Photo by Yatmandu.

If your kid is not multilingual by the age of four, does not have a college degree by fifth grade, or is not making a fortune by performing music as a toddler, he or she may be just an average, regular child.

Kids have a lot to live up to these days. Gregory Smith, born in 1990, has already won a Nobel Peace Award for his peacekeeping endeavours. Then there’s Akrit Jaswal who performed surgery for the first time at age seven. While most kids are riding around on bicycles and crying over skinned knees, prodigy children are seeking the cure for cancer.

But when did we decide that giving up a childhood is worth the status of being a genius? Irrefutably, children should be educated and encouraged to pursue their interests, and prodigy children require different types of stimulation than other children. But at some point, kids are sacrificing their happiest, most carefree years to ensure a successful future of stressful, occupied years.

The Consequences of Child Success

In The Downside of Being a Prodigy Child, Andrea Sachs points out the ever-increasing pressure on parents to mould their children into outstanding citizens, often causing a sort of “my-child-is-smarter-than-yours” competition among families. In return, these kids develop low-esteem and anxiety issues as they struggle to keep up with their parents’ expectations.

From prenatal education systems like BabyPlus to ridiculous online offers to turn your kid into a genius, there’s as much pressure on children to be achievers as there is for women to be thin.

Photo by Pink Sherbet

How do these children have time to build friendships and develop social skills to accompany their educational endeavours? Where is the value in earning awards and recognition without having anyone there to cheer them on?

Volunteering as a Girl Guider, I’m currently responsible for a group of 15 year old Rangers. These girls – all extremely bright, colorful, mature girls – are so buried in their responsibilities, they barely have time for fun. One girl, for example, has 11 extra-curricular activities, in addition to being on the honour roll and coming home to evenings filled with homework. When I reflect on my own high school experience, I remember slumber parties with my friends and summer days spent poolside, not the part where I poured over math homework every evening. The same people I shared these experiences with are my stable network today.

Kids Need to be Kids

Parents, it is okay to encourage and even push your children in the direction of success by nurturing their talents and abilities. In doing so, you will create an incredibly open-minded, intelligent generation. But let your kids be kids. Allow them to look back on their childhoods and reflect fondly on hide-and-seek, finger-painting and grass-stained jeans. Everyone deserves their childhood.

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