The Path to Achievement

We realized pretty early that our daughter wasn’t going to be on the usual path to achievement.

Typical comments from around age five gave us our first clues:

“Mom, I think I should stay inside from recess and learn about geography.”

“Mom, I don’t have time to make new friends. I’m learning about calculus.”The path to achievement for gifted students

“Mom, what font is on that poster?” (asked in the middle of a kindergarten basketball game)

And when I saw how ballet classes went at age three I knew the visions of dance recitals, gymnastic meets, and all things athletic were never going to be reality.

We had her tested and when we got the results of the IQ tests, whoa. This kid has potential.

Potential is one heavy word. Potential means possibilities. Big possibilities. Maybe game changer possibilities. It’s like finding out your pee-wee football player has the same potential as Peyton Manning.  She is capable of so much and as a parent it’s my job to help her get there. No pressure.

How do you change all that raw potential into achievement? (By the way, this is not a rhetorical question. I’d appreciate hearing how other parents are addressing this issue.)

That’s the bugaboo. Having potential doesn’t count for much in the real world. There aren’t any jobs that ask for your IQ. There’s not an IQ box on a patent application. That IQ alone won’t get you into a college.

You need to demonstrate what you can do. What you have achieved. The IQ is the talk. The achievement is the walk. You have to walk the walk.

Lots of gifted kids, and not gifted kids, are passionate about a particular topic. Maybe it’s dinosaurs, space, weather patterns, or robotics.

But my kid is content to sit back and watch Gravity Falls or read Calvin & Hobbes. Recently it’s been watching M.A.S.H. reruns. She claims she’s learning about the Korean War. She also believes Frank Burns was under-appreciated. Obviously she still has much to learn about the Korean conflict and worthy sitcom characters.

She gets straight A’s and can rock a standardized test like nobody’s business. But she hasn’t found her “thing” yet.  She hasn’t found her passion which would, I believe, lead her to achievement on a new level for her.

She likes robotics and has taken several classes but when she had the opportunity for her own Mindstorms kit, she turned it down.

She’s a mathy girl, but getting her to the local math circle is sometimes more than I can deal with it.

At her first MathCounts competition she failed to finish all the questions, and she wasn’t concerned. Even with leaving problems unanswered she did well for her age and that’s good enough for her.

Just imagine what she could’ve achieved had she finished. Imagine what she could’ve achieved had she studied.

What Will Achievement Look Like?

When I have the achievement conversation with her school, they look incredulous. They think I’m a wee bit crazy. By their standards, she is a high achiever. But I know better. She’s phoning it in.

My current plan is twofold: continue to present opportunities that challenge her and to let go of my own ideas of what her achievement should look like. That’s a tough one but it’s getting easier to let go as she matures and finds her own voice. I have faith in the person she’s becoming.

She’s a cheetah but she’s not at full speed yet. She’ll get there.

No, I don’t know yet what achievement will look like for her – but I can’t wait to find out.


Visit Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop for more takes on achievement.

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13 Responses

  1. Great post about the challenge and pressure of raw potential. That waiting game – what will our children do with it? Will they use it in a way that is meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable for them? Will they “achieve” in some way at all? These are questions most parents think about, but parents of gifted children struggle even more. Thanks.

  2. That “p” word can weigh so heavily, can’t it? I know I struggle as a mama watching my 13yo phone it in and then sit for hours on end watching Minecraft tutorials and then playing the game. Sigh… maybe potential will be realized one day. Thanks for this. <3

  3. Your faith in her. So important!

  4. I love how positive and open you are to what is to come. That’s the best 🙂

    I also loved this bit because it’s SO true:

    “You need to demonstrate what you can do. What you have achieved. The IQ is the talk. The achievement is the walk. You have to walk the walk.”

  5. Welcome back!

    I forget, how old/what grade is your kid? And, TBH, I don’t think I really “achieved” anything of note or got a purpose until graduate school. Until then I followed the rules (getting as many As and high test scores as I could) and indulged in hobbies and tried stuff out.

    • The Common Mom says

      Thanks – it has been a while!

      My kiddo is 10yo/6th grade – and it’s going way too fast. I know lots of folks who didn’t achieve much in school but have certainly achieved in life.

      Thanks for stopping by, love your comments!

      • That’s where our son will be next year. I think it’s a bit early to make him specialize, if he ever does. He’s not into competition–even prefers cooperative board games. We do make him do challenging stuff as part of his chore load.

  6. I get the concern about the school not understanding. I think I’m the only parent that was alarmed when my triplets brought home straight A s on their first report card. I knew they weren’t challenged. Maybe finding another cheetah for her to race with will help her understand how fast she can run.

  7. waltherkate says

    Have you applied to Davidson? You’ll find list serves of parents with similar issues and they give great advice. It’s also helpful to learn about what other kids are doing and able to do so you have some idea what is appropriate. They also have free and low cost resources. I love your blog. You’re a great writer. Thanks for sharing materials.

    • The Common Mom says

      Thank you so much for the kind words – they made my day! My daughter is a Davidson Young Scholar and the resources and support there have been invaluable. I definitely recommend every parent of gifted child explore the Davidson website even if they don’t take part in the DYS program.

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