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Avoiding the ‘Superchild Syndrome’

He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing for his age,’ was once music to parents ears, comforting confirmation that their child was healthy, normal and developing at just the right rate. But in today’s achievement-oriented, competitive society, it seems that many parents want more. They want their children to be healthy and normal, of course, but they also want them to be developing a little faster and a little better than the rest-doing more than they’re supposed to be doing for their age. They want them to be precocious, gifted, talented and accomplished, to have an edge. They want them to be superchildren.

Is it because these parents want the best for their children that they want them to be the best? Sometimes. But sometimes, there are other motivating factors. Parents who missed getting into a top university are bent on rearing Oxbridge-bound children. Parents who were mediocre athletes are intenton their children excelling on the court, the playing field, the slopes. Parents who were never manage more than ‘chopsticks’ on the piano are determined that their children be weaned to Chopin. Parents who were never completely satisfied with their lot want a lot more of their children. Parents who consider their children a reflection of themselves want their children to reflect well. Even parents who don’t philosophically believe in pushing often end up pushing-if only so their children won’t fall behind the rest.

But whatever the reason for pushing a child towards superchild status, experts agree that it’s ultimately a mistake. While it might well temporarily net the kind of prodigious progeny these parents dream of – it is possible to teach very young children, even babies to read (monkeys can be taught to read, too) – the benefits will be short-lived and the price too great. Studies support the following generalization about children whose parents impose too much pressure too soon, as compared with less pressured children:

  1. Their long-term performance is not improved. For example, though children who are taught to read early may have an initial edge, it is quickly lost as children who begin later catch up. It’s much wiser to wait until a child wants to learn – at which point learning comes more easily.
  2. They often suffer from early burnout. The toddler who is dragged to preballet for  a couple of years, for example, is often tired of it before she takes her first ballet class, and may rebel by refusing to attend at all.
  3. Their self-motivation is usually weak. Driven by their parents from the start, these children rarely learn to drive themselves.
  4. Though they may be more advanced in learned skills in the short run, they are often behind in reasoning, logic and conceptualizing…

Read more: Pretty Mom Guide

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