A Dilemma

by carlocmd

i have a problem with my eldest son.

he tested very superior in the WPPSI, an intelligence test for preschoolers. he is performing two grades above his class. he is consistently number one in school. he speed-reads his books. he is phenomenal at math and logic. his spatial skills are spot-on. he can read your mind sometimes, just by observing your body language. he always asks why and how.

he can immerse himself in a task for hours at a time, with a single-minded determination to master the necessary skill. he once started work on a 500-piece puzzle at 6 in the evening til 11 pm, stopping only to suddenly fall asleep at the table from exhaustion. when he awoke, he went back to the puzzle to finish it.

he will observe you demonstrating a new skill, for example playing a computer game, then proceed to systematically deconstruct the steps needed to do the game better than you. once he found out he can tinker with a cellphone’s settings, you hear his mom asking what happened to the phone, and he would smile and explain how it happened. he does things on the computer by trial and error, then figures out how to access the programs his mom does not know how to use. and horror of horrors, he knows how to surf the net.

while receiving his quarterly honors in school, he was one of two kids (the other a popular girl) who got a cheering ovation from his classmates.

what’s the problem?

he does not know how to fail. when he encounters a task that is beyond the capability of his young body, he becomes frustrated. he will withdraw. he will sulk and cry when he cannot open a juice bottle. he will refuse to try again when he fails at what he perceived initially to be an easy task.

i have expressed my worries to his teachers in school. he must not find everything easy. he must be taught that failure is an opportunity to learn. he must realize that mistakes must be made in life, and that you learn best during the deconstruction of things that fail. that the road to success is filled with the potholes of failures along the way.

i was advised to let him see me fail, as an example.

haha, yes, i have had my share of shameful failures. i think failure is a great teacher. everybody needs to fail big-time at least once in their lives. i’ve fallen twice, and the experiences have made me better and stronger.

so i play his video games at the hardest setting. i let him see me unable to complete a puzzle and not be frustrated. i play plants vs zombies, allowing the zombies to eat my brain sometimes. he would initially look at me as tears formed in his eyes. but i would smile and say, hey let’s do this again… and again… and again. i do not reward his first place finishes, but i praise his attempts. so that even before the results of his exams come out, knowing that he studied well the past few days, he knows he is rewarded for the effort, not the goal.

i got him board games (from Hobbes and Landes – what a great store) that have progressive difficulty levels (by the way, once he grasps the concept of a game, he does the difficult levels faster than me). he can play monopoly, and is in the process of learning the nuances of letting go of some properties to maximize the profits from a consolidated position.

yes, he is still 5 years old.

how can you teach a gifted child to accept failure as a part of life? what else must i do?