Using Smart Kids Against Themselves

Today my BFF posted on Facebook something her youngest child had said.  I found it very amusing, pithy, and an example of proof that kids are so much smarter than the general public gives them credit for being.  I found his statement one of great self-awareness, and even, because it had to do with maintaining a task over time, insightful.  He just didn’t want to do it.  Quite frankly, I’d take a “no” any day over a passive-aggressive won’t try, but that’s me.

The other people who responded started giving advice.  When I texted her that I found this interesting, she pointed out that it was BECAUSE of his insightful, reflective nature and natural intelligence that everyone expected him to do x (insert your expectation here).

I’d seen something similar happen with her oldest child as well.  Because of his pop culture references at a very young age, it was assumed he was being difficult or non-compliant.  Due to his intelligence, there were assumptions made about how he should have acted.  Yet, at the end of the day, he was only 5.  Don’t even get me started on my own child, who is expected, because he’s older and physically larger than most, to be the one who gives in, to be the “bigger person.”

That got me to thinking about how we as adults use really smart kids against themselves.

We really do.  I remember it from when I was younger.  Being identified as TAG (as it was called in the Midwest in the 70s) was a curse, not a blessing.  Not only was I expected to do MORE work, and BETTER work, I was also expected to endure all the bullshit behavior around me because I was smart enough to understand and to KNOW better than to (insert behavior here).  I was expected to be more mature.

Thing is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are if you’re not emotionally ready to take on the task of having to deal with your stuff as well as other people’s stuff.  Maturity is a sign of aging and gathering wisdom.  Wisdom and intelligence are not equally synonymous.  I’m not going to make them mutually exclusive either, but one does not mean the other.  Hence the reason that we really hammer on smart teenaged boys when they start acting like boobs.  Their immaturity is almost an affront to us.  How dare they behave that way?

Yet… as much as I hate to say boys will be boys, there is an element of truth to that.  We still have to be responsible for teaching them HOW to be mature, HOW to act in certain situations, and REINFORCE our expectations.  We should not, however, just assume that while their bodies are growing bigger, that they automatically know or remember. Sometimes, too, you don’t want to be mature.  I’m 45, and trust me, my own child recognizes my childish behavior.  There are days when every last one of us just doesn’t want to do something that’s expected of us.

And I think that’s the truth for all kids as well.  We are here to guide them, to move them forward, and to teach them.  However, if we try to shove them into situations before they’re actually ready because we THINK they should be ready for them, then we get what we deserve — whether that’s push back, refusal, or even the well said, “I am going to x today and not y.”  On another day, my BFF will push her son towards that goal, but today she respected him enough to know to back away.

I think that’s what we all need to learn.  When to push, and when to back away.  Our children will thank us for it.

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