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The downside to having a smart kid

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

The high bar of childhood

Raising an academic overachieving child can be both invigorating and exhausting. When children set their own bar extremely high, how can parents keep them grounded?

The
high
bar

of
childhood

Raising an academic overachieving child can be both invigorating and exhausting. When children set their own bar extremely high, how can parents keep them grounded?

We all want smart kids... don't we? By "smart," we're talking about academics -- kids who easily get As and Bs without too much effort. Parents of kids who struggle at school usually think smart kids are easier to parent, respect discipline and have bright futures, but there is a downside to that.

Peer relationships

Kids who easily excel academically can sometimes feel ostracized by classmates and peers. This tension puts the child in an awkward situation because although they may genuinely enjoy school, they can be hesitant to fully spread their wings for fear of a possible backlash. "Depending upon how strong a personality the child is, the bullies could hone in on them to intimidate -- some of them might even try to extort work and/or money from them," says Jennifer Little, Ph.D. from Parents Teach Kids. "If the child is the only one at his/her level, (s)he will be isolated not only socially but also mentally because their ability to conceptualize, think through situations, hypothesize, etc., is so much more advanced that they are bored intellectually in school."

Signs your child is gifted >>

Parenting the overachiever

Overachievers usually have plenty to show for their hard work and intellect. The abundance of accolades can be a source of pride, but it can also be a distraction especially when parents focus on these accomplishments. "We can help our children not by focusing on the accomplishment of a child but on what they have to bring to the community -- themselves, their family, their class, their teams, etc.," says Julie Freedman Smith, of Parenting Power. "It's also important to notice the weaknesses that these academically strong children have and help them to learn that they are valued for the whole package -- not just their 'smarts.'"

A new perspective

Regardless of whether a child is exceptionally smart or academically challenged, it's a parent's job to encourage and support them while preparing them for a productive and rewarding life. A lot of parents can't relate to their gifted kids on an intellectual level, but they still play a crucial role. "These children, because they can be so gifted in many areas, struggle to find their strengths because everything they do/try is strength," says Dr. Little. "Sometimes there are so many options that they totally 'bail' and choose a less challenging existence."

Setting the stage for academic success >>

Find out how to parent a gifted child >>

Manage expectations

Overachieving kids tend to put plenty of pressure on themselves in and out of the classroom. In this case, parents have an opportunity to inject a bit of reality into the situation. "If we tell these kids that they are 'special' and make a big deal out of it, we are setting them up for a huge crash down the way when they find out that this is real life and in real life, they are expected to treat people kindly, show up on time, handle their responsibilities, etc.," says Freedman Smith. Providing a little perspective can not only keep your child focused on the big picture, but it can also help keep her grounded.

More on kids and education

Bullying in schools: What you need to know
Listen to your children to help them have academic success
7 Signs your child needs help in school

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