Athlete vs Intellect

A 10 year old boy has extraordinary skills in soccer. The boys coach suggests to the parents that their son has advanced skills and could use a higher level coaching to continue growing his skill set. Other parents have seen this boy play soccer and have also spoken to his abilities and there is no question that the boy is among the top local players in the game. The parents don’t think twice and seek out this path for their child.

Another 10 year old boy is home reading a physics book.  When the discussion of time travel comes up in class, the boy makes such a strong argument using facts he’s learned that he wins most of the class over.  But, there is no teacher to parent discussion that this boy has extraordinary knowledge about science and possibly could use more challenge.  Other parents wonder how and why the parents are pushing their kid to know so much.  The boy’s parents don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.

This is an exaggeration of a double standard so prevalent I recently caught myself falling for it.

I don’t have a TOP athlete by any means. But I do have a son who loves sports and has expressed wanting to learn more, be challenged more.  I did not hesitate to support him in a way that fit for our budget and time. I also haven’t felt judged for doing so.

On the other side, my other son is not an athlete but falls into the intellectual type.  He has a unique ability to have a lot of information about a lot of things. What makes that extraordinary is how he weaves it all together. His brain doesn’t compartmentalize information into subjects as much as it stores information in a vault and pulls from it with ease when warranted.

The above physics story is actually about him and (sometimes) instead of being celebrated, has cause problems. I once had an educator tell me that I shouldn’t be teaching him curriculum based topics because we are causing him to be bored in school.

Cool spin.

Newsflash, when your child learns to read independently at 3, you have little choice on how they choose their books at the library and learn.  He is almost the literal definition of self-directed learner. He wants to know it; he learns it on his own.  Seriously, I have no time for that people. (Bitter much still? yeah…)

Ok, so back to my point.

In the same week that I have my son doing extra skill class for his sport of choice, I have my older son telling me he wants to take an AP course as a freshman and I try to talk him out of it.


Partly because being a freshman is a huge adjustment upon itself. His course load will already be more than he’s ever experienced or managed. I also believe that I’ve been conditioned for so long by the education system to not have him do more than what the standard education can offer him.  And finally, high school counts.

While talking to my son about this, he says one thing that makes me realize how wrong I am.

“Mom, if there’s one subject I feel ready for, it’s this one” and he also adds on “Me taking this class is non-negotiable”

And you know what? He’s right. He is so right and I am so mad at myself for forgetting that he is his best advocate.

I’m also so proud of him. Proud for still having the fire, desire, and drive within himself to want more.

Do more.

Learn more.

Being a parent is supporting your children’s life and desires while your thoughts sit on the sideline.

And sometimes?

That’s a lesson they teach you.



What needs to happen before we shift away from helicopter parenting?

Helicopter parenting gets bad rap.  Comedians poke fun of it. Media reports the consequences of it, and educators dislike it a whole lot.

My goal has never been to be a helicopter parent. I can barely keep track of my own shoes and paperwork.  I also am fiercely independent as a person and it’s really not in my nature to hover over my kids in EVERY manner.

When my older son started having strong opinions about education, I empowered him at a young age to speak up. Own his education path.

The results of this have been mixed. At best, he spoke his mind. At worst, his soul was crushed.


You are the teacher.

A child of 7 years old comes to you and says they don’t like the books in your classroom.

And let’s be honest, that may be exactly how he says it, because he is 7.

“I don’t like any of these books in this class”

How do you respond as the teacher?  Think about it.

A   “Johnny, maybe we can spend a little time together trying to find something that works for you.”


B “Johnny that is silly. Look at all these books. I have 100’s in here! You can find something; you just need to try harder.”

One response supports the student with characteristics of self-direction and student led empowerment of educational needs.

But you know what our children encounter more often?


It’s not that we have not experienced A. It’s just that the number of times our children have come home with the B experience has taught us, trained us, that education as a whole is not ready for the opposite of helicopter parenting.


For parents to shift away from helicopter parenting we need to see our students being supported. This is not just with educational standards they need to learn, but emotional support.

B does not validate student’s feelings. B does not allow the child to feel secure in their educational opinions. What are the consequences of a child hearing the B situation over and over again? I can tell you from our experience but that is a different tangent and I’m feeling particularly focused today.

Children are often confronted with defensiveness when they challenge the system.  The message they hear is “I’m the teacher and this is the way it is”

That child learns to not express their needs and opinions.

There is no “Me” in education.

But there is “Notice”

I’m asking teachers to notice.

Notice that student who voices an opinion and asks more.

Hold your defensive response until you listen.

Why are they saying this? Where is it coming from?

Could the child be exposing a larger issue?

Seek to understand 1st.

As more and more educational institutions demand self-directed student empowered education, more and more parents are going to listen and make adjustments.

This will take time and the only way you’re going to encourage parents to change is to work with us and our students who are starting the shift.

Because believe it or not, we’re just too damn tired for helicopter parenting but will not let down advocating for our children faced with a lifetime of B’s.