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To wonder if child prodigies are happy with their lifes

51 replies

Flyingfish2019 · 10/12/2019 21:02

I just read an article about a boy who started university age eight and wonder what that must have been like for him and if he is happy with his life or unhappy because he is so different from everybody else.

BTW how can I enable voting here?

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Am I being unreasonable?


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Flyingfish2019 · 10/12/2019 21:05

I also wonder what it is like to have a child who is a prodigy.... not just smart but really a genius.

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HotWaterBottleAndABottleOfWine · 10/12/2019 21:06

I guess it depends on the support he/she gets at home, whether they truly love what they are doing? (Ie. If they r studying physics at Cambridge age 10 - is this satisfying them, are they loving it), and whether people around them accept them and support them for who they are.


HotWaterBottleAndABottleOfWine · 10/12/2019 21:07

Michael Phelps seems to have been somewhat of a prodigy at swimming and I understand that being in the water was his true pleasure and saviour through the hard times.


Catonaroof · 10/12/2019 21:10

I don't know about happy or unhappy. I was good at some acedemic stuff as a kid, it made my mum proud and I liked that she was proud. So, I was happy. I did the test to join mensa, and met a load of other kids who had parents who were proud of their bright kids. They were happy kids too. I liked that my mum was proud of me, but it may have come at the expense of more healthy bonding experiences.

I'm quite avoidant now, which boils down to the fact that I don't think I'm useful unless I'm providing facts or help in some way.

But on the flip-side, I wouldn't want to stifle a child who has talent.


Flyingfish2019 · 10/12/2019 21:15

@HotWaterBottleAndBottleOfWine But do all prodigies love or even like what they are good at. I am not a prodigy by any means but I remember that in school there were some subjects that I excelled in but hated and others that I like very much but I did not have great grades.

I wonder what the best support would if one of my children was a prodigy and excelled... say at college level physics at an early age... to help them take college courses... or to encourage them to engage in “normal childhood activities“.

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Purpleartichoke · 10/12/2019 21:18

My dd is extremely bright. She has expressed frustration at not being a prodigy. She absolutely thrives when she gets a chance to learn with similarly talented children. At one such opportunity she had last summer, she came home telling me that she was wrong and she didn’t really wish she was smarter. There was a true prodigy in her group and even my socially awkward child could see how he struggled socially. I’m sure it’s not true for every prodigy, but I know how hard our society can be on someone like my dd (or if I’m being honest, like me). I imagine it’s hard to be such an outlier when even kids towards the end of the curves face such challenges.


OldElPasoHadAChicken · 10/12/2019 21:18

I guess it depends whether said prodigy is doing what they enjoy it what they're told they're allowed to 'enjoy', if that makes sense.

I'm not a genius but contrary to what my typing skills may suggest, I have a decent intellect and academic ability, and have always always always adored studying. As long as its subjects of interest to me. And what is, or isn't in fashion with me, can depend on the smallest of things - overhearing something and having a question I have to research the answer to in relation, or a type of aquatic creature I had never heard of but which cropped up in passing on a nature show and now I've got to be the expert on it and watch all the videos, read all the articles, salve into academia (where research permits - there's limits if you're not a registered uni)...

If I was a naturally gifted and talented intellectual in the sense of a prodigy, but I was being forced or over-encouraged in subjects/ areas I was easily proficient in but really disliked, I think I'd eventually go totally nuts, disown my family and so something so opposite to what was expected (join a circus, be anything creative but saturated with talent already, whatever).

I think if you asked any child prodigies, they won't have known any different so it would be difficult to accurately gauge it.


Cremebrule · 10/12/2019 21:25

If this is around Laurent I felt desperately sad for him reading the article with his parents seeing him as a ‘project’. I get that some children at that level will have an insatiable desire for learning but surely waiting a few years would be in their long-term interests. There always seems to be an exceptionally pushy parent behind them and you wonder if it borders on abusive in some cases.


Mumoftwoyoungkids · 10/12/2019 21:29

My BIL isn’t an academic prodigy but probably was a sports one. (Senior international in early teens, commonwealth medalist in late teens.)

I think he is pretty content with his life now (married, kids, still involved with the sport but also has a “real” job) but there is probably a slight disappointment that he didn’t completely fulfil his promise (no Olympic gold!)

One thing which I think helped him have a normal happy life was that my in laws were never caught up in it and just plodded along supporting him but not pushing. That seemed to be quite rare at his level.

There is a hilarious TV interview that they found recently from when he was about 11 and had just started playing in the junior national team and in laws were asked how it felt. Instead of the expected “oh.. proud...very proud” MIL spent a good five minutes whinging about how he was really hard to get to bed on time and that he seemed to think that just because he was on a team with 17 year olds he should be able to stay up with them. The interviewer’s face was a picture!


pinkstripeycat · 10/12/2019 21:29

My DS is very clever and an absolute maths whizz but not child genius and otherwise a very normal 13yr old. He goes to special classes with 2 other whizz kids and a genius maths/Physics teacher. He talks a lot about politics and things outside the universe. I don’t understand a lot of what he talks about but he does have the teacher and other 2 clever kids to talk to about maths and physics. For an actual child genius life must be difficult and lonely.


MarySidney · 10/12/2019 21:32

A child that young doesn't get the full benefit of the university experience. There must be ways to cater to these children's intellects, while still allowing them to be children.

Not easy for universities, either; they're not designed for children, the lecturers aren't trained to teach children.

I don't know if it's the same child, but this story is on the bbc today:

Seems as if there was a fair amount of parental pressure, and the university was trying to act in the child's best interests.


Ellisandra · 10/12/2019 21:38

It could be lonely being an 8yo an university.
But do you not think it might also be lonely being an 8yo in a Y4 class who is capable of being at university?

I’m sure it’s very hard to make the right decision, to even find good options to make the decision about, and the right decision will be different for every child.


wonkylegs · 10/12/2019 21:40

My mum got her maths degree at 16 and then a chemistry degree at 18 (at the top uni in the country she lived in)
She was a maths genius and went into computing at a cutting edge (when it was a different world) and it absorbed her world, the only other thing she had interest in was playing the piano.
She was however awful at personal relationships and social situations and outside of pure maths she's frankly weird - to the extent that with hindsight we suspect she was somewhere on the spectrum and meant that she often was led astray or swindled by unscrupulous business partners. She was an awful parent.
Now shes 73 and has Alzheimer's and can't feed herself or get herself dressed and that spark is gone except for when someone plays the piano however for the first time in her life she shows love and affection and loves painting and art.


Flyingfish2019 · 10/12/2019 21:42

That‘s a very sad story @wonkylegs.Sad

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Dapplegrey · 10/12/2019 21:42

Some prodigies have pretty unhappy upbringings.
Lang Lang’s childhood sounded grim. He was made to play the piano all day from a young age, he had no friends of his own age and when he failed to get into a conservatory his father told him he should commit suicide.
His mother lived elsewhere as she worked to support Lang Lang and his father so he rarely saw her.
I suppose his huge international success made it all worth it but nonetheless it sounded very sad.


Marshmallow91 · 10/12/2019 21:43

I was a very gifted child. I excelled in schooling, and began writing uni dissertations when I was 12. I was pegged to be someone great.

However my high IQ greatly contributed to being diagnosed with severe depression at 5, and a suicide attempt and complete mental breakdown at 13.

Children aren't supposed to think about things like adults are. Being intelligent and having the ability to use both sides of my brain in equal measure mean that I'm vulnerable emotionally to the horrors of life.

I wish I could switch my brain off, even for a few minutes.


FettuciniAlaFagiola · 10/12/2019 21:44

Same as everyone else. Unhappiness is not exclusive.


JasperRising · 10/12/2019 21:46

It must be very hard as you are isolated wherever you are - ahead academically/sporting of those the same age but too young to fit in with older teens/uni students. I also think some of the young uni students don't stay ahead forever. I have a memory of reading about one younger teen at uni and their later career didn't seem that different from some of the very intelligent students who go to university bat the usual age.

In the exact case you read about, I was rather worried by that fact that not only was he at university at 8 but his parents wanted him to do the course in a third of the time (some prodigies go young but still study for 3/4 years) and pulled him out when it was clear he wouldn't graduate before a certain age. To me it read that the parents were interested in record setting otherwise they would have let him stay, do the course in three years and graduate at 11 (which is still really young!). Reading between the lines my sympathies are with the university who seem to have recognised that it wasn't good for him to try and finish his course this year.


problembottom · 10/12/2019 21:49

Wow I’ve just read that story on a few sites. So his parents pulled him out of uni after all his studying because they wouldn’t let him graduate at 9? A kid in the US already graduated at 10 so he can’t break the record and they’ve thrown their toys out of the pram. If I’ve got that right it’s appalling.

I’m no prodigy but I was academic and went to Oxford. Now I have a daughter all I want is for her to be happy and not put any pressure on herself.


ActualHornist · 10/12/2019 21:53

If one of my children turns out to be a prodigy, I would encourage and nurture their talent and interests but not to the detriment of their social development, which I believe sending a child to university age 8 would do. They deserve to grow up with their peers and develop friendships.


Curioushorse · 10/12/2019 22:07

So my brother was a child prodigy. My parents were awesome, but it was quite difficult to cope with. He couldn’t be in a normal school so they had to pay for a rather eccentric private school. At secondary level though the local university started taking him for one day a week.

Erm....he actually abandoned his ‘prodigy field’ after university. He is high profile and in the public eye now, but in a different area. In that area he comes across as just being very bright.

He is quite good socially and I think just made a choice that personal relationships were more important to him than being brilliant. He always said the others at Cambridge were weird (just those in his field who were exceptional).

I think he does find it quite difficult to relate to normal people, tbh.


Panicovereveryone · 10/12/2019 22:07

Demis Hassabis. He is a true prodigy and has fulfilled his potential. He also seems like a really great guy, but £400million can do that for you I expect!


Panicovereveryone · 10/12/2019 22:09

@Curioushorse perhaps a sign of true intellect that he sees a more macro view of the world.


Panicovereveryone · 10/12/2019 22:10

Your not Demis’s sister are you Grin


Panicovereveryone · 10/12/2019 22:11

You’re ... I was not a prodigy

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