Opinion: Is Your Child a Prodigy? Great, Now Leave Her Alone
by Gary Drevitch
Aug 19th 2010 3:00PM

A parade of youngsters have made headlines, and gained huge followings, in recent weeks for their supposedly precocious talents. Who are some of these so-called prodigies?

Kieron Williamson, a British 6-year-old, has a show of paintings on display at a gallery in Norfolk, England. News outlets there call him a prodigy for the emotional depth they see in his harbor scenes and rural vistas.

….For prodigies like Kieron, there are other issues to consider. Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers: The Story of Success,” cites “The 10,000-Hour Rule,” which says that, no matter how much talent one may be born with, success is always – always – the result of hard work. In fact, it comes from about 10,000 hours of practice. That’s 20 hours a week for 10 years. And that’s still no guarantee. As another friend, a professional violist, once told me, “It takes at least 10 years to create an ‘overnight success’ in show biz. It takes the same 10 years to create a dismal, bitter failure.”

I have some experience with these things. My 9-year-old (rated 997) is a member of a national-champion chess team. He loves the game and he certainly works at it. But my favorite thing about the kids on our team is that no matter how much attention they get, and they get a lot, every one on them also plays baseball, reads the Wimpy Kid books, slides down the banisters, and generally creates ruckuses like all other 9- and 10-year-olds. Could one of them become a professional player someday, after 10,000 hours of training? Maybe. But we parents aren’t going to find out unless one of the kids steps up and asks to put in the time. We’re letting them be kids, and we hope that the confidence they get from this early success in one field will stake them well in whatever they choose to do, and not make them feel like it’s the only thing they could ever do.

Because if we did that, we’d really be doing them a disservice. We hope that Kieron’s parents, and all the others, follow the same strategy, for all their kids’ sake.

Here is the full article.

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