Being smart is a gift. Your intellect helped you succeed in school, and you owe all of your professional accomplishments to your brilliant mind. You excel in everything you put your mind to, so parenting is no exception. Right? Maybe not. Having high intelligence can make you an incredible, competent parent in so many ways, but it can also create a host of parenting problems that others don't experience. These are 8 parenting problems smart people often have — or, as you may want to view it, 10 ways to potentially improve your parenting.
Recently, a close friend of mine received some troubling news at a third trimester OB-GYN appointment. Well, it wasn't meant to be troubling. To the average patient, her doctor's remarks may not have even registered. However, this friend had spent the 33 weeks of her pregnancy reading medical journal article after article about various pregnancy risk factors and complications. For her, everything was a red flag. She lamented to me, "Sometimes, I wish I were dumb. Knowing about every problem makes me worry about every problem." For the record, she and baby ended up being perfectly fine, but it got me thinking. What unique problems do super smart moms and dads really face?
1. No amount of reading can make parenting easy.
Many intelligent people are also self-described bookworms. If they've got questions, a book or article has answers. These are the same parents who inevitably treat pregnancy like a study session and childrearing like a final exam. Extensive research and meticulous note-taking have always been their keys to success, so why wouldn't it work for parenting?
While reading and preparing for a child can be extremely helpful, there is not a baby in the universe that goes "by the book." There is truly no manual for kids. This simple fact can send a smart parent reeling, and come as a major blow to their confidence. If a book can't solve all of my parenting problems, what can?
2. Too much knowledge can lead to overthinking and anxiety.
As my friend experienced firsthand, having too much knowledge about pregnancy and parenting can cause smart parents to stress about problems that don't even exist. A minor runny nose is suddenly that severe illness they'd just read about. Slightly delayed milestones can send them into a full-fledged panic. At every turn, there is a worst case scenario lingering in the back of their mind.
In an article for Scientific American, authors David Z. Hambrick and Madeline Marquardt illustrate how high intelligence can feed anxiety. "For example, a highly intelligent person may overanalyze a disapproving comment made by a boss, imagining negative outcomes that simply wouldn’t occur to someone less intelligent," they write. "That may trigger the body’s stress response, which may make the person even more anxious." Replace "boss" with "baby," and you've got a parenting predicament. While parental ignorance isn't actually bliss, a little bit of ignorance might be helpful for these brainiac parents.
3. "Going with the flow" is not always your strong suit.
While it isn't true for every smartie, many have personalities that could be classified as "Type A." Type A individuals are goal-oriented, competitive, and critical of themselves. Notably, according to Psychology Today, these people can, "quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television."
As all parents know, children don't always cooperate with a strict schedule. In fact, they might as well light your schedules and timelines on fire. Smarter parents may struggle with these departures from their perfectly-laid plans, and their lack of flexibility can cause unnecessary angst.
4. There is no room for perfectionism in parenting.
If you're used to being the best at everything, parenting will be a rude awakening. You may have graduated summa cum laude from an elite university and immediately started excelling at your dream job, but you'll need to ditch your perfectionist attitude when you're with your children.
That's not to say that you shouldn't aim to be the best parent you can possibly be, but sky high expectations and little room for error are a recipe for disaster. Not only will you inevitably fall short of your own expectations, your perfectionism can negatively impact your children, too. "Perfectionist parenting, however, sets a child up to believe that if he doesn’t achieve the highest standards, he’s a failure," explains Verywell Family. "Children of all ages need to be able to make mistakes without fear of major consequences, research shows, in order to learn."
5. Making personal decisions for your family can be difficult.
Every child, and every family, is unique. Decisions that work for one family may not be right for yours, and vice versa. As a parent, you'll constantly be making choices and decisions for your family's best interest, but highly intelligent parents may have trouble with this.
For nearly every parental debate, there is evidence supporting all sides — and smart parents can recite all of it. "Trying to stay up to date with the latest viewpoints and updates is akin to the human version of an information hamster wheel," explained Forbes. "You can run along it all day but never actually arrive anywhere. Rather, it’s up to you to decide when to stop." With so much information, and a natural parental desire to do everything "right," smart parents often struggle when it comes time to make and stick to a parenting decision.
6. You struggle with delegating responsibilities.
With high intelligence often comes an inclination to do everything yourself. Remember in college when the brightest member of the group did the lion's share of the group project? Smart people often have difficulty sharing the workload simply because they are more confident in their own abilities than the abilities of others.
Unfortunately for them, parenting truly takes a village... and refusing the help of the village will make life much harder. Intelligent parents need to remember that others are capable, and the sooner they're able to ask for and accept help, the easier life will be.
7. You may value intelligence and certain skills over relationships.
Many smart people constantly have a goal in mind. They are ambitious and eager to achieve. In parenting, these goals may be things like successful sleep training, potty training, or straight As on a child's report card. While it's good to pursue these things, intelligent parents may wind up prioritizing these successful "results" over other important values, like kindness, sharing, and resilience.
The Harvard Business Review explained, "Very smart people sometimes see their success as inevitable because of their intellect, and don’t see other skills as important." When this tendency carries over at home, smart parents can end up overemphasizing certain skills and traits while neglecting to help their child develop others.
8. You can be overconfident and unwilling to try new approaches.
Effective parenting is all about trial and error. Additionally, as kids grow and change, your parenting needs to adapt accordingly. The smarter you are, the more difficulty you may have trying new methods, taking advice or constructive criticism, and changing things up. "A particularly powerful bias affecting intelligent people is the confirmation bias (also called my side-bias), which can be described as a tendency for motivated reasoning," explains Psychology Today. "More specifically, it involves seeking supportive arguments for their own opinion and neglecting any criticism or counter-evidence." If you've already decided your way of parenting is the right way, you'll seek out information — and fellow parents — who agree with you.
There isn't a single parent on earth who doesn't make mistakes. In fact, there isn't a single parent on earth who doesn't make a mistake daily. The smartest parents are not immune. However, for every potential negative that accompanies high intelligence, there is a positive. And, as long as you are committed to being the best parent you can be for your child, there is no flaw you can't overcome.