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Don't want DS to be seen as "clever"

(131 Posts)
andnowforsomemoreofthesame Sat 15-Nov-14 15:05:16

DS1 has started Reception in September, as according to his teacher, he is the most advanced in the class in numeracy, and is in the highest group for literacy. Although I'm not too bothered about academic achieving at this age, I don't like the idea of him being in the highest group.

Even though the teachers are clearly stretching him, I would like him to be in an environment where he is closer to the average.

I'm not sure if I'm making myself clear, and I'm aware some people will just think I'm an idiot. But my point is that I hate to see people saying "clever boy" and things like that to him. I don't want him to think he is clever or better than anyone. I would like him to be in an environment where some children will be more clever than him, and where he won't be praised so much.

I'm saying that because I grew up thinking that I was clever, and it wasn't good for me. I am intelligent, but no one told me that intelligence is useless without focus, persistence, effort and a lot of other things. Today I like to be in a place where people are more capable than me, where I can learn. (and I have no proper career, which proves that being only intelligent doesn't get you very far)

I think he is fine where he is by now, but maybe in 2 or 3 years I would like to change schools. He is in a regular comprehensive primary (in London, and the range of abilities in his class is huge), and we can't afford private. I've heard I can try a grammar school when he is secondary age, or a scholarship in a private school. But is there anything I can do before that?

Any suggestions? Anyone in a similar situation? Any places I could take him after school or during holidays where he can be in contact with really clever children (because I'm perfectly aware DS is just an intelligent boy, not a genius)?

If you think I'm totally wrong, please don't flame me. Tell me WHY I'm wrong (if you CBA). I've changed my mind regarding education so many times in the last few years that, believe me, I'm open to different opinions.


CinnabarRed Sat 15-Nov-14 15:08:27

Personally, I'd teach him the values of focus, persistence, effort and all the other things you think are important, and thank my lucky stars that he's a bright boy who will have options when he's older.

Sirzy Sat 15-Nov-14 15:11:36

I can see where you are coming from to a point, but the most important thing is surely how you teach him to understand who he is rather than worrying about which group he is in in school

milkwasabadchoice Sat 15-Nov-14 15:13:43

This isn't going to be terribly helpful but you are trying to manage the academic outcome and personality traits of a four year old. Why don't you just relax a bit? There are many years ahead for him to be middling and average, or brilliant, if that's how it turns out. If he's ahead now, just let him be ahead. The others will catch up. Trying to get him to hang out with genius kids so he feels a bit dimmer in comparison strikes me as utterly utterly mad.

MrSheen Sat 15-Nov-14 15:19:12

Getting a scholarship to a private school is hardly likely to make him think he is less clever than he is. He will know he is clever. I guess the trick is to help him understand that clever is not the be all and end all and doesn't indicate that you are superior in some way. Why would he think he was 'better' than anyone? (I was in top groups in a clever but not genius way and I can honestly say the thought never occurred to me)

DS is clever (not genius) and his best pal has an almost full time 1:1 TA because he struggles so much. The boys get on great and seem to have a very equal friendship. DD is opposite, she struggles with everything except music but her bf is very clever (as in could be on one of those TV programmes).

Honestly, you can get really clever kids who are perfectly nice friends and don't crow over others. I know a few do, but that's because they are arseholes, not because they are clever. I think it would be quite damaging to make him see any part of his essential self as defective in any way.

Kundry Sat 15-Nov-14 15:22:35

OK - I grew up being the clever one at school, right through university. Without wishing to sound a total arse, where I work now many people have different skills to me, but I'm probably still the 'clever one'. If that is who you son is, you need to enjoy it, not make him feel embarrassed about it but also appreciate that he doesn't have all the gifts.

If he really is bright, then he just is. He might be one of a bright bunch at school or the very brightest. I went to a highly selective school and even there some people had to be the clever ones and coasted. It wasn't much fun for the not so clever - in any other school they would have been v bright but in ours they got the impression they were stupid. Is that really what you want?

You can help him see that hard work and persistent by being clear about what you value to him. So of course you are pleased when he is top of his group because he is hard working. Yes use clever, but use lots of other words as well - praise effort, persistance, thoughtfulness, hard work etc.

My mum used to talk a lot about it being important to do your best at whatever you did and we needed people with all sorts of skills: doctors and nurses, but also street cleaners, waitresses, checkout assistants etc. This was really helpful.

My parents did take me to the local Mensa group once but in my Dad's words 'never again'. The other kids and parents were like the worst examples from C4's Child Genius programme.

I did lots of hobbies with normal kids - I loved Girl's Brigade and horse riding which helped me take my nose out of a book for example and see that other people were good at other things (mainly sport which I was and am shit at) and that was just as good as clever. Also being v clever doesn't mean he is emotionally intelligent - he needs to learn this from his normal peer group.

Enjoy who he is, speak to his teachers about Gifted and Talented. Grammar may well be a good option for him in the future, but at the moment his should just be learning how to be a little boy.

Goldmandra Sat 15-Nov-14 15:23:09

I'm like you and got by on my intelligence without needing to work for years, including during my secondary years in a grammar school. I fell flat on my face in sixth form and never recovered.

My DDs are also very academically able but the curriculum has been tailored to their abilities far more than mine ever was so the have learned how to cope when it doesn't come easily.

I wouldn't worry, OP. I think this is one of the ways in which education has changed for the better in recent years. Your DS is unlikely to be allowed to coast through his primary years. He will be challenged academically and in the areas of the wider curriculum that come less easily to him.

BaffledSomeMore Sat 15-Nov-14 15:23:14

Surely though if they are stretching him then he's going to learn skills of persistence etc? My feeling is that bright children who are allowed to coast through school without having to apply themselves struggle to knuckle down later in life.

Theherbofdeath Sat 15-Nov-14 15:26:41

Children and teachers are much more relaxed about this kind of thing than you think. They don't talk about some children being "clever". They just get on with giving slightly different work to the different ability groups. It's only parents who get obsessed with which table their child is on. As long as he has some peers who are at a similar level to him, I wouldn't worry at all. Also, children go up and down. He'll be fine for primary, unless he is some kind of genius who is not challenged by an ordinary school.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Sat 15-Nov-14 15:37:55

DS is way ahead at literacy and numeracy, but has zero skills when it comes to art, PE, and most other creative activities.

He has little patience for English as a whole, he has a great vocabulary but hates writing and will try to get away with doing as little work as possible to get the job done and still get top marks.

Hopefully your school will turn a clever child into a well rounded one who can achieve well in all areas, whilst getting along with their peers, achieving their best and leaving with good self-esteem. And let's be honest, there isn't really anything wrong with feeling clever. You can be sure that the child who is great at football is told so by their mum or dad everytime they score a goal at the match!

andnowforsomemoreofthesame Sat 15-Nov-14 15:40:31

Thanks a lot for the comments. I will try to relax.

I think I'm projecting, because it took me a long time to understand that I'm emotionally very immature, and that people have different skills and all of them are important and worthy. I'm not proud of that, but at least I've learnt it at some point (and will be able to pass it on to the DC).

I agree that education is much better tailored today than it was 30 years ago.

Goldmandra that's a bit of what happened to me. I just coasted along, never making any real effort at school or even University. But by then I figured out that in the adult world you have to make an effort. Cue over a decade to learn how the hell to work hard.

DS likes to play building things and creating stories, and I would like him to have friends who could share these interests, and build things with him and so on. But now, writing this, I realise I'm being OTT. Fair enough. I'll step back (or at least try).


tumbletumble Sat 15-Nov-14 15:54:59

I recognise some of your feelings, OP. My DS1 is in year 4 and is very able at maths, and I do feel relieved that there is another very bright boy in his class so that he has a peer. The school (a normal State primary) have so far been good at coming up with ways to stretch him, so hopefully he will still need to learn the skills of hard work, persistence etc. I agree with other posters that this is an area where schools are generally better than when we were at school. It's good that you're aware of it too, and can try to praise and encourage him for effort as much as achievement.

kesstrel Sat 15-Nov-14 16:27:38

Just to make the point that psychologists have found it's important to praise children for effort, rather than tell them they are clever. Otherwise they can become reluctant to try new things, for fear of failing and putting their 'clever' label in jeopardy.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Sat 15-Nov-14 16:48:38

That's interesting actually kesstrel.

I've had a fair amount of group therapy for various reasons and there are always a high proportion of perfectionists in every group who were high achievers at school.

TalkinPeace Sat 15-Nov-14 17:31:52

Richard Feynmann's dad stretched him sideways
making things
learning languages that would never come up at school
practical skills
it seemed to work ....

hiccupgirl Sat 15-Nov-14 17:55:08

Your DS may not always be considered to be advanced at school. He may carry on doing well or other, younger children may overtake him as they pick up reading, writing etc. Either way I would focus on teaching him the values of effort and persistence.

I have a similar situation - my DS in Reception is also in the top group for literacy and is considered to be one of the most advanced in maths skills. Maths is something he just gets and is very good at -DH is amazing at maths so not a big surprise. Literacy wise he is a December birthday and had nearly 2 yrs of phonics 2x a week at nursery due to his birthdate and the groups he then fell into. It's hardly a surprise he's ahead of most of the class!

I agree with not telling a child they are clever all the time but then on the other hand I would rather where he is is recognised by his teacher and he is pushed than not.

JassyRadlett Sat 15-Nov-14 18:36:36

I think the fact that the class is differentiated is a very good thing for bright kids. I went to a primary that didn't differentiate at all - when you finished your work, you got to read. Which wasn't sttetching for me, either.

So I didn't really learn to apply myself or that everything wouldn't come easily until way too late, because I had never felt stretched. And it was a bloody shock when the challenge did come, because I hadn't developed the habits to deal with it.

So is take the fact that he's at the top table and being stretched as a positive. What else is he interested in? How can you extend his brain - languages, music, etc?

I agree about the praising of behaviours rather than results caused by innate activity.

JassyRadlett Sat 15-Nov-14 18:36:52

*ability, not activity!

SheffieldWondered Sat 15-Nov-14 18:37:47

My DC range from super brainy to average so I feel qualified to have an opinion on this. smile. I've always been factual about their relative cleverness. I've not dismissed the fact the clever ones are clever. I'd congratulate them when they did well but have always focused on application and behaviour rather than innate intelligence. You cant hide the fact that a kid is bright. They will know and their classmates will know. It's nothing to be ashamed of and it can lead to some great opportunities

It's important that they are not boastful and that they don't look down on kids that are less clever than they are.

It's more tricky when they are older teens especially if they underperform at GCSE or A levels.

I wouldn't worry too much about your DS being top of the class. I don't think its of any importance. I always refused to discuss my DCs reports or grades with anyone else.

erin99 Sat 15-Nov-14 22:48:05

I know where you're coming from. I do think you're panicking - the precocious readers in YR are not necessarily the best readers in Y2, let alone in juniors. Beginning of YR is just one snapshot. You could even walk the walk by not knowing or paying any attention to what groups he is in.

However, a big school in an area with fabulous state schools will help. Big because even the brightest are less likely to be out on their own. (Of course small schools can be fab for many other reasons.) Our school is very conscious of children needing to 'learn how to learn' and valuing not just results, but things like taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them, being creative, good teamwork. State schools and independents are all individual but our state school would be, I think, a really good environment for even the brightest child because they are working on all those aspects.

Your child is not going to be broken by being told he is clever. My DS is Y1 and there is no hiding from him the fact that he's good at maths. He regularly gets called 'Rain Man' by strangers... he is quite obsessive. Denying that he's good at maths would be pointless. But teachers don't just sit about telling children how clever they are.

manchestermummy Sun 16-Nov-14 07:40:46

I would be very surprised if your ds knows he's in the top group at this stage tbh (they usually work it out! and if you get to know his classmates you will too). And the teacher will not announce it either!

I actually cannot see your concerns at all here. Your ds is clever, his teacher has recognised that, and with any luck he will continue to flourish.

My dd1 is ahead in a few areas (literacy and art are two). She goes to an extension group for the former. When the class mascot and diary came home it was finally brought home to me how different her work is.

She doesn't tell her friends about the extension group (the only one in the class) because her friends "might say she's lying".

Mn is the only place I can really talk about dd's achievements, and it makes me really quite sad that you not wanting your ds to be described as clever.

Noteventhebestdrummer Sun 16-Nov-14 08:47:15

Get him something like violin lessons with a teacher like me who is interested in helping him work out how he learns best and teaching him how to make choices in his playing to create the best experience for the audience of something creative and beautiful. Perfection of skill and development of empathy all in one!

tobysmum77 Sun 16-Nov-14 08:56:31

I really wouldn't get over excited hes only in reception. Even the ks2 sats are meant to be notoriously unreliable in predicting how clever kids really are. Dd1 is in year 1 and doing really well, but I would never at this age call her 'clever'

Forget about it, concentrate on raising a well rounded child who can swim, is average at football and enjoys going to theme parks. You are overthinking it and in doing so are making this 'cleverness' into an issue.

What's 'clever' anyway? I'm fairly academic but extraordinarily backward when it comes to putting together flatpack furniture or doing anything practical. Make sure he knows that his friends are all good at something.

goingchristmascrackers Sun 16-Nov-14 09:05:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

violetlights Sun 16-Nov-14 09:05:21

I think you should try to emphasise that 'cleverness' as most people view it is a socially engineered construct perpetuated by an inadequate education system. There are a million different types of 'clever' and the education system measures and values just one of them. Although it is wonderful for him to get acknowledgement and praise for his performance against a narrow set of criteria it doesn't mean he's top of some kind of social or cognitive hierarchy. I think that way he and you can take the pleasure you both deserve to in his high grades etc but also accept them for what they truly are. That way he'll have pride in himself without thinking he doesn't have anything to learn from others who aren't achieving the same grades.

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