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Some of the greatest people like, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Mozart, Gary Kasparov, and Nadia Comaneci have one thing in common, i.e. child prodigy. Researchers are divided on whether child prodigies are born or made and then there are those who believe there is a bit of both. Regardless of what the cause may be, if you think your child is a prodigy, here are some of the things you need to understand about them.
What is a Child Prodigy?
A child prodigy is a person (a child) who shows extraordinary skills at a very young age in one or more domains such as mathematics, science or music. A child prodigy possesses unusually in-depth knowledge in his subject of interest for his age and is often intellectually superior to his peers. While the performance of gifted children in the class can be two or three years above their age, a child prodigy can match even the adult professionals in the field.
What Are the Traits of a Child Prodigy?
When you interact with children who are a prodigy, their traits become immediately apparent. Here’s what makes a child prodigy:
1. Large Working Memory
Our working memories enable us to carry out our routine tasks. For example, working memory is used when we need to memorise a phone number someone tells us for a while before writing it down, which we do and may forget after some time. However, it’s different with a child prodigy. Child prodigies have an enormous working memory that puts them in the top 1% regarding memory capacity. They can hold information in their heads while simultaneously processing and controlling other incoming information.
2. Higher IQ
It is no surprise that these children are also found to have higher IQ that’s well above the general population. The average IQ of the general population is 100 and prodigies have IQ’s over 128. Although it’s not always the case, it can be said that child prodigies are intelligent but not in the way that we would expect the IQ scores to predict. Sometimes as seen in cases of autism, the highly gifted prodigies are not so different from the rest of the population.
3. Complete Dedication
Child prodigies have a deep commitment to their area of interest and are able to focus intensely on topics for long periods of time. You would often find them completely absorbed in their interest and when this is continued for years, they develop skill and attain mastery of their subject. This is referred as the ‘rage to master’ by Ellen Winner.
4. Extraordinary Talent and Skill
Most often a child prodigy exhibits exceptional talent in one area; some children can show talent in multiple areas. It varies from child to child and the gift that they possess. Also, factors such as the domain of interest and support available to develop it from the family, education and the environment contribute to it.
How to Raise a Child Prodigy
Observing your child’s academic performance and general behaviour will help you identify a highly gifted child. Formal intelligence testing by a clinical psychologist can then confirm if a child is gifted. If you discover that your child is gifted and are wondering how to raise your little prodigy, here are a few tips.
1. Allow Your Child to Lead
In most cases, a child’s passion becomes clear from an early age. If you notice your child shows an interest in a particular field like music or dance, you can help nurture that talent by enrolling him to an activity class. The best way to go about is to support your child’s interest and let him take ownership of his talent and its development instead of pushing it on him.
2. Work With Your Child to Set Goals
Help your child to set short-term goals that he can achieve in a stipulated time will build his confidence and help him stay focused. Once the goal setting is done, your role as a parent should only limit to ensuring that his actions support his goals. As your little one gets older, give him more control over how he’d like to be in discipline and manage his work.
3. Do What Works for Your Child
As a child’s training time will increase, you as a parent may find it hard to balance family with your child’s schedule. Sometimes it will be challenging to keep up with your child’s developmental curve and fulfil demands such as arranging for extra resources or expert mentoring. If your kid is a prodigy, he may not fit into regular schools and may get bored easily with the curriculum. In such cases, he may have to be homeschooled.
4. Lookout for Pitfalls
The high achievers are also prone to pitfalls that go unnoticed under the brilliance of their accomplishments. They are often affected by perfectionism, anxiety and low sense of confidence as the very qualities that contribute to their success make them susceptible to it. Like all children, they require love and care from their parents and need to understand that their failures or success does not influence parental love. Another pitfall to consider is the effect the gifted child’s big dreams and support have on a sibling in the family. It’s important to recognise the passions of both and value them equally.
Are Prodigies Made or Born?
Scientists who study child prodigies, they often argue between nature versus nurture. Two well-known prodigies exemplify the debate: Carl Gauss, one of the most important mathematicians in history, comes from a humble upbringing, while Mozart, was from a privileged background who had childhood lessons in music. Research, however, suggests that for most prodigies, the genetic component has a significant influence. They are often observed to be born with innate capabilities. However their talents alone aren’t enough to fully manifest themselves, dedication and practice are much-needed to develop their natural abilities. Prodigies can demonstrate their talent by the age of 10 or 11, but some show it as early as 3 to 5 years. A supportive environment is critical to nurture their innate abilities, and if it stays unexplored, it may never develop altogether.
With adequate nurturing, child prodigies can be helped to realise their talents fully. They also need to put in sustained efforts to develop their skills.
Also Read: How to Improve Memory Power of a Child