DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter from "A Teacher Who Cares About the Future." I was saddened when I read your comment that "extremely bright children may act out because they are bored."
Our society has reached a sad state when it excuses unacceptable behavior on the premise that it's OK because of the so-called "brilliance" of the offending child. If a child is truly brilliant, he or she can learn to set limits, learn constructive things to do with his or her time, and continue to excel at his or her own rate without disturbing other children.
My children range in age from 15 to 26. All have been considered "extremely bright" by their teachers. One tested brighter than any child ever tested by our school psychologist during academically talented testing in our school district. Was she ever bored? Yes, often. Did she ever long for more challenges? I'm sure she did. Did she ever, ever once act out in school? Never!
Instead of acting out when she was little, she took extra books and projects to do in her spare time. A wise principal once told me to put her in dance and music classes -- and anything else in which she seemed interested. He said she needed to excel in many areas, or she could become bored in a few. I also volunteered regularly in her classrooms to give the teacher time to spend with other children on both ends of the academic spectrum.
Abby, limits need to be set and children need to be held to them. I am eternally grateful to the teachers who challenged each of my children to be the best that they could be. It has paid off handsomely.
Parents: Stop blaming the schools and look in the mirror! -- HAPPY MOM IN LAS VEGAS
DEAR HAPPY MOM: While I agree with much of your thinking, the statement that extremely bright children may act out because they are bored was made to me by an early childhood learning specialist whom I trust.
It is essential that physical problems be ruled out as a cause of misbehavior. Mature children have the ability to entertain themselves and to use their time constructively. Children with learning disabilities or ADHD may not. However, this does not relieve parents from the responsibility of teaching their children respect for authority and what is -- and is not -- appropriate behavior. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I applaud the advice from both you and the "Teacher Who Cares." I have been a schoolteacher and a principal. Children need to be taught respect for adults and authority. They need to accept the word "no." You would be shocked at how often students (even those in the primary levels) make disrespectful and rude remarks to teachers. You would also be surprised how these students -- and their parents -- react to discipline. They do not approve of it.
Yes, it is hard to say "no" to a child you love dearly. But not saying "no" creates a monster who ends up damaging him or herself and others. -- ANOTHER EDUCATOR WHO CARES ABOUT THE FUTURE
DEAR EDUCATOR: Failure to teach children limits and appropriate behavior is a form of neglect that can handicap their educational and social development. Furthermore, children cannot be expected to know what their parents haven't taught them, and they mirror the attitudes of the adults after whom they model themselves. The child of parents who feel that rules do not apply to them will, predictably, be disruptive in the classroom and disrespectful of the rights of others -- hardly a recipe for success.