out what vibe is going on there and what the pressure level is, the commitment level, the religious level of their academic persuasion, etc. 

Where I went to school, they tossed GPA and completely de-emphasized grades. They wanted us to experiment and TRY things and not be afraid. But there are schools that are more elite and maybe bordering on elitist, where there's pressure. Just because you can get in doesn't mean that's you. If he's asking these questions, maybe he values something different from what they value. And I think you've put a lot of thought into what your kids VALUE.

Edited by PeterPan
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I like Madeline Levine on this kind of issue.  Maybe not exactly this, but similar.  If you look her up on Amazon you can see similar authors.

There is a genre of books about parenting in a competitive environment.  I think they are pretty good books!

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  • BaseballandHockey changed the title to EDITS REQUESTED: How do you talk to your kids about the way society feels about differences in intelligence

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