Have you watched the TV Program called “Child Genius” lately? We’ve been watching the second season lately, and although it is quite stressing, but it is also entertaining and there are lots of things that we can learn from this TV reality competition (and I’m not talking about the subjects being tested in the competition, but other things behind a genius child).
Child Genius is a reality Competition which featured some children from all across America and they will compete in various mental challenges testing their knowledge of Math, Spelling, Geography, Memory, Science, Literature, Inventions, Astronomy, Human Body, Logic, and many other things. There is one moderator and two judges during the head to head competition. All the parents will be in the same room and sitting in the audience side and watching their children competing. The children will be tested one by one in front of their parents and competitors. So it is usually a very stressful situation every week not just for the children, but also for the parents. You can see that the parents and children are very nervous during the question and answer period.
Those children come from different family background, but they have something in common, and that is…………………all of them are gifted and have very high IQ. In the age of 8 to 12 years old, their knowledge, capability, and achievements are already beyond other children in their age. One of the 12 year old kid is already in high school and ready to enter university very soon. Some of them are members of American Mensa. Some of them are very talented in music. One of the girl can already do a brain surgery through a computer simulation. So you see, they are very…………….very smart kids.
Why am I interested in writing about this topic? Well, to be honest……………I thought (at first) that being born with high IQ should be fun and you will have an easy life. You will be great in any school subjects, easy to understand what your teachers are explaining in the classroom, and you will have plenty of time to do other things besides study (well, because you don’t really need a lot of time to understand one subject, so you can use your time to do other things). Being a genius or child prodigy also means that you are talented in other areas, such as music or art. So you can master musical instruments since young age because you don’t need a lot of time to learn how to piano or violin for example.
But then, after seeing these series, I know that the fact is not like that. So this is what I learn from this reality show and I’ve been discussing this with my son again and again every time we watch this program together.
Those kids still need to study for hours everyday. There is almost no holiday. Six to eight hours is the minimum time for them to study everyday. Yes, they have to work very…………….. very hard. It is not enough of just being a child genius with high IQ. This child genius still needs hours and hours to study. Even if one’s IQ is higher than the other, it is not a guarantee that he or she will win. It will depend on how hard and how much he or she studies and learns outside the competition. The child has to learn math, spelling, science, etc and memorize many things everyday. Being a genius doesn’t mean that the child will always remember of what they have learnt. Sometimes, they can forget or too nervous to think and that make he or she looses and out of the competition.
The same goes for the children who learn music. They need to practice for hours everyday even though they are tired or even bored or their fingers hurt, because if they want perfection, they have to practice everyday to reach the level of consistency they desire.
This is what I’ve been telling my son so that he can learn from this. Being a genius is not enough……………..you still have to work hard. No matter how smart he is or he thinks he is, but I am making sure that he knows that he still has to work hard to achieve his targets. Yes, so far he is the top students in his class, and he even passed the GEP (Gifted Education Program) Test round one last year. Passing the GEP Test level 1 means that you are selected from 10% of all Primary 3 students in Singapore. He didn’t make it in round 2 (which would select 10% from all who passed in round one, which meant only 1% of all P3 students in Singapore would be joining the special GEP Program). But I think being selected among the 10% students was already good enough. Even he were selected, he would have to face a fiercer competition with top of the top students, which meant that he had to work even harder.
The question is, how to be a smarter kid, to be the cream of the crop, and always so consistent in getting good marks. It’s easy to say, but it needs a lot of efforts and hard work. It takes a lot of time in doing revisions and practice papers outside the school. Yes, the child can still have lots of time to play, but he or she must also sacrifice a lot of time to study. This is very important because in Singapore, primary school students only have between 2 to 4 exams in a year depending on your grades, whether you are in lower or upper primary school (unlike in Indonesia where there are so many mini test and exams in one curriculum year), so you can not fail at all when exam days come. Doing revisions and practice paper regularly is very important to achieve consistency. So although a child sometimes hates this study time, but the child must know that he has to do it to get good marks. It is important that a child can feel the disappointment when the targets are not achieved, but then it is also very important to show him or her how to learn from the failures and not afraid to try again. It is ok to fail as long as we teach him how to recover from the failure.
By studying or practicing or training consistently and regularly, we also make sure that our children focus on mastery, not just learning for a test.
Some of his friends said that their targets are to get higher marks than the kids who passed the GEP Test, but I told him that it was not quite right. I always say that his biggest competitor is not his friend, but he himself: how to be careful and not careless when doing math, how to read and think first before answering the questions, how to discipline himself to study not just during exam days, but way before exam started so he would be more prepared, how to conquer your fear and not being nervous during oral exam time, how to balance between study and rest so he would not be too tired, and so on. So that is why I never agree of giving him presents if his marks are good, because study hard and get good results are his responsibility, the reward is the happy and satisfied feeling that he will get when he sees his results. I always plan of what we are going to do during the holiday before exam starts, so he understands that vacation or things that he will get are not the rewards of his good marks and not going anywhere is not a punishment when his marks are not satisfying enough, but it is just the matter of family financial plans and priorities.
There will always be other persons who are smarter than him, but if those persons only rely on their IQ without working hard, then he can actually beat them by working harder. In the end, it is the effort that matters.
One of the good example that we can learn from is Joseph Schooling, the first athlete who won gold medal in Olympic 2016 for Singapore and also for Southeast Asia from swimming competition. Not only did he won the gold medal, but he also broke the Olympic record that belonged to Michael Phelps, the legendary and most decorated swimmer in Olympic history. If you read his story, his father said that he already trained and disciplined himself since he was at a very young age. He would wake up at around 4 or 5 am (by himself) and then he would be the one who woke his parents up to bring him to the swimming pool to practice. Even during their family vacation, they would always try to find accommodation that had good swimming pool facility so little Joseph could still practice during the family holiday. So he was already very consistent and hard working since young age, and I believe that was the key to his success. I also think that it is also our responsibility as parents to make sure that our children know the meaning of working hard to achieve their targets in life.
One thing that is also very important is the parents’ support. Joseph Schooling’s parents had scarified many things, from time to money to make sure that their son would achieve his dream someday. The parents in Child Genius Program also sacrifice their time to help their children to study day by day, and one of the mother also resigned from her job to help his son study at home once she knew that his son was gifted. Although some of them are what I can say as “tiger mothers” and stressed the children too much, but I am just trying to look at them from a positive side.
Many children are happy to grow up in this kind of environment. I knew some very smart kids who only like to study, so much that her parents have to force them to do something else that was fun for children at their age, like reading comic books, watching TV, or even play outside. Although they don’t like doing all those things and only want to study, but I thought it was good for the parents to teach them how to balance their lives.
We, as parents also play important parts to make sure that our children know how to balance their lives. In their young age, most of them would prefer to play than study or practice or train. So we must play our parts to make sure that they have responsibility to study / practice / train hard without us telling them what to do and when to do it.
I also agree that children should also have fun, enjoy their lives, and not just focus on study…………….but we must also realize that competition in the outside world is so hard and often very scary. So we must not forget to prepare them so they will be ready when the time comes for them to be independent and compete with other people outside their comfort zone.
The common saying says that not all children are born with math or science or language abilities (or other things like music or art), yes that might be true, but in the end, effort is the thing that makes you smarter.
*All pictures used in this post were drawn my my lil boy at school during English and Art Lesson.
*The Chinese opera mask in the last picture were painted by my son during Chinese co-curricular activity at his school.