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When Co-workers Brag about their Gifted Child

Gifted. It's become a loaded term for parents everywhere. By third grade, we're told whether or not our child is a fledgling genius or is decidedly...average. We're either in or we're out. Of the gifted program, that is.

Now we're sitting around the average workplace lunch table with a few other working parents. We casually mention how our child seems to be struggling with some aspect of school when a co-worker suddenly utters the seven dreaded words of the modern parenting age:

My child is in the gifted program.

Boom. Why did our co-worker have to say this?

Hmm. I've watched it happen, and I think it usually comes from a place of subtle insecurity. It's not hard to see where the insecurity stems from, either. Many K-12 parents are feeling tremendous pressure in an era of stupid, non-stop standardized testing to push their children ahead on schoolwork at every turn. Our economy, where fields such as medicine and law no longer carry the same cache in the age of minute clinics and legal websites, only adds to the pressure to push children toward the HYP (Harvard-Yale-Princeton) pyramid and STEM fields.

I say: let kids be kids, they only get one go-around at it! They need to run, jump and play. Each child learns at their own pace, and if they don't ace the state-mandated end-of-year Pearson test it doesn't mean they'll never find success. Instead of focusing on identifying giftedness at a very early age, let's focus on teaching solid fundamentals.

In fact, I'm a yuge believer in the head-scratching power of irony, and serendipity. That "average" child who is struggling in grade school math class in the confusing "new math" era where 24 + 32 has somehow morphed into 25 + 30 + 2 - 1?** Well, she could grow up to be a Cal Tech-educated double Ph.D. in math and physics who is landing Rovers on Mars when she's not discovering new planets, thanks to her incredibly specialized knowledge of carrying and borrowing. You just never know. Crazier things have happened in the universe. Never count any kid out, each child has great potential, we are all made of stars. Take it away, Moby!

Dealing with Boastful Parents at Work
But my writing Rover is getting off track here. We need to discuss the co-worker who feels the need to one-up you in the parenting arena at work!

Thanks to workplace flexibility initiatives, a younger generation of fathers who are more engaged in daily, hands-on parenting, and the ever-growing stack of business books about how to balance work and home, it's become much more acceptable to talk about our kids in the workplace. That's a wonderful thing, but it can also lead to hard feelings given the right circumstances.

So what should you do when you're sitting at the break room lunch table one day and mention that your child is struggling with some aspect of school (or sports), only to have a co-worker say, "My (same age) child learned that three years ago" or "My child is such a good mid-fielder she'll get a college soccer scholarship for sure?"

My advice in these situations is to ask yourself why this co-worker feels the need to boast in the face of your vulnerabilities. It may be better to avoid such discussions with this co-worker in the future! Instead, seek out the co-workers who can understand, will listen and can offer useful advice that is coming from a good place in their heart, and mind. Other parents can be a very handy resource.

We can also get in the habit of asking co-workers if they want our parenting advice or commentary before we offer it. "I know an educational reading website that is awesome, would you like the address?" is always much better than "My child was reading Harry Potter books by age five." The former is geared toward helpful solutions, while the latter is not. We're all in this together as we round two double-digit numbers and add five before subtracting seven for some reason. Parenting doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. Let's build each other up!

Giftedness is a fascinating topic that isn't placed very often in a workplace context, which makes it all the more important to discuss. I wish you every success on the school front. Your child is amazing, and you are an awesome parent who is doing a great job every day. Keep up the good work.

** The "old math" fundamentals weren't broken, and we didn't need to fix them.


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