| Child Prodigies: A Blessing or a Curse? | Term Essay| | | Mona S. November/28/2012 | Child Prodigy: A Blessing or a Curse? A child prodigy is an individual, who at a very early age (mostly under the age of 10) is a master of one or a couple of skills or arts. These individuals or children display expert ability or a deep grasp of the fundamentals in a field usually only undertaken by adults. Using a specific term which expresses or defines a child prodigy can change attitudes portrayed towards such individuals such as gifted, talented, superior, rapid learner, able student, bright, exceptional, and even genius.
Although there are many terms used to define a child prodigy, the most accepted and preferred terms used are gifted or exceptional (Laycock, 1957). Barbara Clark (1997) identifies a child prodigy as an exceptionally gifted individual who seems to have different value structures, which usually allow them to cope with the conflict or difference they find between their perception of life and that of the average person. According to D. Feldman (1993), a child prodigy may have a reasonably high, but not necessarily exceptionally high, IQ.
Prodigies tend to be unusually focused, determined, and highly motivated to reach the highest levels of their fields. They are often marked by great confidence in their abilities, along with a naive sense of these abilities. Thomas & Crescimbeni (1966) refer to the gifted or child prodigies as individuals that have an IQ of 115 and higher. However, that could only be implied to highly intellectual individuals as there are many different forms of child prodigies.
I am interested in child prodigies for many reasons as it plays a huge role on how they are raised and how they socialize with others. To others a child prodigy might be a blessing but to child prodigies it is a curse depending on how they are treated. Here are some reasons as to why it is perceived that way: Most child prodigies are denied from having a normal and healthy childhood especially by their parents as they want them to focus on improving their “gift” and sometimes it happens for the child’s own benefit or in other cases to be used to obtain fame and fortune.
It might be a good thing, especially for child prodigies that are “gifted” in the arts field, to improve and practice on it for future use but it must be done in a healthy and proper way so that children can have a childhood which would help them interact and engage within a society in a normal and functional way, however, denying child prodigies from having a normal, play balanced childhood might eventually turn out disastrous as they will not know how to engage or behave in an acceptable behaviour within their society and it would probably cause them to develop a non-friendly, egoistic, and obnoxious attitude towards others as they believe they are better than the rest. This might cause their lives to brake or be unfulfilled for many reasons that I will expand on throughout this essay. And there is also the widespread belief that young geniuses are pushed and nudged to extremes by one or both parents. Von Karolyi and Winner (2005) believe that the ‘talented’ train and practice extensively, and this practice is necessary for the development of performance. However, thoughtful practice is a very special form of activity that differs from mere experience and mindless drill. Unlike playful engagement with peers deliberate practice is not inherently enjoyable.
It also differs from successful performance in front of an audience, which is rewarded with applause, praise and receiving prizes. According to Yoga (2008), parents who wish or hope that their child is a prodigy need to rethink that whole notion especially due to the recent reports that have been portrayed within the media about child prodigies. When a child receives a reputation for excellence, originality, and brilliance for their gift, parents become so pleased with the child’s performance and deny any involvement and although this might cause the child to feel delighted with their successful outcome, they face the difficulty of defining their own contributions and would eventually acquire feelings of doubt and ambiguity about their own abilities.
What makes things worse is that parents’ standards keep increasing after each accomplishment which causes new projects difficult to start and this would only make the child feel that their finishing product will never be good enough therefore causing them to pick simple tasks where they will not worry about failing in. Goal setting may become defensive, aimed at protecting against feelings of failure or low ability (Covington and Beery, 1976). Competition encourages and motivates gifted children to perform to the best of their high ability, and the recognition they receive for their successes provides the motivation for continued competition. However, there are some negative side effects of extreme competitiveness.
Child prodigies have to deal with a lot of stress and pressure on their performance because of the expectations that the people around them have of them and from the repeated adult praise such as being perfect, best, or the smartest. The world imposes adult expectations on them, and they are really only children. The challenge of allowing and encouraging gifted children a childhood remains the challenge to the parents and teachers of such children. In my opinion, too many children are pushed too soon into a world that they shouldn’t really be expected to live in. It’s up to the parents to shelter them from harm, and gently show them or introduce them to the real world and its negative side with clear and loving understanding.
I don’t know any child prodigies personally, but I am guessing that for a long time they live in a protected bubble where everyone thinks they are special for their talent and not for being a person, when they grow up there talent is not as noticeable anymore and therefore their novelty appeal has worn off, they are then expected to live in the “real world” with no understanding of what it entails and how to interact on a social level. Parents would unintentionally be treating their “gifted children” differently from their “normal” children which would only cause sibling rivalry which can be minimized and adjusted but will not disappear. Usually sibling rivalry occurs due to the competition for parent’s attention and sometimes their resources.
Cornell (1986) found that “non-gifted” siblings of gifted children were less well-adjusted than a control group of other non-gifted children. Some child prodigies feel entitled to special treatment yet rarely get it. This could include being excused from certain activities or classes to be given the opportunity to work on their “gift”. By receiving such special treatments child prodigies could fall in two paths, one of which they are being bullied by others due to their special treatment. Gifted children today experience many disruptions in their lives. Some of these disruptions are relatively unique to them, such as needing to hide how well they do at school as a means to fitting into an anti-intellectual school environment (Coleman & Cross, 2001).
All children are affected adversely by bullying, but gifted children differ from other children in significant ways, and what they experience may be qualitatively different. The personality traits and interests of many gifted children may make them targets of bullying by their classmates. At the same time gifted children may be more susceptible to the emotional damage that bullying can inflict. Usually the bullying will occur verbally in order to avoid a lot of trouble from physically abusing their targets and would include segregating the gifted child from peers and other activities, whether it is within class or outside. The gifted children would be called names such as “teacher’s pet” or “smarty-pants”. These days bullying can be done very easily that it would spread virally, i. e. cyber bullying.
Some gifted children tend to be more timid than other gifted or non-gifted children due to lack of socialization if parents insist on them practicing their “gift” all the time for their future’s sake therefore they might keep it to themselves about being bullied and sooner or later without seeking help, or even though they do seek for help they are ignored by the adults within the society who believe that the bullying will eventually stop which it does not, it might cause the gifted children to commit suicide as they are tired of the endless bullying. Sometimes the bullying can also cause the gifted child to feel hatred or lose interest in their “gift” and would not want to engage in such activities again. The same thing can happen if the child is forced to practice their “gift” all the time, such as the piano, and is denied their childhood or freedom and is treated as a tool for fame and success.
Another path the child prodigy could fall under would be self-social segregation where the child prodigy would not want to spend time with the other normal children as they view themselves to be way better than others. Sometimes, when denied the access for special treatment, it might frustrate and cause them to be even more aggressive, driven, and overachieving than they are by nature. As the child is dehumanised and instrumentalized or taught to ignore reality and to occupy the parental fantastic space, such an unfortunate child feels almighty and all-knowing, perfect and brilliant, worthy of adoration and entitled to special treatment. The empathy, compassion, a ealistic assessment of one’s abilities and limitations, realistic expectations of oneself and of others, personal boundaries, team work, social skills, perseverance and goal-orientation, not to mention the ability to postpone gratification and to work hard to achieve it are all lacking or missing altogether. Sex or gender differences do matter in accordance to being gifted. Reis and Callahan (1989) emphasize the importance of distinguishing between sex or gender differences, i. e. relating the biological and the sociocultural differences. The possibility of gender differences in interests, and perhaps even in cognitive activity, which would lead girl and boy prodigies toward different domains for study and mastery. These differences might also be biologically based to some extent; they are undoubtedly heavily patterned and reinforced by cultural values.
Whatever their origins, it appears at first blush that girl prodigies are better represented in some fields than others, and further exploration of why this might be the case is in order. When we know more about such relationships, we may understand more about gender differences or at least individual differences in the development of specific talents. Why prodigies are found in some fields and not others, and whether certain fields attract more children of one gender than the other, is a matter for further attention. Being gifted or a prodigy also differs on what culture you are from, i. e. if a specific culture views you as a prodigy or not, as well as your socio-economic status because they might be rarely identified or described as gifted or talented if they are from a poor rural area.
Peers of economically deprived or culturally different gifted children usually do not place a huge value on school achievement. Family, cultural, and language differences and testing circumstances must be considered as values and beliefs can affect ability testing. An understanding of different cultures is an important factor in both identifying who is gifted and how to set up a program that would help nurture their gift in a non-smothering manner. According to Bernal, 1979; Bruch, and Curry, 1978, an interesting way to find such gifted people in these cultures would be to meet with students named by peers as out-of-school “leaders” who can explain characteristics of culturally valued giftedness within their own peer culture.
Overall, I would like to state that child prodigy might be something good but only if the child was handled with care and love and given a lot of freedom of choice and opportunity to pursue their dreams otherwise they would be perceived as tools or mini adults with no mind or will of their own that are forced to do what pleases others. Brainstorm/Web Chart Here is a Brainstorm of ideas or a web chart of my term topic paper “Child prodigy: A blessing or a curse” References Bernal, E. M. (1979). The education of the culturally different gifted. In A. H. Passow (Ed. ), The gifted and the talented (pp. 395-400). Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education. Bruch, C. B. , ; Curry, J. A. (1978). Personal Learnings: A current synthesis on the culturally different gifted. Gifted Child Quarterly, 22, 33-32 Clark, B. 1997). Growing up gifted: Developing the potential of children at home and at school. Upper Saddle River, N. J: Merrill. Cornell, D. G. , ; Grossberg, I. N. (1986). Siblings of children in gifted programs. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 9, 253-264. Coleman, L. J. ; Cross, T. L. (2001). Being gifted in school: An introduction to development, guidance, and teaching. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. Covington, M. V. ; Beery, R. G. (1976). Self-worth and school learning. New York: Holt. Feldman, D. H. (1993). Child Prodigies: A Distinctive Form of Giftedness. Gifted Child Quarterly, 37, 4, 188-93. Laycock, S. R. (1957). Gifted children.
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