Dear Dr. Fournier:
What advice would you offer parents dealing with high IQ students who are dealing with psychological punishment in the form of humiliation in school? These children not only fail, but become so discouraged they may never recover and be able to function successfully; for they believe their teacher’s assessment of not only their intelligence but their demeanor.
Children enter school full of curiosity, eager to experience, wanting to be seen and heard. They enter school with the gift of spontaneity as they explore a strange new place intended for learning.
As many parents prepare their children for school, they advise:
Many years later, some of these same children end up on lists that label them hyperactive, attention deficit disorder, delinquent, truant or dropouts, learning-disabled or emotionally disturbed. Or perhaps they had a negative experience with repeated bullying that has paralyzed them. The causes are many – including, on occasion, children who experience psychological punishment at school and at home. But another possible source is even a more fundamental issue: a child’s immature expectation of school as a place to explore with unleashed curiosity, only to find leashes of an unexpected type.
Each time our children enter or re-enter school, we must help them deal with reality rather than illusions. With realism, children will come to understand that teachers, just like parents, will have rules that may cause hurt and fear in an unprepared child, not because the rules are unjust, but because they are unexpected.
For example, we all lose control at times; we may punish a child who is blamed unjustly because we lack “eyes in the back of our head.” In school, an assignment may seem unbearable when a child sees others in a reading center and wants to be with them but, seeing another child punished, has devoted so much fear that doing good work is no longer possible that day.
Children must save their natural curiosity and spontaneity but temper it with realism to prepare them for daily situations that could unintentionally send the opposite message.
WHAT TO DO:
Prepare your child for the “real world” of school, not for some fantasy Disney World in disguise. School is a place of work with enjoyment, not a place of enjoyment with work.
Help your child learn early on the word, “curiosity.” Use it at home when your child wants to build something new or use an old toy in a new way. As you enjoy the inventing that comes from a “curious” child, then help your child use the word as it relates to school.
Going to school is a place for curious people – curious about the world, about science, about what you can do with numbers, and about how other people around the world talk and live. You can be curious about things with different shapes, and about what goes up and what comes down.
Yet in school, there are rules you must follow to use your curiosity. These rules include how you behave, what you will explore each day, how to do this with other children and your teacher, and how to accept that everyone will make mistakes.
During the school year, occasionally ask your child what his curiosity has uncovered lately. Then ask about ways that being curious is different in school: What were the things that made you feel sad, afraid, tired, not wanting to do, or left you with a bad stomach ache? For example, “Someone else got to give my answer,” or “I lost recess because some other kids were fighting.”
As your child is able to talk to you about school rules and their effect, this may lessen the negative effects of what could otherwise become barriers to learning. Help your child understand that these unexpected rules limit curiosity, but the important thing is not to stop curiosity.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER