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Artistically Talented, but Unmotivated
Q: My 11-year-old daughter is in the gifted and talented program in her school. She is also quite artistically talented, but unfortunately, her elementary school does not offer art classes.
Earlier this year she auditioned for a middle school devoted to the arts. She did not make it in and was devastated by the rejection, but she wants to try again next year.
The whole audition process takes a lot of effort and expense on my part. She needs lessons, art supplies, and a portfolio. I am perfectly willing to support her in every way I can, but she doesn't seem to be as motivated to do her part. She'd rather watch cartoons, or draw them. Unfortunately, the art school is not interested in cartoons, especially not ones copied from TV.
There is one cartoon in particular which she seems obsessed with. She wears the T-shirts every day, spends hours on the fansites, draws the characters over and over again, and she speaks in their voices. It's maddening. She does not practice her life studies drawings on her own -- she needs constant pushing from me. And yet, when I suggest that maybe the art school isn't a good match for her, she insists that she "WILL" go to that school.
I would hate to see her miss out on her dream, but I feel she is too distracted to put forth the effort necessary to get admitted into this highly competitive school. I am tired and frustrated. Do you have any advice?
A: This is an interesting question. If your daughter seriously wants to go to this magnet art school, I think she should try to find out why she was not previously accepted. With that information, she would know what she was missing in her work (if that was part of the rejection process). If you and she approached the director there, and told him how much your daughter was interested in reapplying, then he may be willing to give her some tips. Your daughter may find out that cartooning is not what the school is interested in. Before you invest more money in reapplying, I think your daughter needs to understand the guidelines a little better.
It is not at all unusual for a gifted kid to immerse themselves in a single subject or interest to the exclusion of other topics. I hear about this all the time in my work, and it has occurred in my own family. Believe me, she will pass on to a new topic -- eventually. Since your daughter is older, I would set some limits on her doing the cartoon voices, not buy any more items with those characters on them, etc. In addition, gifted kids often gain a lot from meeting a mentor in their area of interest. Someone with some "real world" experience in their area of interest can often reach them when family members cannot. Perhaps an art teacher, a college student majoring in art, or a graphic artist working in the field would be willing to meet briefly with your daughter. Let them know about your dilemma in advance so they can advise her about expanding her interests. It's worth a try. Good luck.
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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.