The Problem With Child Prodigies

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In this third installment of our series on genius, we look at the problem of child prodigies. Author David Shenk and chess champion Josh Waitzkin, who was the inspiration for the main character in 1993's Searching for Bobby Fisher, join us to discuss where prodigy comes from, and where it goes when the child grows up.


David Shenk and Josh Waitzkin

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Posey Gruener

Comments [5]

David Shenk from Brooklyn

Domnogin is definitely onto something
It's treacherous emotional waters for young super-achievers. Huge success and the spotlight makes it very difficult (not impossible) to have a healthy home and school life, to grow up with a balanced ego, to find develop into a well-rounded and high-achieving adult.
Child achievers are also frequently hobbled by the psychology of their own success. Children who grow up surrounded by praise for being technically proficient at a specific task often develop a natural aversion to stepping outside their comfort zone. Instead of falling into a pattern of taking risks and regularly pushing themselves just beyond their limit, they develop a terrible fear of new challenges and of any sort of flaw or failure. Ironically, this leads them away from the very building blocks of adult success.

I discuss this more in my book.

Mar. 11 2010 09:45 AM
domnogin from Miami FL (WLRN)

Being a genius is a dangerous game. Whenever a parent boasts of a child being in a gifted program, I give my condolences in advance. By definition, only 2% of the population can see the world the way they do, which means at best 1% actually does; they are statistically abnormal, like an athlete but with few of the popularity advantages. This contributes to loneliness which can lead to premature death. This excludes what I call "quasi-geniuses" that don't quite pass Mensa's requirements for membership, including

Mar. 10 2010 11:06 AM
bunji fromartz from nyc

7 foods farmers wont eat

kinda answers the local v organic argument in favor of organic

dbfromartz at twitter

Mar. 10 2010 09:17 AM
Sarah from Tenafly, NJ

I really enjoyed this segment, especially the discussion on the scientific report about the effect of labeling children as "prodigies." If we tell children that they are just "born" this way or that, their drive diminishes. If we tell them that they got where they are through hard work and development, they work harder.

As a parenting "expert" it never ceases to amaze me how easily, and constantly, we limit our children by putting labels on them. And the effect is always the same, they end up believing us. This leaves them feeling helpless, powerless and uninterested. Even when we think the label is a "good" one.

It always comes back to hard work, learning, interest and passion.

Very powerful stuff for any parent to hear. I hope a lot of us were listening!

Thanks for this one. Well done.

Mar. 10 2010 08:21 AM
al sullivan from Jersey City

The concept of genius is mostly a lot of crap. Every parents thinks their child as special, so they generally ignore the one aspect necessary for success in this world: hard work.
The fact is most kids are NOT special, and the concept of possible genius replaces good old common sense.

Mar. 10 2010 07:53 AM

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