My daughter is one of those kids many would label a "nerd." Of course, this doesn't surprise me in the least; both me and her father considered "nerds," too. We consider this a blessing though, as she actually likes learning. I mean, it's not every day you find a kid (or an adult) who considers learning to be "fun." I honestly think that's why smart kids, or kids who love to learn are, sadly, are treated a little differently. There are some things people say to smart kids that are actually shaming, as our society has arbitrarily decided that being smart falls second to being athletic or looking a particular way or, well, you get the idea.
My daughter is one of those kids who has to constantly be busy. She'll usually sit and play with one toy for about five, maybe ten minutes, and then want to switch to a new toy and I can't help but think her need to constantly be busy and engaging and learning is a trait she has picked up by watching me go to school and be a mom and tend to a household. She's all about her books and interactive toys that teach colors and letters and numbers and shapes and she's picking it all up at rapid speed because, for her, learning is playing. She's passing milestones early and while it's impossible for me to not be immensely proud, it also makes me acutely aware that not everyone thinks my daughter's affection for learning is "healthy" or "normal."
While it's sometimes difficult to differentiate people's intentions (i.e. if what they're saying is meant to be a joke or to be taken seriously), things certain family members and friends say to my daughter, or me, actually shames how smart she is. Usually, I'm at a loss when these comments are made in my daughter's direction. If a child is curious and has a strong desire to learn and grown intellectually, why in the world would we shame or tease or do anything other than facilitate that desire? So, with that in mind, here are 11 things people say to smart kids that are actually shaming, because learning that being "smart," is somehow a bad or "funny" thing, can easily be unlearned, too.
"Aww, They're Such A Little Book Worm"
When the term "book worm" is being thrown around, it's usually attached to some kind of negative connotation, like someone who's a "book worm" is lacking certain social skills. Yeah, no.
"I Bet They Spend All Their Time In The Library, Huh?"
First off, what in the world is wrong with spending all of your time in a library? I mean, they're pretty freakin' awesome and smell amazing and there are tons of books in them. That's heaven, you guys. Secondly, again, this has a negative connotation, like your kid doesn't interact with other children or doesn't run and play and isn't active.
"Shouldn't They Go Outside And Play?"
How my kid decides to spend her time is definitely no one's business, but it's worth mentioning that just because my kid has a book in her hand, doesn't mean she doesn't also go outside and run and play and get dirty, just like any other kid. Having one interest doesn't keep a kid from having many others, people.
"I Bet They're Excited To Go Back To School"
YUP. I, personally, want to instill a sense of excitement in my kid when it's time to go to school. I know it's traditionally "cool" to hate school, but if I can get my kid to be excited about learning in a classroom and exploring textbooks and science projects, I will give myself a solid pat on the back.
"Aww, You're Raising A Little Nerd!"
Personally, I think being a nerd is a good thing. Thankfully, that word is evolving into something people not only mind being called, but actually (and proudly) call themselves. Still, some people still think being a "nerd" is a bad thing, and when they call my daughter that it's difficult not to get defensive.
"They Should Be Focusing On Having Fun, Not Learning. They Have Their Whole Life To Learn!"
Who's to say that learning can't be fun? According to the National Academic Press, everyone learns differently based on age (as well as a few other factors) and studies have proven that children under the age of about five learn differently than the rest of us, who have (probably) learned in a traditional classroom and structured setting. Most children learn through experience, observation, and play. So really, by telling a child to go have fun, you are also encouraging them to go out and learn.
"I Bet They Want To Be A Doctor When They Grow Up, Huh?"
A lot of studying and an interest in learning and being smart does not mean that you're pigeonholed into a specific profession. Most importantly, we probably shouldn't be telling children what they should or shouldn't end up doing with their lives. My kid may want to be an astronaut today, and an actor tomorrow. I'm more than happy to let her learn and grow and figure out exactly who she wants to be and what she wants to do, on her own, thanks.
"How Can They Possibly Enjoy Just Sitting And Reading? Aren't Kids Supposed To Be Running Around?"
Everyone has their own preferences. Just because you don't enjoy something or don't understand something, doesn't mean it's "bad" or "wrong" or anything someone else shouldn't enjoy doing.
"What A Little Know-It-All"
Well, if my kid knows it all I highly encourage her to use that knowledge whenever necessary. Of course, I don't want my kid to be talking down to people or being exclusive or calling others "dumb" for not knowing something she believes she knows, but if she is exercising what she's learned, I am one proud mama.
"Well, I Bet They're A Little Bossy, Huh?"
This one is particularly hard for me to stomach, because I have a daughter. While boys are allowed to be smart and, in turn, assert their knowledge confidently, girls (and women) who do the same are labeled as "bossy." No, my child is smart and confident and, yes, she will one day probably be the boss. That isn't a bad thing, so please don't talk to her like her using her voice and her knowledge is anything other than fantastic.