This weekend, while having lunch with my kids' dad, I admitted a mistake.
When our son was in grade school, he was identified for being placed in special education classes for kids with high intelligence. In my day, it was the "gifted program." But my son didn't want to leave his friends and so he was against it. Having been identified as gifted myself in grade school, his dad/my ex asked me what we should do, based on my experience. And I agreed with my son.
I understood his fear of isolation and his anxiety at being different. And the possible loss of his identity as being a "fun friend" to becoming the "smart friend" - because children's thinking is relatively binary and no one likes to hang around the smart friend! So, I believed that forcing him into the program would have an opposite effect on him. And I didn't want my son to feel lonely and not in control of his own life.
And I was wrong.
My son's fears were real to him. But it wasn't my job as his mother to feed the fears and to confirm them for him. By saying "Yeah, you're right, all those things might happen if you do this" I had taught my son that developing our intelligence has to be done at the expense of fun, carefree friendships. And vice versa. As a result, my son developed a personae that put him in the popular groups in school but yet his grades and class participation never matched what he'd done in grade school. He "dumb-ed down" in exchange for friendships. That was my fault.
This in turn set the stage for constant pressure from home (in particular from his dad) to "reach his potential" in school. "We know you're smarter than this" and such statements became the norm instead of support. And it's a normal parental response because it's hard to see talent go to "waste." Right?
Instead, my job was to show him that it wasn't a "This or That" condition (remember my video on the Tyranny of the Or & the Wicked Question? I didn't understand that then!)
My job is nurture him in all areas of his life and give him tools and CONFIDENCE that shows him that he can be all things, included gifted & intelligent as well as a caring & ridiculously fun friend to everyone he has in life. The problem was I didn't have that as a model myself so not only did I not know it, I didn't know how to show him. So he modeled exactly what I'd shown him.
Parents - first, please don't minimize the importance of friendships and dismiss your child's concerns by saying "You'll make new friends." - We take for granted how hard that is as a child, and it's harder for some than others to make new friends. And if you have a child who is showing exceptional academic talent, please, do your best to show them how it can blended into their life, not included at the expense of their friendships or fun. Let them be kids for as long as possible and give them the foundation to be amazing adults.