“you sound just like a little adult…”

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Children are not just adults with shorter legs. Yes, my son could easily be gifted, but that doesn't make him an adult either.
Children are not just adults with shorter legs, and more information doesn’t make a child an adult either.

I have a request here for the people who come in contact with my children. Please don’t tell my children – particularly my oldest – that he sounds like an adult.I know his vocabulary is incredible and he wants to talk about adult topics. He wants to give his opinion on everything from politics to literature. He’ll talk about science and wow people with his explanation of what a Higgs Boson is. If he makes mistakes in it or not, most people can’t tell because it sounds impressive, so people just tell him how they’re out of his league, and how smart he must be. I cringe when they do that because I’m still trying to convince him that adults are worthy of his respect.

Don’t tell him he’s sounds like an adult. He needs to know he doesn’t need to worry about adult things. He needs to know that adults are still somehow smarter than him.

I remember when I was a teenager if I wanted to know something my parents didn’t know, I’d have to check the old encyclopedia set we had, or search our small-town library. Neither was particularily successful. Now we can google for almost any information we want. Our bookstore choices are not limited to the tiny little bookstores with the current best sellers. Instead we can pick and choose the books we want from the tremendous selections online. We can watch documentaries about all different topics on Youtube. Education is different now. When explaining about illnesses we don’t talk about generic “germs” we talk about bacterias and viruses. We can learn about so many new things. Yet more information doesn’t make children into little adults.

Are there other parents of gifted children who share this challenge? How do you respond when people tell your kids that they are smart, or that they sound like little adults?

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  • Dawn

    More than little adult I always got “old soul”; for some reason little adult appeals more… people say that about my children and I always assumed it was because hearing complete sentences with three syllable words coming from a three year old was something they did not expect and they don’t expect children to understand concepts that they struggled with or still don’t understand. Regardless, I would encourage that we teach our children to respect their elders for their EXPERIENCE more than their knowledge. Our children may have a stronger grasp of molecular biology but that doesn’t give them the wisdom that comes with age. We need to encourage children to respect the wealth of “been there, done that” lessons and history that our elders carry with them. There is a Chinese saying (or at least, a Chinese lady said it to me,) “You can learn from advice or by experience. It is better to learn by advice.” Our children need to know that if nothing else, the advice and lessons of their elders can teach them what NOT to do and make them better for it.

    • ChristyK

      I like that idea of respecting elders for their experience more than their knowledge.

      Thinking about your last line… that children need to know that if nothing else, the advice can teach them what not to do and make them better for it…. and I think, and adults need to remember that they still have experience and advice to offer, even if the world seems different than what they grew up in. Somehow when people have made these comments recently to my kids, about sounding like a little adult, it has ended up sounding to my ears a bit like they are degrading themselves, ignoring the more that comes from experience.

  • katie

    The thing is… a lot of kids are smarter than adults. Adults may have more experience or wisdom… but that doesn’t make them smarter. They may know more about certain subjects and (may) have more emotional maturity… but that doesn’t make them smarter.

    Grown ups earn respect (just like kids do) by being respectable. And I think it would be a mistake to teach a smart child that people less intelligent than they are don’t deserve respect.

    • ChristyK

      The first part of your comment, about the idea that some kids are smarter than adults, reminds me of comments I’ve heard elsewhere about the issue of why it is okay to say that someone is more sportish than other people, or more musical, or more artistic, but not more intelligent? We have to try to pretend that everyone is equally smart or be accused of being really nasty. How can we make being smarter seem like just another skill that some people have more or less of?

      I definately agree that it would be a mistake to teach a smart child that people less intelligent don’t deserve respect. (Just as it would be silly to tell a child that someone lesss musical, less artistic, less skilled at sports, etc, was less deserving of respect). As for grown-ups earning respect… I think that depends on the meaning of “respect.” I think there’s a certain level of respect due to adults just for being adults, regardless of their behavior, although its relatively limited (politeness, not necessarily obedience).

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