Family Habits and the Gifted Child
Erik Lenderman: Hi folks. This is Erik Lenderman, back again with Dr. Tom Meylan, former NASA scientist and Ph.D. in astrophysics, today talking about his new book, Be the Boss by 12, Volume Zero, Parents' Prep, for parents learning how to raise their gifted and talented child. Today we're talking about Chapter Three, “Family Habits.” So, Tom, can you tell us, what about family habits do parents need to know when they're preparing to raise a gifted and talented child?
Thomas Meylan Ph.D.: Absolutely. There's a number of things about habits and instincts, and all of these things are intended to provide a quick, zero-thinking response to life as it happens, right? So, we all have instincts. If we trip we try to catch ourselves. If we hear thunder we jump out of our skins. So, all of these things are the instinctive pieces.
Now, the fascinating thing about the human race is that there's this whole, big set of unprogrammed behaviors. So, there's a whole bunch of things that haven't been pre-tuned, like for most of the other animals. And that's ended up being the source of human adaptivity. Because, a family of Eskimos, when they have children, have to adapt to an icy environment. A tribe in the Amazon jungle has a totally different set of conditions, and so those children need to learn a totally different set of habits.
And that's what the family does. The family puts the local “instincts”, so to speak, into their family rituals, their family habits, and their family culture. And the kid's just born and grows up, and just watches these habits, and, well, this is just the way the universe works. And they're really, really deeply ingrained.
Now, the funniest thing in my personal experience about this was when I left home to go to college. A bunch of us kids are just tossed together. This was pretty homogenous, little private school. Everything was English. Everything was from the Great Lakes region, and we all thought we were just cut from the same cloth. Well, you start going to dinner with some of these kids, and their table manners are totally different than yours. They look like uncultured savages the way they eat.
Now, they're just using forks and knives like everybody else, except it was just enough different from the way your family did things that you thought, “Man, what kind of people are these?” So, these family culture habits are really deep, and evaluation judgments just spring out of the mind when you encounter differences.
So, when we start looking at family habits, basically, when it comes to the gifted and talented kid, they might “buck” the system. Because they're looking at the world differently, and they wonder why, as a family, we do this crazy thing. And if they also start exploring their gift, like in my case I was a science geek, right? It could be a music geek; it could be a sculptor geek; it could be any of a number of things, but they're going to need some lattitude to form habits that map to their gift or talent.
So, if the family's not ready to make these shifts in these specific cases, there's going to be a lot of frictions that really don't need to be. The kid's not trying to be in your face about something he thinks is stupid. They're exploring their gift in their context that they understand the world, and the family habits are kind of just a barrier. Can you break those barriers down, or adjust them appropriately? So, this is the family habits issue when it comes to gifted and talented kids.
Erik Lenderman: That's great, that's great, and I appreciate what you said there about how when you went to college and suddenly discovered there was this diversity of different behaviors, and familial patterns, and cultures, and ways of doing things, that a gifted and talented kid, in many respects, shows up to your family, for example, and has their own diverse skill set, and brings to bear their own, unique behaviors that match those skill sets. So, if somebody's very cognitively inclined they may question everything that the family does. This is not to be adversarial. They simply are curious. As you said in the previous chapter, they are actually attempting to understand the culture around them, which is different.
Thomas Meylan Ph.D.: It's fairly innocent as a rule. Once they figure out some buttons to push, well, they might be button-pushing. I ain't saying that doesn't happen. I'm just saying, as a rule, the questions are coming from a very honest place.
Erik Lenderman: That's great, that's great. So, if you want to learn more about how do you prepare to raise a gifted and talented child in your family, and do so in a way that's smooth and cooperative for all members, click the link below and you'll see access to Tom's book. Get a copy. We're going to keep going through more of these chapters. So stick with us, and we're going to be back with more in just a moment.