Most gifted kids grow up to lead fulfilling lives

I KNOW of a few extremely gifted children who suffered from personality disorders or were unable to cope with the pressures of a mundane ordinary life, or subsequently became misfits within their own families and society. 

Yet, before we associate precocious giftedness with an innate unnatural psyche or a natural maladjustment tendency, we should note that almost all others mature and develop into brilliant and contributing members of society, living fulfilling lives ("Emotional support vital for gifted kids to succeed" by Mr Frankie Mao;  Thursday, and "Gifted children, a mother's  heartache" by Dr Lee Siew Peng; Wednesday).

Perhaps, 30 years ago, Dr Lee would have been right in lamenting that the Singapore system was fixated solely on the academically gifted.

The current system is not perfect, but recognition and support of the aesthetic and humanities have improved.

Perhaps, true genius is associated with other psychological idiosyncrasies, although that is not a given.

Albert Einstein, other than being regarded as a little dull, was entirely well adjusted, as were other Nobel Prize winners. My daughter entered the Gifted Education Programme almost 30 years ago, and almost the entire cohort did well academically and are managing their lives and careers well.

If the educational system  had not pointed out to me that my child was somewhat a little better in psychological and analytical tests at Primary 3, I would not have known it.

Having been so  illumined, I just carried out the simple duties of a father and brought her up in the same Confucian way my father brought me up.

We worked hard and we played hard; when my daughter asked questions, I answered honestly or directed her to other better sources.

When she was upset, her mother was always on hand, and  when she was overly rambunctious, I silenced her with a gruff "harrumph".

When she veered off the straight and narrow, a firm tug of the ears yanked her back to the righteous path.

This was exactly how my other "non-gifted" child was treated too. After 20 years, there is no discernible difference in their achievements and all the extra As the one or the other had are inconsequential footnotes in history.  They are the best of friends.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'Most gifted kids grow up to lead fulfilling lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe