Failing my duties as a white parent

By Mir
March 19, 2008

I’ve seen a lot of people reference Stuff White People Like recently, either amused or outraged, and I have to say that I haven’t yet decided which side of the fence I land on. Some of the stuff there is pretty funny, albeit irreverent. (Which is of course WHY it’s funny….)

Anyway, I’ve seen lots of discussion of item number 16, Gifted Children. We all have gifted kids! White people like gifted kids! Also, when our kids mess up, it’s just because they’re TOO gifted to function on this mundane plane of existence! This is what I’m supposed to believe, apparently.

Well, first of all, I am here to tell you that my gifted children (preshus! gifted!) are (I presume) a lot more difficult to raise than their less-gifted (and less NEUROTIC, I mean, let’s be honest here) counterparts. Second, here come the Political Correctness Police to haul me away, but at least one of my gifted kids is L-A-Z-Y.

Oh, I know. I’m not supposed to tell you that she’s lazy. I’m not supposed to believe such a negative thing about her. I’m supposed to say it’s the SCHOOL’s fault! And believe my precious schmoopykins can do no wrong! But I’m sorry, GOOD LORD is my daughter lazy, and it is really starting to get on my nerves. I don’t care whether she’s gifted or retarded, if she gets any lazier she is going to forget to BREATHE.

She has this habit of doing her homework and then leaving it all over the house. I will remind her to put it in her bag if I see it, but lately I’ve been struggling with that, even, because it’s not like she doesn’t KNOW she needs to do it. And how hard is it to put your work away? Too hard for her, poor darling.

And so when she called me from school yesterday to ask me to bring in her homework she was STUNNED when I said no. I reminded her that we had gone back home one morning to pick up her forgotten work and the deal was that she got ONE bail-out for the year, and she’d used it up. She grunted and hung up on me. When she got home from school yesterday we talked about it and ten minutes later I saw her homework was STILL ON THE COUCH. And she got MAD at me when I told her to put it in her bag. Because she’s laaaaaaaaaaazy.

The thing about being whatever kind of gifted Chickadee is, is it means that she can often do very, very well with little to no effort. I am well-acquainted with this state of affairs, as it’s pretty much how my experience in school went, as well. And I know that you can easily get used to that, and after a while any effort at all seems like too much work. I know exactly how it happens, and I also know that I personally was bitch-slapped back to reality in a few different circumstances, but most notably in that I headed off to college at 16 and nearly lost my damn mind the first semester because, MAN, THIS STUFF REQUIRES ACTUAL WORK.

So it’s not that I don’t get it. I do.

Also understand that there is a difference between capabilities and effort.

For example, Chickadee elected to participate in an oratorical competition a while back and wrote what could well have been the winning speech. (My preshus!) The judges even told her that she would’ve won, had her delivery been better. The speech was great. Her presentation? In a word, it stunk. She was petrified. She quietly mumbled and mostly looked like she was trying very hard not to throw up. My heart broke into a million pieces watching her struggle through her speech, and then those million pieces each broke into a thousand MORE pieces as she sobbed, that night, about how she’d worked really hard and didn’t win. Because Chickadee is fiercely competitive. She wants to win. She likes to win. She is bitterly disappointed when she does NOT win.

But she’d done her best (she will overcome her stage fright with practice, I hope) and didn’t win. She didn’t deserve to win—other kids did better. She worked hard and was brave, I thought, in choosing a public speaking endeavor even though she was scared. Bottom line: thumbs up and pride from this mama, despite the loss.

Today, on the other hand, Otto and I went to school to watch a Battle of the Books tournament Chickadee decided to enter. This event was not compulsory. She CHOSE to participate, knowing that it was a trivia competition based upon ten books. Each member of each team had to read four of the ten books, I think. She talked INCESSANTLY about how much she wanted to win.

This is the child who read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the space of a weekend. She is a HIGHLY competent reader, and a fast one.

Did she read all ten books? No.

Did she review the BARE MINIMUM four that she had to read? No.

Did she have a good reason for either of these things? Nope.

I suggested, multiple times, that she read all the books. I suggested, multiple times, that she review the four she’d read. She scoffed and rolled her eyes and told me she didn’t need to. I told her it was up to her.

We spent an hour at the competition this morning and there was a long, uncomfortable stretch of time where it looked like Chickadee’s team would not get a SINGLE QUESTION right.

They eventually got a couple. But the team they were up against completely trounced them.

I watched other parents congratulate their children on doing such a great job and putting forth the effort, whether they’d won or lost, and you know what?

I hugged my daughter and told her I’d see her this afternoon, and that was all I could manage, because there is nothing here to congratulate.

She was lazy and she lost. I call this a natural consequence and a much-needed lesson.

The saddest part is that I know my child, and I know she is CRUSHED and will come home and SOB about how sad she is that she lost. At least when she lost the oratorical competition I was able to tell her how proud I was of her for writing a great piece, for standing up even though she was scared, for really doing her best.

What am I supposed to say this afternoon? I’m not an “I told you so,” parent. That accomplishes nothing and I don’t want to add to her misery. On the other hand, the truth is that I am fairly annoyed to have given up half my morning to watch her sit there and shrug her shoulders.

And it’s not that I’m disappointed that she lost because I think MAH BAYBEE should always win. It’s that she could have EASILY won today if she’d put forth some actual EFFORT. So the best I can tell her is “I guess you have your work cut out for you next year.”

She will argue with me; that’s a given. She’ll say that so-and-so was absent! And the questions were hard! And so-and-so told her the wrong thing!

And she’ll harangue me, insisting it was SO UNFAIR and eventually I will lose my patience and I will tell her that I think she was lazy. And she’ll be sad and wounded and continue arguing and if I’m unable to extricate myself I will end up telling her that sometimes she doesn’t have the good sense that God gave a goat.

So maybe we could add THAT to the list of things white people like—comparing their gifted but lazy children to livestock.


  1. All Adither

    That blog certainly is getting the buzz. I found it mildly funny. But not something I’d visit again and again. Unlike Woulda Coulda Shoulda…;)

  2. mamalang

    You just described both of my daughters. And probably me as a child as well. And I could write an essay on this as well…brush your teeth turns into a 5 minute battle in which I normally say “fine, when they fall out of your head, don’t cry to me.” Mature, huh? But it sure was nice to hear someone else is in the same boat. Good luck with the rowing :)

  3. Spinoff

    When my oh-so-gifted kids (now, thankfully, grown) came home from contests blaming the questions or the idiot judges for their losses, my first comment was “Wow, sounds like a rough day,” and my follow-up was “What’s the takeaway from this?” Once in a great while they actually got it–maybe they should have studied/practiced/prepared more? Or maybe they just aren’t the best in this? Or maybe they really were idiot judges. Analysis of loss is a great life skill. Good for you that Chickadee has you to help her!

  4. Bob

    yeah, I got bitch-slapped by college too. the nerve of them, actually expecting me to study.

    I don’t envy you the discussion this afternoon.

  5. Ben

    I love that blog, and use it as a reference when my son claims: “You wouldn’t get it, you’re white.”

    And my kids are less like cattle than bugs.

  6. Patricia

    My parents used to tell me that I “had a lazy streak a mile wide.” I so know what you are talking about. Like you, I was there myself — though I’m not entirely sure I snapped out of it early in college though. I’m watching my son starting the same things and he’s not 5 yet. A boy who is firmly on the edge of reading should be able to put on his own socks, you think? Nope — not if you don’t want the round of whining, take an hour to get out the door, and the begging. I think I may have to go to college with him, just to put his socks on his feet.

  7. Janssen

    Wow, amazing post. My husband struggled with this sort of thing in K-12 because school was just so easy for him, that eventually he stopped doing anything that might require effort. When he applied for some scholarships, the university sent him back a letter saying “your grades are very impressive, but the classes you took were so pathetically easy that we cannot, in good conscience, award you any scholarship money.” And frankly, I dont’ feel the least bit bad for him about that – I’m glad someone had the good sense to let him know that being smart doesn’t matter a bit if you won’t put in some grunt work too.

  8. Sara

    My eldest is the queen of excuses. And she often cruises along doing well with very little effort. But when she crashes and burns and we try to analyze the hows and whys…ugh! Good luck.

  9. JayMonster

    If you come up with an answer for this, please let me know. My daughter is very much the same way, but hasn’t always been so. She used to be the attention to detail person, but now some things came so easy and winning was always the way, she is crushed when she doesn’t win.

    I unlike you, have less tact, and usually will just jump down to the need to actually make an effort next time (we can’t all our preshuns L-A-Z-Y). The end results however are very similar (well, minus the goat)

  10. Karen

    Yep. I hear ya. My 15 year old son brought home nearly all almost failing grades on his 5 week report card last week. That same evening he graffitied his desk with funny phrases…in Latin. Paired with their translation.

  11. Elizabeth

    I have such a hard time with this. My son called last week saying he had forgotten his violin and could I bring it to school? Part of me wanted to say no because he needs to learn the responsibility, but part of me thought wasn’t that why I chose to be a stay at home Mom? So that I could be there for my kids? I ended up giving in :)

  12. KarateMom

    “I don’t care whether she’s gifted or retarded, if she gets any lazier she is going to forget to BREATHE.”
    I loved that line!!

    I think that my daughter has some of the same bend as Chickadee, although without the giftedness. There’s something in her that wants to do just enough to eek by, and it drives me nuts. Good luck with the conversation!

  13. becky

    oh yes, feeling you, sister. our 19 year old is getting her ass handed to her at college. we did everything we could to discourage her laziness. sometimes it is rough on kids when everything is always so easy & then suddenly it isn’t.

    i felt that way when i started writing. it was hard! i might fail! and after a lot of practice, i’m finally past that. and actually getting better at writing, slowly.

    it’s tough to know how to best let natural consequences fall on the kids. we told our daughter over & over that if she didn’t turn in homework and she failed all of her classes that she might not get to graduate with her friends AND she probably wouldn’t get into college. because it really was that close with her. she pulled through (barely) and is now finishing up community college this semester. she starts state in the fall.

    chickie will get it. you may lose a lot of hair or turn gray in the meantime, but she’s smart enough to figure it out. it just may not be in the timing YOU want it to be. (and boy do i understand that one.)

  14. Erin

    Ohhh…this is the story of my life, truly. Gifted and lazy, and still paying for it (and trying to work it out) at age 27. I’m finishing my PhD, and still I battle with my inner laziness, because I don’t really HAVE to do the work to do well, so my inner voice, cultivated at a very young age, mutters, “Then don’t do it!” I’m about 50/50 on which voice I listen to at any given moment. (That’s a lie, I’m more like 80/20, with the 80 correlating to the lazier of two options.)

    But, of course, I do know and understand the consequences, and I truly don’t feel I’m being held back by my laziness. It’s just the flip side of the gifted coin, many times, I think.

  15. Sue

    I am with you on the other blog. Can’t figure out if I like it or not. And I have a Chickadee too… except she is a he. And I call him lazy as dirt. I never thought about comparing him to livestock. I’ll have to think about that… nah… dirt just lays there. That’s him. Am I really going to have to wait until he goes to college before he gets his act together?? Oy.

  16. Beth

    I was just like Chickadee in school. Now I know the pain my mother endured trying to get me to try just a bit harder…and like you, college was a bit of a wake up call. So was my first year of working a real job.

  17. BethR

    My mom used to hector me and force me to complete things when I was this age, and I think it did make it harder when I got to college age and hit that wall! Letting her fail now is actually the kindest possible thing you can do for her.

  18. Marissa

    I feel your pain so ferociously. I too made it very far in life depending just on my natural “giftedness” and the occasional all-nighter. Then I went to law school, since I was older (28) and had moved my son and husband back to my hometown and in with my mother to attend law school I made huge effort–and it paid off.

    My son: smart, gifted, very verbal and so LAZY. What is the least amount I can do to complete this assignment is his motto. I want trottle him for getting things wrong when he knows the answer but was too lazy to fully read the directions or check over his work. I wish I could get him to understand that just trying a little harder and paying attention (rather than checking out as soon as he thinks he knows what to do or knows the answer) will take him a long way.

    Best of luck with Chickadee this afternoon, may this experience will give her a wake up call or embarrass her into trying harder next year.

  19. Pave.Gurl

    Back when I was a tyke, Mama was told that I was “bright but lazy.” I got As on my tests, I got perfect scores on calssroom participation… and zeros on my homework, because I wouldn’t do it.

    Thing was, I just didn’t REMEMBER I had it! I got SO, SO lucky, though – as much as folks like to pick on the state where I grew up for its horrendous track record in education, my district was actually one of the best in the country – and there was a teacher who referred me to a (competant) guidence team. I am incredibly grateful to that team to this day, ‘cos they gave me tools to keep up with, and Mama was provided with the information to help me use them effectively.

    Still, though, even after a few years of using these tools day in and day out… I was easily distracted. One memorable example being around 5th grade; we had standardised testing every other year, and I consistantly tested in a pretty high percentile. That year, we got my scores, and they were all in the usual brackets… except spelling, which I had somehow, inexplicably, managed to score in the 3rd percentile – while scoring 98/99 in reading comprehension, analogies, and all other language arts skills. My teacher later recalled that I had “finished” that section early and pulled out my book to read.

    … Apparently, I had gotten bored with the spelling portion about a page into it and just closed my book.

    (Now, we’d know I was suffering from ADHD and medicate me to hell ‘n gone. Back then, it was “lazy/ bright syndrome.”)

  20. The Other Leanne

    I’m with Spinoff…let Chickadee figure it out. Or, “What was your responsibility in this? Did you follow through on that responsibility?”
    It’s a tough situation–I’ve been gifted but lazy my whole life (flunking out of college was a rude awakening) and I’m old enough to have learned that smart doesn’t guarantee successful, but that bad habit just won’t die.
    While it’s true that sometimes life is unfair, in this case the cause-and-effect belong completely to her.
    Good luck, Mir.

  21. Sandra Tayler

    Just this morning someone pointed me to an absolutely fascinating article at the New York Magazine website:

    It is all about why highly intelligent kids often don’t bother to try, complete with fascinating studies and evidence. The article has my head spinning with new ideas for helping my kids who are also often L-A-Z-Y. Thought you might like the article too.

  22. Laura

    I’ve got that same kid, in the body of a 15 year old boy. He’s pretty smart, and does a really good job with some effort. He believes he should be able to excel with no effort whatsoever. I had to tell him that even though I think he’s special, the rest of the world will not think so unless he actually performs. And that as smart as he is, he’s not THAT smart. He’s the kind of smart that requires some work. I actually had to sit my special, preshus kid down and tell him that he’s neither smart enough nor special enough to coast through high school. Frankly, that’s the same talk somebody needed to give me when I was his age.

  23. Ellen

    Chickadee sounds like my kid used to be. If my daughter thinks she can’t win, however, she won’t compete at all. This has led to a staggering underachievement level.

    For Chickadee, I’d ask her if she really thought she was better prepared than the other team. Encourage her to examine for herself the truth – and hopefully discover it on her own instead of making it be just from you.

    As a teacher, I see under-achievement from the gifted kids – evidenced by the not turning in of homework – and the only explanation I have is that kids like that don’t do the work for themselves, they see no intrinsic value in doing it, so therefore are only doing it to please parents and sometimes teachers. Fostering a sense of completing and turning in work for the sake of doing it for oneself is the hard part, but the one that needs to happen. It is about developing a good habit, so that when the work no longer comes easily, the habit will be in place and make things less painful. It is best to learn that lesson earlier rather than later, and that means letting them fall flat on their face. Never bring her homework to her at school. Be willing to see a report card that is less than her capabilities….let her fail if need be. Once she reaches high school, that won’t be even close to an option.

  24. Headless Mom

    2 of my 3 kids have this same problem…The oldest is getting it, finally. The middle one is just killing me with the slowness of it all. One of these days I’m going to make him go to school with his pj’s on and see how fast he’ll get dressed from there on out. Bored, distracted, you name it, it is my Headless Boy 1.

  25. Mom24

    I have been there…I am there. I wish I had answers. I, however, do tend to be an “I told you so parent”. Gently, hopefully not as harshly as that, but I would have no patience with the whining about how *unfair* it was whent eh work was not done. Good luck.

  26. Shalee

    We tell our kids that you get back what you put into it. We encourage them to do their best and to try harder, but when push comes to shove, it’s their responsibility. We’re not going to do their work for them. We figure out that the sooner they learn that life isn’t fair at all, the better it will be for all of us. My daughter has it down and still strives to do well in most things. My son is in 2nd, so it’s still a learning process for him. And unlike you, I am an “I told you so” mom. If anything, it stirs them to try harder just to shut me up. :)

  27. Heidi

    I think BethR is very wise in saying, “Letting her fail now is actually the kindest possible thing you can do for her.” Though not a guarantee, effort equals a much higher probability of success. By failing now, maybe, MAYBE, she can figure it out before the stakes are too high (college).

    But omigosh, it must be tough to be her mom, loving your kid so much and wanting the best for her.

  28. Caz

    Yep, looking back on my education as a gifted kid I had a rude awakening in university that maybe I really had NO IDEA how to study since I’d never had to do it before. Luckily I learned quickly after my first midterm with 55% (when I thought I’d aced it).
    Unfortunately, I was never the lazy gifted kid. That was my brother. He’s still lazy. And he didn’t figure it out the first time around in university. He dropped out and is working shift work in a factory. Hopefully he learns this time around.

  29. Deputy's Wife

    What kind of parents would we be if we gave our children excuses for everything that went wrong “The teacher SHOULD have reminded you about that.” or “The committee should have selected other books to read.” I really hate it when people make excuses to our children. Example: Last night we had a vote on what movie we were renting this week-end. My oldest son lost on his choice. My sister happened to be here and told him she would go ahead and rent the movie for him. Huh? We had a vote. He lost. There. Finnito. I am sorry he lost, but he can vote for it again next week.

    Kids need disappointment. I know that sounds harsh. No one, including myself, likes to see their child let down. Yet, they need to learn how to process it and strive for better things. Part of life, I think.

  30. Deputy's Wife

    My long winded comment was my round about way of saying I like how you think. lol.

  31. MaryP

    My two oldest are gifted. My third might be: I didn’t have her tested. My oldest is a hard worker, focussed and disciplined. My middle child, arguably the smartest of the three – the boy is BRILLIANT – is inert. I’m not sure it’s laziness, exactly, but he’s sooo passive. Nothing happens until it’s an emergency.

    He’s on a wait list for a college program he could *easily* have been accepted into, because he waited to apply until the afternoon of the very last day. He even paid to have his application couriered. Probably missed the cut-off by 10 minutes. Yeesh.

    When he read his letter informing him of his status, my loving maternal reaction was to pound the table, yelling “SEE? See what you get for putting it off? SEEE????”

    Instead, I actually managed a sensible question: “So. Do you think there was anything you would do differently if you were applying again?”

    And I actually got a sensible answer: “Apply earlier.”

    Okay, then. Keeping my fingers crossed that lesson learned is actually applied in future.

  32. Jamie AZ

    My 6 year old is headed down this path, too. He finishes his homework quickly, but sometimes sloppy, too. I have a feeling we’ll be up against the same challenges as you are with Chickadee. Looking back, I’m sure I was pretty much the same way, but I’m sure my writing was nice, because that’s what girls do (loops and swirls, oh my!)! :)

    And Dear Lord, I have very forgetful children, too – they leave stuff laying everywhere (or at least they try to) and completely forget to put things away. At ages 4 and 6, I hope they find their memories soon!

  33. Jamie AZ

    Oh, and about the other website. I want to check it out, but figure I should do that from my personal PC, not work’s… maybe tonight.

  34. Flea

    Way to go, not being the I-told-you-so mom. You did the right thing this morning. I’d probably just let her complain. Maybe have her ask the teacher or judge why they lost. I’m really big into having the professional or teacher give them the lecture. My kids blow off the mom. Sometimes I sneak behind their back and ask other adults to get involved. People they respect. Bad mommy, me. You’re doing a fantastic job, Mir. But then, you knew that.

  35. Jules

    I have a gifted child. Who is also LAZY. Mine is older and a he, not a she, but the laziness is there. I felt like you were talking about my son in a lot of respects. Oh well, thanks for the share. I felt the need to commiserate since my “preshus” is the same!

  36. Michelle

    I’m starting to think I might be like your daughter.. uh oh!

  37. arduous

    I remember vividly being that gifted child who slowly became lazy the more I was allowed to skate through classes. I got my comeuppance in high school though. Alas it didn’t last long because then I coasted through college. My dad once said education is wasted on the young and now I think I know what he meant. If I had to do it over again today, I’d work so much harder!

  38. TC

    I feel your pain, and would be all “preach it, Mir!” if you were just talking about how hard some kids are to reach. But you lost me with the blanket gifted-kids-are-more-difficult-to-raise thing. They’re not. They’re not necessarily easier, either. Some kids are easy to raise, others…not so much. In my case, my smart (though not Officially Gifted) kid is a breeze. My Not So Gifted One? Not so much of a breeze. And made all the more difficult by the fact that he can’t be talked to like he’s a 47-year-old in a 7-year-old’s body, the way his sister could when she was his age.

    We all have it hard. It’s bad enough to hear that your kid doesn’t make the grade intellectually, but to get “but he’s a little bit simple! So he must be simple to parent!” thing hurts a bit. Which I know is not what you meant, but it’s what I heard, today, after having some very difficult parenting days, despite not having a gifted kid.

  39. Charlise

    I think our job as parents is to support our children, and comfort them. It is also to teach them. This is a tough one, because 1) she was lazy and didn’t prepare properly and 2) she knows it and now wants comfort. In these situations I tend to ask my kids what they think THEY could have done differently to see a better outcome. I make sure they understand that they can only control themselves, so stating that someone was not there, or they were given bad info isn’t a proper answer. When they are asked this, my kids “usually” come back with something along the lines of “I should have studied harder, or gotten a coach” or other sensible answers. I keep prodding until they give me something that makes some sense and teaches a lesson – or they storm away angry – in which case I try again later.

    Once we establish what could have been done differently by my kid, I offer the comfort they need and spend time doting on the things they did well – such as entering in the first place, or getting at least one answer right. They really need that encouragement…school isn’t just about right answers or winning – as you know well. It is about learning how to handle different situations (even bad ones) and making it out to the other side intact, right?

    You are an awesome mom. You have great kids. I love hearing stories like this, because it makes us think about our families, our childhoods, and how we would handle similar situations… thank you.

  40. Lisa- Domestic Accident

    Finally, a parent who doesn’t think the world should rotate around their special child. You are a hero.

  41. Kim

    Because my daughter is so much like me I have already started to panic in the area of school work even though she is only in first grade. I found several books that were pretty insightful. They Can But They Don’t by Jerome H. Bruns was very good.

    The new PC term is now “work inhibited” not lazy. LOL. I was lazy and I know I was lazy. Being a single mother cured me of the lay-zeez.

  42. Anne Glamore

    You have just described my oldest son. We have done a lot of letting him suffer the consequences. I don’t bring forgotten stuff to school, he gets the bad grades, etc.

    But it sure is frustrating watching a perfectly capable kid not realize what he could do if he worked harder. And that’s a lesson he can only learn himself, I think.

    This year was good for him, but next year, his first in junior high, should be the big wakeup call.

  43. Chuck

    I kind of wish all school was like college…fail or succeed based on your own efforts…but I know that’s too much to expect of young kids. One can dream, though.

  44. Vane

    I hear you on this too. My kid is very smart, I’m not sure if she’s gifted, but she is capable of doing very well on very little effort and understand things so quickly she’s easily distracted at schoool.

    I’ve had several talks with her about this, about how it is so easy for a smart person to become a mediocre one, because everything comes so easy, eventually you just stop trying. I also tell her I will demand she do her best every time, if her best gives us a second place, a C or something of the sort, that’ll be fine by me, because I know she did her best. If, on the other hand, she comes home with a B+ when I know she could have easily had gotten an A+ if she’d only put in a little more effort (either in studying or review her work before turning it in), then we’ll have a problem.

    I think she’s sort of getting it (either that or she’s starting to get tired of me lecturing about it and is actually doing it just to shut me up).

    Good luck with Chickie tonight.

  45. Mom24

    I’ve been sort of chewing on this all day and I have another thought. I think our schools teach, or at the very least reinforce, the laziness. My son, 7, is bored out of his mind at school. There is no. stimulation. for. him. We have gone round and round about this with the school and get nowhere. There are no kids intellectually close to him in his class…I can’t explain that, but it’s the truth. So, he is supposed to go to another class for reading. You can’t tell me a 7 year old doesn’t need a reading class, I don’t care how good of a reader he is. I started noticiing that it really wasn’t happening (since January he’s had 2 reading classes). When I asked about it, I was told “well, sometimes when we come for him he’s in the bathroom,so he misses that day, or we might have other things going on in our classroom and decide not to do reading, or sometimes we forget to go get him, or sometimes it’s backwards day”. I swear it seems that stupid. There is no schedule to reading, so he can’t just know when he’s supposed to go. So, instead of challenging my child to push himself and his abilities, I feel like they’re teaching him to be happy with the status quo. Maybe they are part of the problem, although that doesn’t let our kids off the hook.

  46. Daisy

    I just had the opposite conversation with a parent at conferences last week. They DID blame the teacher for their baybee’s “boredom,” as he reported every night at home. When I pointed out how little effort he puts into the opportunities he has, they kind of “hmphed” and made an appt. with the teacher for gifted and talented.
    She blew up at them. I thanked her.

  47. jennielynn

    I cannot tell you the indescribable relief I feel reading this post and the comments. I thought my child was the only one afflicted with “couldn’t care less until I face the consequences-itis.”

  48. michelle @ TNS

    good luck with your conversation. you pretty much described my entire childhood.

    the saddest thing? once i got out of college, grad and law schools and could afford to go back to general laziness? i kinda did.

  49. wendy

    That was me…smart, bored, couldn’t be bothered, spent most of 4th, 5th and 6th reading books under my desk.

    I’m watching my son go through the same thing. Even in so called GT classes he is bored and can’t be bothered to do the work.

    Certainly a large portion of the problem is him but a lot of it is also simply the way the public school system works. Too many kids. Too much focus on standardized testing. Teacher’s simply don’t have time and resources to make sure every kid is being challenged.

    I can’t afford private school and I’d murder him trying to homeschool him.

    I’m excited about high school for him because there’s a really good college prep magnet school he’s eligible to go to.

  50. Kori

    Well, I will start off by saying that I LOVE the otehr site, the Stuff White People Like; like anything else, it is meant to be a generalization, but I find a lot of them to be true, and oh so funny. I particularly love the RESPONSES, though, because hey, people get so worked up! But about the white people=gifted thing…I DO believe that for the most part, it IS a problem (though not specific to race) because “we” (the collective we, mind you)want to think that our children’s giftedness somehow sets them apart as special, but it really doesn’t. I have four kids; so far, two of the four are beyond gifted to the point of “What are we going to do with this third grader who has already prefected-literally-all of the tesing benchmarks for 5th grade?” My teenaged son is like that, too. But I gotta tell you, like I tell them, that all the smarts in the world are not going to excuse them from the responsiblity of being kind, loving, responsible kids and, with hope, adults. I also have one, the oldest, who works hard to get C’s-by the same token, her struggles in scholl do not give her an excuse to act stupid and expect to have life made easier for her. These are the things I DO: I check to make sure homework is done. I do NOT and never will drive said homework to school, nor will I bring forgotten lunch money, gym shorts, or anything else that they should be responsible for. If my kids-and it HAS happened, with two of them so far-don’t turn in homeowrk and get a failing grade, so be it; I will not make special arrangements for htem to turn work in late. After all, in real life, nobody cares what your excuse is. In my opinion, and what works in MY life, is that if I don’t force them to deal with the consequences, they will fail in life, and either a huge amount of smarts or none at all won’t make a bit of difference. Whew. Sorta went off there, LOL!

  51. Tracey

    Another one here who recognises it all. While I don’t tend to use the word ‘gifted’, I’ve written a very similar post about my teenage daughter. It’s all come too easily for her till a couple of years into high school, and as soon as she’s had to actually make her brain work with Maths, then OMG, the effort! Why should she have to actually do homework at home?
    At least you are going through this fairly early with Chickadee… and I think you are handling it, as always, superbly. It makes my day sometimes to read that other parents take the tough love approach (eg. regarding running after them with forgotten homework, etc.)

    The other thing your post (and the comments) has made me realise is that while I put the effort in all through school and college, it’s now that the “lazeeee” has hit me. So I feel a bit of a hypocritic sometimes.

  52. carson

    If I were you (and I admit, I dress up and twirl around pretending to be you because it makes me feel PRETTY!)–um, if I were you, I’d tell her that you were glad she chose to participate and tell her you’re sure she did the best she could. Being one of those same lazy kids (and did someone say grownups? shaddup!) I can tell you that by Chickadee’s age, when I screwed up because of the lazy, “I’m sure you did the best you could” was. . .ouch. But a good ouch, as in realizing that NO, I didn’t do the best I could, so maybe I shouldn’t write all my reports the evening before they were due. Not the bad kind of ouch that she’ll recall during some 50-minute hour.

  53. kmbr

    Mir, you so got it right with the smart->lazy. My hubby and I were both that way, and we now have two boys who are the same. I have often wondered why parents of “gifted” kids don’t get an aide the same as parents of “special” kids. I could certainly use the help trying to do creative discipline, the little buggers can end-run me quickly when I’m tired. Its parenting jujitsu.

    As a part-time instructor at an elementary school, I totally agree with just about everyone that school is not challenging enough. When I was a kid we didn’t have the teachers stuck with “differentiation” where you’ve got a class full of a WIDE variety of ability, so you’ve got 4-6 gifted kids, the same number of slow or english learner kids and a range in the middle. Can we go back to the old days where the slow kids were with the other slow kids, and the medium kids were with the other medium kids, and the quick kids were with the other quick kids? Its not like the kids don’t know who’s quick and who’s slow in the class, why not give them all the instruction at the pace they need? I know why–its the white people thinking all their kids are gifted!!

    And now we’re getting proof in the constant testing! When I see the treadmill of testing and assessment the teachers have to go through during the year, what a fucking waste of time and energy that could be spent on instruction, my god. Its like insurance, all the money is getting spent on the parasites that push the paper.

    whoops, turned into a rant. Sorry!

  54. Brigitte

    I like “Stuff White People Like”, at least some of the entries. I think they’re written by different people, so it’s not consistent.

    I also was completely lazy, even through college, figuring out I could still get a B or C even if I didn’t bother with my homework a lot of the time. Am still lazy, for that matter. It’s good that you care, Mir, I think that will make a difference – my parents never cared at all unless we brought home failing grades.

    I liked the article Sandra Tayler linked to, although it’s nice to praise a child for effort versus grades, but it seems to be the grades that matter for your school records. Sadly, nobody in the real world cares if you put forth a lot of effort but your highest grade was a C!

    And the few times I did go all out on a project, because I was actually all excited and into it, would be the times the teacher would slap me down, giving me an awful grade and saying I could have tried harder, teaching me not to waste my time on THEIR homework anymore. Bad timing, teachers-of-my-past, bad timing! :-)

  55. blairzoo

    Mine is 13 now. Reading about yours makes me want to retch a little, because it’s so blooming familiar. And exhausting. Oh the drama. Somehow everything ends up being blamed on me or someone else as she charges up the stairs to slam herself into her room.

    Last night she asked me to review her material for a science test today. Well, she couldn’t seem to answer about half my questions so I asked her to go review it again. Stair stomping and door slamming. Not quite sure how it’s my fault, but whatever. And I know she’ll do fine on the test with what little studying she did. Could she ace it?Undoubtedly. Frankly, I could care less about the grades, but to live without all the drama? Now that would be a beautiful thing.

  56. annie

    Not quite sure of the logistics here, but it seems Chickadee and my daughter are twins separated at birth!

  57. StephLove

    I think that site is funny, mostly, with an occasional sour note.

    Gosh, am I white, though. I have a Phd in Comparative Literature AND an M.F.A. (See #81).

    I think the site is misnamed, though. It’s really about middle and upper-class, liberal whites but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

  58. Lori

    Oh god, you just described my childhood. I was your kid. Smart, somewhat competitive, lazy as hell (for exactly the reason you mention: that I did well without effort most of the time, so why work?). I’m ashamed of myself now.

  59. Jen

    Tell Chickadee that when you’re 15 and don’t know how to study or do REAL work, it SUCKS!!! I live with one of those “gifted” kids who doesn’t know how to try to do anything because everything came easily…..until this year. Now, she is barely treading water. And, I am SOOOO not patient with her because I was one of those kids who divided my test studies up into 5 equal parts for the five nights before the test. Drives me nuts! But I think you are doing the right thing. We have decided to give our dear gifted child enough rope to hang yourself. I already passed 10th grade–not about to do it again for her! Sometimes ya just have to learn the hard way.

  60. Katherine

    My older son sounds a lot like Chickadee – very bright and very lazy. and disorganized too. When I went to shower this morning, I told him to get dressed, pack his backpack and brush his teeth while I was in the shower. I came out and only the dressed part was done. He called home while I was out asking me to bring his math book. Nope, I didn’t get back home until after his class was over.

    I have brought things to him at school before, but I charge for the privilege. With the price of gas and trying to discourage this, I think its time to up the ante – either the once per year or more money/chore time.

    I keep warning him that some day he will need to study. Not yet – middle school seems to be easier than elementary for him, even though he has 4 gifted classes.

  61. allysha

    There is a ‘parenting philosophy’ out there that I agree with- It’s this: when your kids are young, give them space and opportunity to fail so they can learn from the lesson when it won’t ruin their life. Not that you set them up for disaster. You just make them responsible for things (like getting their homework together!) and if they don’t follow through, then they suffer the consequences. We all have to have those experiences sometime! Better now than later when they lose a job or something.

    My daughter is super competitive, too. And when there is something extra she wants to work on, I tell her I’ll support her, but she has to be the one who reminds us to work on it, because it’s her thing.

    You’re a good mom.

  62. Kathy

    Good luck to all of you!. It took me until my son was in college until I placed the responsibility for laziness where it belonged – on him. As a teacher myself, I had nagged and dragged him through elementary and high school. He almost always got lower grades due to lack of homework, which was always a surprise to me, since I had forced him to do it (his twin brother usually had the same assignments or I made him call a friend for the information). However, the work never made it to the teachers! We even had a summer school stint for advanced algebra to get an acceptable test grade, which was great once he had motivation – at least for 6 weeks! After the first year of college with no credits earned, I withdrew the funding until he paid and earned credits. The good news is at 28 he is finally almost finished with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy due to his own timing and commitment. My other two kids (the twin and a daughter)also had some lazy issues as well or at least the “I can do it without much effort” attitude. After a while I realized that learning to fail, recover and go on was one of the most important lessons they each could learn. Resilience is the best skill. It was good when they found things that weren’t inherently easy for them, so that they could learn that everyone fails at times. I will take some of the blame because as a recovering perfectionist I may have given them the false notion as kids that they could do anything! Now I get to watch my gifted grandkids behave the same way with their parents and I just smile and tell them that it is God’s special plan for them to experience the other side of the coin! It’s hard to see the big picture when you are in the middle of it,so just remember that kids need to have all kinds of experiences, both good and bad, in order to grow up and cope in our world. Love the blog! You have a good perspective – laughing at ourselves keeps us honest.

  63. Charlise

    You know – I was thinking about this and is this the same speech that you wrote about a while ago, stating: “Chickadee has an oratorical competition this week, and they were given TONS of notice about it… by which I mean, she brought the assignment home on Friday. (Insert standard grumbling about the school here.) I sent the kids off with their dad for the weekend with instructions to please work on her speech, and she returned home on Monday with a sheet of hotel notepaper with a bunch of scribbled notes on it. Guess who stayed up late last night working on actually, you know, WRITING her speech?” – ?

  64. Kris

    We face the same thing – usually related to TKD or reading. She’s really a gifted child but LAZY like you mentioned. (I swear sometimes that we share children, except my younger one likes to scrub the tub adn the toilet. Imagine that.)

    I told her if you did your best and “lost,” then you ahve no reason to cry. If you didn’t do your best, and lost, then you can cry, but the only reason to cry is because you didn’t try your hardest.

    I never get on them about “failure” or do an “I told you so.” Failure to me is not even trying. But in those “I told you so” cases, I usually say something like “were you prepared? No? Why do you think you didn’t win?” (You know – mom guilt without the work. They already know they bombed it for themselves. It’s a no brainer.)

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