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Mom Tired of Nagging
Q: My twelve-year-old son has consistently achieved 99 percent composite scores on IOWA tests and has been in the gifted program since kindergarten. Although many feel this is a wonderful thing, our home is in much turmoil because of his constant "distraction" problem, which we were told goes along with being "gifted." Many evenings are spent continuously nagging him about getting homework done and staying on track. We've had counseling and were told to quit harping on him and to let him fail, that he needs to learn responsibility on his own. Should he suffer his own consequences?
A: You have already sought counseling and the advice was to let him learn the consequences of his own disorganized habits. There is a certain wisdom to this. However, unless a student has grasped at least the concept of personal responsibility before you let him, "fly without a net," he will tend to blame everyone else if he crashes, rather than see it as his own fault.
I have some suggestions: First, find a male mentor, someone other than yourself or the homeroom teacher -- such as an older student or teacher -- who meets with your son at his school a few times per week about staying on track for projects, cleaning out the backpack, and generally following through on some goal completion. I have actually done this in high schools, where the elder student volunteered his or her time as a service project. Our kids get tired of hearing our voices and often another young person, a positive mentor, has a better chance at being heard.
Second, I like the book, Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades by Dr. Sylvia Rimm. It has many helpful suggestions for encouraging academic independence. I don't really think of giftedness as an excuse for distracted behavior. I have told gifted teens that while it's okay to be lost in thought periodically, not to forget Pierre Curie: a brilliant scientist who was also lost in thought over his research, when he stepped off a curb and got run over. What a waste! Gifted students can learn to put some personal responsibility first.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.