British reality series tests gifted kids to the limit

By admin
12 August 2014

For most parents their kids’ very existence is an enormous source of pride. But some parents are a bit more difficult to please, such as the pushy moms and dads in the British reality series Child Genius.

For most parents their kids’ very existence is an enormous source of pride, not to mention when Johnny scores a try in Saturday’s rugby match or Jane gets an A for maths. But some parents are a bit more difficult to please, such as the pushy moms and dads in the British reality series Child Genius.

In each episode talented young kids compete in everything from spelling contests to solving difficult maths equations and general knowledge, and those with the lowest number of points are eliminated.

And while these child geniuses have to conquer challenging questions, their demanding parents look on, encouraging and disciplining them to do better.

In the series viewers can for instance watch 10-year-old piano maestro Curtis Elton – the youngest person ever to receive an Associate of Trinity College London diploma (equivalent to passing the first year of a university music degree) and training hard to represent his country in ice-skating at the 2022 Olympic Games – trying to prove he’s not just musical and athletic but also a bright spark.

Tudor Mendel-Idowu, an eight-year-old who excels academically and plays soccer for three junior premier leagues, also feels the pressure his parents put on him.  When Tudor doesn’t do as well as he and his parents hoped he would, his father seems even more disappointed than him.

“Perhaps you’re just not as good as we thought,” his father says in the series.

The controversial series has certainly made waves, with some even describing the parents’ behaviour as abusive.

What do the experts say?

Cape Town clinical psychologist Nicole Roux says it’s not just the parents’ desire for their kids to take part in the competition that’s worrying but also its popularity with viewers.

“These sorts of TV series often attract viewers because they make the average parent feel better about themselves and their parenting skills.”

She says although it’s important to motivate your kids and help them set goals for themselves this mustn’t happen at the expense of their emotional and social development.

“In these kids’ homes there’s a lot of emphasis on achievement, and their identity and humanity is subsequently defined by their achievements and not their personalities.”

How to motivate your child in a healthy way:

  • Don’t try to force your own goals on your kids. Rather let them discover their own interests and talents and let those motivate them, instead of trying to prescribe a talent.
  • Allow your child to make mistakes and learn from them. Your children will probably realise themselves they have to work harder when they get their first poor maths results.
  • Use subtle rewards. For example, if your child loves computer games only allow them to play once they’ve finished their homework.
  • Talk to them and help them understand the long-term value of being motivated. Although they may not immediately grasp why boring homework is important you can point out good marks will help them get into university and follow their dream career, or extra sports practice will help them get selected for the team.
  • Admit and accept your child’s shortcomings. Not all kids are sporty or brilliant at maths; accept your child’s weak points and rather focus on their strong points.

Watch the series trailer here:

-Mieke Vlok

Extra sources: Daily Mail, The Independent, channel4.com, empoweringparents.com, parents.com

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