Your child probably is not a genius

Jun 30, 2010 at 10:28 a.m. ET

Do you remember when your child was just a toddler and was starting to learn about the world around her? Do you remember thinking how smart she is and maybe daydreaming of a brilliant future? She was going to be a an engineer or an astronaut or a professor or an inventor. School would be just a formality. This unfettered belief in potential is one of the wonderful things about parenting, and every child deserves to have parents who so wholly and deeply believe in their abilities and potential.

Little girl frustrated in school

Now that your child has started school, you may be facing a different reality. Your "genius" child may indeed be very smart...but he's probabaly not a genius. In fact, he may be struggling in some areas academically, and holding on to the idea that your child is so brilliant may be a barrier to helping him appropriately.

Not every child is a genius

Albert Einstein once famously said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Meaning it's not all about the brains. What goes into a child's academic success is so much more than inherent intelligence: there are environmental and simple personality factors as well as others. Knowing what is what can be hard - for both you and your child. And remembering that your child is not Albert Einstein is a first step to taking a hard look at the academic environment your child is in and his or her relative academic success.

Separate your dreams from reality

Those daydreams from your child's toddlerhood likely have to be let go - but that doesn't mean the spirit of those dreams can't remain. Your child's path to whatever dream he or she has for his or herself (and that may not be that far off from your initial dreams!) may be far less obvious but no less worthy. Think about those daydreams in the context of the academic reality you are facing now, and think about how you can work with your child to achieve his or her potential, whatever it may be.

Emphasize effort and learning

When presented with academic challenges with your child, the final outcome or the grade is only part of the picture. The process can be just as important, and emphasizing the core learning and the effort can be as important - or even more important than a number on a piece of paper. It's the "perspiration" part of Einstein's comment.

Be your child's advocate

Your child may need you to help advocate for for him or her when he or she is struggling - or even just a little confused. Your son might need a chemistry tutor and your daughter might need some extra help drawing out the meaning of certain English texts. Getting help doesn't indicate weakness! It means they need a little help! Heck, we all need a little help every now again. Make sure you are advovcating for a your child in a constructive manner, not dismissing some struggles with, "You're smart, of course you can do this, so just go do it."

Find your child's unique strengths

Your child has unique strengths - which may or may not be academic in a traditional way. But helping your child find his or her strengths can be a rewarding process for the both of you - which then tumbles out into the rest of your child's academic life. For example, a child who love poetry but struggles in math probably can get a little excited about the math that goes into constructing certain kinds of verse. Use that as a way to help teach the math - and you may see the math performance increase along with the language arts.

Your child is not Albert Einstein. Your child is his or her own unique self, academically as well as in other ways. And that's even better.?

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