In Life, Parenting

Should we really aim to be average?

So.. this is partly coming from the perspective as a parent for this post.

The thing, is that Little Bun is sort of unusual in the sense that because we don’t have a television and are not raising him on having one (he has nursery rhymes or videos from Youtube but that’s about it), his brain power seems to need to expend itself on other activities.

As a result, he is 4-years old and…:

  • Fully read in English. We’re talking children’s books that have an actual storyline. He gets tripped up on words like “magnificent”, but he can READ without much assistance.
  • He also knows quite a lot in his second language but he doesn’t speak it enough to really have the level of proficiency he has in English.
  • Do addition and subtraction with any number of digits now – we usually do 4, he pushes me for 5 digits.
  • Has started learning multiplication and division – again, he pushed me for this, asking for it because addition & subtraction was “too easy” (his words, not mine)
  • Knows all the major flags – he only missed Liberia in this World Flag quiz… and got the rest of them
  • Knows a lot of the countries and where they are located on a map – his favourite is Timor-Leste for some reason; I have yet to test him on a blank map and see how many he actually knows
  • Knows all the planets and major facts about them like Mercury being the smallest, and Neptune the farthest…

…and I know from other parents with kids of the same age, that this is not typical.

He sucks up everything I throw at him, and I scramble to find other areas of interest he might enjoy.

(I hesitate to use the word ‘normal’ because normal can mean any number of things.)

I am however, getting a lot of mixed unsolicited advice from various parents with children of varying ages (my son’s age, up to being well past university).

There seem to be two sides of the argument here:

“LET HIM LEARN WHATEVER HE WANTS, SO WHAT IF HE IS DIFFERENT?”

This guy is in the minority of parents — he doesn’t see a problem with Little Bun learning more and more and more like some sponge.


He acknowledged that it is a REAL THING that he WILL be bored at school, and you have to learn how to answer to / cope with that.

He tells me that his kids were similar, or have shown even more brilliant signs of intelligence at Little Bun’s age, and he says that what you could do, was to give him extra subjects outside of school if he is bored.

He also said that the pressure of being the best also sometimes weighs on children and you have to be cognizant to not expect them to be perfect but to encourage mistakes.

“HOLD HIM BACK, OR HE WILL BE AN OUTSIDER & BORED IN SCHOOL”

MOST parents, tell me this.

They tell me that I should stop teaching him so much, and to stop letting him learn beyond his age level or else he will really not fit in with the other kids and/or will find himself bored in school.

I am leaning towards ignoring their advice only because I was that kid. I was the one in school who was bored in a sense, and I channeled that boredom into trying to be perfect in every subject.

I spent more time on projects, I really put the effort in, I read more books… whatever you gave me, I tried to do above what the minimum was because the minimum was just not enough for me.

Is that so wrong?

The second bit is about him being an outsider.

Knowing it all, can incite jealousy/envy in other children. I also know this firsthand, having grown up with it (my partner as well).

You have kids making fun of you, teasing you, bullying you, and it can be very isolating.

My son is already displaying tendencies of being an introvert (and I have been reading on advice of a dear reader the book by Cain called Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking), and to have him also enjoy subjects that are more intellectual than physical? I wonder what will happen.

We’re already counteracting this or rounding him out by taking him out to activities like soccer, but is that enough?

I worry a lot about how he will be accepted or not by other children, and more than likely he will have a few good friends rather than a lot, which in some ways, I am relieved by, because I understand that dynamic. I myself, am the same way.

I do not find it odd or for it to be a bad thing for him to be a little quieter and reserved, but other people seem to think differently and find it to be terrible if he isn’t sociable, friendly and outgoing.

I am less concerned about the social aspect only because I am shy and reserved by nature, but have learned to overcome that (obviously).

SO SHOULD WE REALLY AIM TO BE AVERAGE?

I desperately want him to have a good childhood and fit in, but should I be aiming to keep him as average as possible?

Is it not also okay for him to stand out?

Be different?

It is fine to go with the flow but do we really need more people who are all like each other, thinking and acting in the same way?

I am leaning towards having him stay and be different. If he wants to learn, I will teach him as much as I can and then he is on his own.

Thoughts?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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22 Comments

  1. Virginia

    I would keep giving him information to suck up, but I would add more focus to things that aren’t necessarily taught in school, like the second language. Maybe take up an instrument? Cooking and learning about nature could be fun.
    I wouldn’t completely give up on the math though because he could become the next Einstein or something .

    I have a daughter about the same age and I want to work on swimming and bike riding.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      OH YES! I want to start him on the piano but I am indecisive and cannot choose anything right now. I want to buy a REALLY nice piano but then feel bad because it is a chunk of money (at least $30K) for the level I want)… and I want to build my net worth. Ugggghhhh..

      For cooking, my partner has him making bread, and I would like to get him to start swimming. He plays soccer already with his father and is surprisingly good (I have played with him a few times too), but I may start on more creative arts… not sure what yet. Play-doh is out, it sticks to everything. Maybe just colouring and shapes with a tracing stencil..

      Haha.. Einstein. One can only dream. It would be wonderful if he could solve equations to help the world. Not banking on it though.

      Reply
  2. raluca

    The future will belong to people who are above average. Why would you try to hold him back on purpose? Let his curiosity run free and let him learn the most he can.
    The one thing that I would do if I were in your shoes would be to try to round him up in different ways. Find a way for him to work on leadership skills. I’m not an expert, but I assume there are books for this. Also, sport will most likely help in that area. A guy that’s smart AND has leadership potential? You would be setting him up for success completely no matter where he ends up in his life – from school to his working life.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      We have been trying to get him to play sports but he doesn’t like it. He is very bossy though…. maybe I should encourage that.

      Reply
  3. Kandice

    Don’t hold him back. Let him learn and grow. I skipped kindergarten. After I was tested they suggested I also skip 1st. My parents said no to skipping two grades. I didn’t have a hard time socially, although it was a bit bizarre to be 15 in an OAC bio class with a 19 yo. That being said I graduated high school a couple months after turning 17. Undergrad at 21, law school at 24. I looked like I was 12, so my biggest adjustment came when I was an associate attorney in a top 100 law firm. I was mistaken for the receptionist/assistant/event coordinator/paralegal ALL.THE.TIME. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I am still mistaken for the secretary.. until I open my mouth. Apparently I am very confident & assertive. Too confident and assertive for a secretary. 😛

      As for holding him back, I won’t. We are on probabilities now.

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    I went through this when I was a kid (I am 40 now) and skipped 2 grades (1st and 2nd) because I was so far ahead of everyone in class that I was bored. I admit that it was awful, socially, once I hit junior high and high school. I graduated from high school at 16 and college at 20. The good news is that I made it through it and am grateful that I had so many academic opportunities. I went all of the way and got my PhD and LOVE my career as a biology professor at a college. I will say that the social part of it was really hard. I think it’s a toss up, but luckily things have changed since the 80’s. There are so many other schools and programs that he could attend or be a part of. I just want you to hear the perspective of someone that has done it.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you. I will keep that in mind. I already know that he would be socially awkward even with his age group, so to be too smart AND awkward? oh god…

      Reply
  5. liteadventurer

    Aim to be average? Hell nah. Give the little guy every possible advantage you can. He’ll naturally start to hang out with the other gifted kids as he gets older and have a good group of friends to do stuff with.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I am leaning towards that. I was told so many times to stop teaching him so much math and English, and science.. It is all subjects I like. I also have him draw, do colours, teach him other more creative, artsy things… or try to (it is so messy)..

      Reply
  6. Alexis

    +1 to the idea of you not being able to stop his awesome curiosity- even if you tried! He is who he is 🙂

    I think you’re doing a great job supporting him. I found school easy and only had one friend at a time, but I enjoyed the experience. And as an adult I found ways to make friends very easily. You can definitely grow and change over the years.

    https://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Secret-Strengths-Introverted/dp/0147509920

    You might enjoy glancing at this book, too.

    And have you read “how to win friends and influence people” by Carnegie? It is SO GOOD and totally timeless. My husband wishes he had read it in highschool.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I already read the Quiet Power Book but I am putting Carnegie on the list. I’ll put it on my future Little Bun To Read List.

      Reply
  7. Jessica

    Oh man, I have a bunch of conflicting thoughts. 1. When you were in school and you found it wasn’t challenging so you set a goal of being “perfect” – was that a good goal? Did you thrive on that challenge or did it stress you out or cause you emotional distress when you felt like you weren’t perfect in something? Not everyone will have a healthy response to that pressure. 2. Bear in mind that most early learning at young ages and most of what he is displaying right now is based on rote memorization. Being gifted at that doesn’t always translate over to being gifted in high school or college when the subjects requires more abstract thinking. It’s just the way some peoples brains are wired. 3. My personal fear with treating gifted children differently isn’t about socialization, it’s about preparing them for adult life. Life is a grind. This may not be reflected in your personal experience, but most adults do not work at jobs that are endlessly challenging and stimulating to them. Any random gifted kid has about a one in a billion chance of being the next Elon Musk. I’m just not sure that any kid should go through life without being taught that a lot of what they have to do is BS and the real challenge is thriving as a person in spite of that. It’s literally what I’m going through with my kid in public school – yes, this is stupid, and yes, you have to do it anyway. It’s the old Calvin and Hobbes idea of building character. 4. I would never purposefully hold a kid back from learning, but I would stay mentally flexible that this could be just a phase, and he may grow out of it.

    I am truly amazed by his abilities.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      For me, I loved the pressure. I love working under pressure, working fast, thinking fast, getting a solution, thinking more solutions, jumping from one ocean of thought to another. People tell me that they can’t believe how fast my brain works (my team lead especially), and sometimes they can’t keep up, which does frustrate me a little because I see it so clearly and then I have to spend time catching everyone up (I am working on this trait and becoming more patient).

      I know that being smart now means NOTHING for when he is older. I know plenty of smart but lazy kids. I am working on making him work hard at least, and have responsibilities and not be just “smart”…

      I definitely want to build character and grit over smartness, which is why I encourage him to stick with things and do it right and not give up.

      I am too — I had no idea he would be so quick to pick up these concepts. I have to find ways to twist it around and back, and really test him until he “gets” it… we’re doing probabilities and graphing now, with some addition and word problems.

      Reply
  8. SP

    I’m surprised people are telling you to hold him back!

    I wouldn’t change anything on the academic side – let him flourish. I would focus on helping him with social and emotional skills. If those are up to par for his age, then great! He’s much less likely to be a total outsider just because he’s advanced. He doesn’t need to be the most popular kid in school, but his school life will be more enjoyable if he has a few friends and social skills to deal with butthead kids.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You’d be surprised. At least 5 colleagues tell me this, based on their experience with their own kids in school.

      His social is on the slow side because he is an introvert who is shy. He manages to find friends in class who are just as shy as him so he loves playing with mostly little girls who are quieter and less rambunctious than boys, and he likes being with other kids who just ‘get’ him without saying anything.

      For emotional, I am working on having him tell me when he is sad, angry, etc. We read books about feelings, and I tell him all the time to say how he feels…

      Reply
  9. Sense

    p.s. speaking of emotional skills, it would be great if kids were also taught and practiced ’emotional first aid.’ See this TED talk for details: https://www.ted.com/talks/guy_winch_the_case_for_emotional_hygiene

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you so much for the link.

      Reply
  10. Sense

    You have the luxury of choosing! My mom had to work with my sister pretty intensely every day to be at the level of average. Definitely don’t suppress his intellectual curiosity, that just sounds awful.

    I was above average and found school super-crazy-easy (up until college, at least), so most of my efforts went into trying to figure out how to fit in. I even 1.) turned down an invitation to the Gifted and Talented program, and 2.) bombed a test or two when I found out I was in the running for valedictorian in 10th grade–the idea of giving speeches, being in separate classes from my friends, and public debates (the G&T program would have required the last two) was UTTERLY TERRIFYING to me at that point in my life. Sad. 🙁 I now wonder how I’d be if I had been brave enough to own my intelligence and get over my fears back then.

    From that perspective, I wish that my parents had pushed me to do things that I REALLY found difficult, like public speaking and making new friends. Why not let him take the lead on the academic stuff (which is what you are doing already), and then (when age-appropriate, of course), occasionally encourage him to do things that don’t come so naturally that will also help him fit in & challenge his fears? He’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone at that point, but it won’t matter because he’ll know how to handle people as well!!

    I don’t think he’ll be an outsider, despite his intelligence, if he is practicing social and emotional skills as well as math problems. If anything, maybe his intelligence can help him understand various tactics he can use?

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I will have to switch my focus over to having him try new and hard things. I don’t want to force him and have him hate it from being forced, but definitely easing him out of his comfort zone for things. He is not adventurous but that could change as he gets older. He is a bit shy for sure, clings to me…

      Reply
  11. Gail H.

    Encourage him to continue to flourish and be himself. He can be placed in a gifted program at school, I would think . As a former teacher of the gifted, I know you couldn’t stop him, anyway; don’t even try. You are doing the best thing for him by letting him set the pace.
    If he is an introvert, just be sure he has creative outlets and means of expression as he grows. He will find a few close friends of equally high intelligence to share with and care about. Introversion is not a fault or shortcoming!
    He sounds adorable.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Thank you very much. I appreciate your input. I always worry if I am ruining him and his life..

      Reply

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