Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Raising a Child Prodigy


A child prodigy, and his or her parents, will face unique challenges and obstacles other children won't typically have to deal with.
©iStockphoto.com/Jorge Delgado

Parenting, under any condition, takes a lot of work, patience and effort. There's no "one-size-fits-all" approach that will work with every kid -- not even every kid in your own family. Each child requires his or her own special parenting strategy, and that may even change month to month.

But raising a child prodigy has unique challenges and requires individually tailored time, attention and thought, because these children have amazing abilities in a specific field far beyond their years. They may be exceptionally gifted at music, science, literature, art, mathematics, or any other field of study.

Their talents are usually discovered when they're quite young; for instance, a child who reads at age 2, performs complex math problems at age 5 or enrolls in college at age 10. Not only do they come out of the gate operating at an advanced level within a certain skill set, but their growth within their talented domain seems exponential when compared to other children -- and adults.

While a child prodigy's capacity for intellectual or artistic pursuits may seem to put him or her in position to enjoy early and lasting success throughout life, prodigies actually grow up at risk of burning out or suffering anxiety in their quest for achievement, and may one day regret not having a "normal" childhood. When your 8-year-old is composing symphonies or explaining quantum physics to you, it can easy to forget that he or she is still a child. Time spent studying in a college library means a lot less time spent on the playground horsing around with peers.

Even if a child enthusiastically and joyously immerses himself or herself in developing and exploring extraordinary talents, a day will come when the playing field evens up a bit. It's one thing to be a 7-year-old concert pianist who counts 40-year-old high-achieving concert pianists as peers; it's another thing to be a 40-year-old former child prodigy whose talents are roughly equivalent to other same-aged high achievers.

So how do you raise a child prodigy? Is it possible for a prodigy to soar to the heights allowed by his or her natural gifts and still have a childhood?


More to Explore