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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Raising Young Sheldon -- or anti-Sheldon

Young Sheldon, which finished its seven-year run last month, shows the challenges of “parenting a very bright child,” writes Jonathan Plucker in Education Next. A Johns Hopkins education professor, he is past president of the National Association for Gifted Children.

In the first season of the Big Bang Theory spin-off, nine-year-old Sheldon starts high school in Texas. His parents, a football coach and a homemaker, worry if he can make friends and be safe, writes Plucker. Later, they struggle with "the decision to graduate high school early, start college early, and go overseas for a summer physics program." At times, they're overprotective. Sheldon's parents turn down a free ride at CalTech to send him to the fictional East Texas Tech. "Parenting a highly precocious child is rarely easy, and the show does a good job noting the many frustrations."

Alina Adams, who writes, watched the show for tips on what not to do.

She and her husband, who has a nuclear engineering degree from MIT, watched The Big Bang Theory when it premiered in 2007, but quit when the humor turned nasty. At the time, their second son was four years old. (Sample conversation: Him: Can’t come out of the bath. Working on surface tension and light refraction. Me: You mean splashing?)

Ten years later, when they began watching Young Sheldon, that son was 14 and eager to go directly to college. But City University of New York, which would have been affordable and let him live at home, won’t let applicants take the placement test without a high school diploma.

He got into Simon’s Rock, a Bard-affiliated early college in Massachusetts, but it would have cost "four times what we were paying for our oldest to attend an Ivy League university." They were tempted to borrow the money. Then Adams thought of Young Sheldon's mother, Mary.

What stopped me from giving in to my son over early college was watching Mary perennially giving in to Sheldon — and the entitled, self-absorbed monster that turned him into. One who didn’t even notice the sacrifices other people were making for him, because he simply accepted it as his rightful due.

Like his father and older brother, her son attended Stuyvesant, New York City's top public school. After a year, he wanted to drop out. "The last thing I wanted was a boy who, like young Sheldon, thinks he’s smarter than everyone around him and that this gives him license to belittle them," Adams writes. She said "no," until the school went virtual in his sophomore year. A Zoom school drop out, her son homeschooled himself.

He got into Caltech, like Young Sheldon, but chose to go elsewhere.

Some people are smarter than others. Some are saner than others, nicer than others and so on. My advice to parents: Don't raise a brat. Nobody likes brats.

High intelligence doesn't guarantee success in life, writes David Brooks in the New York Times. But it helps. In fact, people with a very, very high IQ do better than those who are only very high, research shows.

A lot of factors decide who becomes "eminent" in their field -- Sheldon Cooper won the Nobel Prize in Physics! -- and who is a high-IQ also-ran, writes Brooks. (Yes, this seems very obvious.)

I was an "overachiever" -- not a genius -- according to my fifth-grade teacher. But, I found school painfully boring until ninth grade, when tracking kicked in. Teachers pretended not to notice I was reading books under my desk during class.

There was no "gifted" education in those days. My first husband designed an atom bomb for his fifth-grade science fair. Nobody called the FBI. "I didn't build a model," he said. He said that many people in his childhood wanted to "take me down a peg. But I liked my peg."


Unknown member
Jun 20

 I read an article that criticizes the practice of parent coaching for science fair projects, it brings to mind similar pieces run 3


Jun 16

This article reminds me of the articles that complain about parent coaching when it comes to science fair projects. No one assumes that children can natural figure out who to throw sliders or kick field goals or swim the butterfly. So parents invest a tremendous amount of resources in athletic coaching, practice, and competition for their children. Yet, people want to assume that one can to quantum mechanics, non-parametric statistics, chemical process control, or monte carlo modeling on one's own with no coaching and no encouragement. In addition, to claim one is being a bad parent by encouraging achievement in academics makes no sense to the effort parents put in on athletics, music, actint, and art.

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