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Mar 27 2014

Is your kid dedicated or obsessed?

Is your kid dedicated or obsessedTwo students. Two similar scenarios.

Student one: Young, talented musician. Plays the cello, piano, and oboe. Listens to music constantly, on the radio, streamed on the internet, live. Composes in every clef with ease. Is homeschooled so has the flexible schedule to dive deep into the musical interest of the moment. Can create beauty from nothing. Doesn’t play in many ensembles but is open to it and probably will in the future. Talks music incessantly to anyone who will listen (or masks the glazed eyes well). Has in-depth conversations with adult musicians, not only impressing them with knowledge but with the eagerness to learn more from them. Needs to be guided and mentored, but not necessarily taught. Easily spends hours attached to an instrument, to the point of ignoring everything else in life, including eating, sleeping, and physical activity. Reads and rereads books and magazines and websites about music and composition and performance. Has musical heroes, both dead and alive. Geeks out over musical progressions, new compositions, the Picardy Third. For gifts, nothing makes this young person happier than receiving music, instruments, concert tickets, and new musical experiences. Music is this young student’s life and passion.

Student two: Young, talented tech innovator. Can work with ease in Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Follows advances in technology through podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs. Programs in several languages with ease. Is homeschooled so has the flexible schedule to dive deep into the tech interest of the moment. Can rebuild a computer from nothing. Isn’t involved in any robotics clubs or programming meetups but is open to it and probably will in the future. Talks tech incessantly to anyone who will listen (or masks the glazed eyes well). Has in-depth conversations with adult programmers and white hat hackers, not only impressing them with knowledge but with the eagerness to learn more from them. Needs to be guided and mentored, but not necessarily taught. Easily spends hours attached to a computer, to the point of ignoring everything else in life, including eating, sleeping, and physical activity. Reads and rereads books and magazines and websites about tech and electronics and programming. Has tech heroes, both dead and alive. Geeks out over tech advances, new inventions, Pi. For gifts, nothing makes this young person happier than receiving geek T-shirts, computer components, online memberships, and new maker experiences. Tech is this young student’s life and passion.

Which one is the dedicated student of the craft, and which one is obsessed?

When you see a young student of 12 or 13 spending hours upon hours on their passion of choice, what do you see?

Do you see a child driven to express oneself musically?

Do you see a child addicted to technology?

Do you see the double standard?

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  1. JenC

    Honestly, I’d be concerned more about the musician. The tech kid will have a much easier time finding a fulfilling career as an adult due to the availability of music vs tech related positions. And tell tech boy that if he knows Puppet, my husband’s company is hiring…

    1. Jen

      What the hell is Puppet?

      1. JenC

        Ask your kid 😀

  2. Pamela

    I always like to point out that the term “hyperfocus” in some circles is called “flow” in others. It just depends upon if the obsession is “healthy” (relative term usually defined by adults.)

  3. Sherri

    How about passionate? To me, dedicated means working hard at something you’ve committed yourself to – you don’t have to love what you’re doing to be dedicated. Obsession can be a short-term thing. Maisy slept with her soccer ball last night, named it Bolly and won’t stop bouncing it around the house. She’s obsessed, but I expect it to last about a week. These kids you described are so lucky to have found their passion at such an early age and to have adults around who support them in it.

  4. My Kids Mom

    I look for some round edges– not necessarily well rounded, but at least able to have conversations on other topics and some other interests. I think both those children are at risk of losing that rounded edge and should both be encouraged to step out sometimes.

    On the other hand, when you give me A or B I always chose C (or All of the Above…)

  5. Gail Post, Ph.D.

    I would disagree with JenC. I don’t think the subject matter has any bearing on whether it is dedication or obsession. We can’t control what our children will “obsess” about. They will find their passions regardless of whether or not they blossom into productive careers.

    I would view both scenarios as typical of highly gifted children who find their passion. The obsessive part is reflected in the immersion to the point of not eating of sleeping properly, which poses a significant problem. So I would see it as a matter of degree, not black and white. So many gifted children have “serial obsessions” until they find a passion that suits them.

    Gail Post, Ph.D./ http://www.giftedchallenges.com

  6. Ingi (@ingidefygravity)

    I think the point here is that as a society, we generally do make allowances for the musically or athletically gifted/obsessed, but if a kid is the same with computers or maths, we get concerned. Yes, I agree there is a double standard and I too wonder about how much is too much and the best way to guide forward.

  1. Gifted News & Resources: April 5, 2014 - Living the Life Fantastic

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