The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, November 03, 2006

The secret of success: be yourself.

Many people wonder how to achieve success. The answer is always simpler than they are willing to admit. Simply be yourself. By this I mean don't imitate others. Many people believe that by copying great people they can themselves become great. This is not true. They will become, at best, a derivative copy of the other person without the ability to generate new ideas. It is like those people who copy the fashion of a famous person: they look like them, walk like them, talk like them...but does this make them into someone as great as the famous person? No. It doesn' makes them into an imitator, someone with no voice of their own.

I believe that greatness is in our genes. It is there, or it isn't...just like every other characteristic a human bears through life: the seeds and limits are set in our genes.

If you feel that you must imitate others, ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" I suggest you do so, because by imitating another person, you will never become like that other person in true form, you will only ever gather superficial characteristics about yourself. You will also lose any hope of originality. Those who copy don't have any self - or don't know who they are.

Imitation is the recourse of someone who has nothing to say - or who doesn't know how to speak for themselves. It adds nothing new to the world, but takes something away from it.

If you are yourself, there is a chance that you will do something interesting. If you imitate, there is no chance that you ever will.

What relevance does this have to parenting and gifted children? Well, a lot. Some highly competitive parents busy themselves with finding out what other parents are doing to raise their children - and copying what they are doing. Will this add uniqueness to their kids? No. It will help make their kids less individual, and less interesting. All these kids end up doing the same things.

Then there is the tendency to emulate the interests and abilities of other children. If they hear of a child who is musically gifted, they find out what the child is doing - say, playing the piano - and at once start their child on piano lessons. They find out that a gifed child is adept at they hire a maths tutor for their poor kid. They find out that another kid is playing golf expertly at they at once take their gifted child to the golf course etc.

What is happening in all of these cases? The child is not being consulted. The individuality of the child is not being respected. Some children are born to be artists and will naturally draw at a young age. Others are born to be mathematicians and will count early and so on. Some are born to be scientists, like my son Ainan Celeste Cawley - and will naturally reveal an instinctive understanding of scientific reasoning at an early age. However, NO child can be made to be so. If your child is not a particular kind of child, attempting to force the interests/abilities of another type of child onto them will only ever do harm. The gifted child will become stressed, pressured, bored - or may comply out of a wish to do what the parents want - but have no joy in their heart. In the long term, this will produce very poor results and may irreparably harm the relationship with the child - and the mental development of that child.

I know of a Chinese pianist, whose mother had wanted to be a classical concert pianist. She didn't succeed in her ambition. So what did she do? She forced her son, as a child, to practise the piano, playing classical music, eight hours a day. The gifted child resented every moment of it and came to hate his mother, his childhood and classical music. He is now a young adult. Is he a concert pianist? No. Does he have a love of classical music? No. He hates classical music and will neither play it, nor listen to it. He can still play the piano, but when he plays the music is contemporary with none of the character of the classical music, he was forced to play. Does he have a good relationship with his mother? He rarely sees her. She lives in China. He lives in Singapore. So what happened here? The mother failed to create a concert pianist. Failed to instil a love of classical music. She destroyed her son's childhood. She created a powerful resentment in him for what she did to him. So, in effect, she lost her son, too. All this because she wanted her son to live her desired life. All this because the mother wanted her son to do what she thought a classical concert pianist should do, as a child. The mother knew of the practise regimes of concert pianists and forced her son to imitate them. Why did it fail? Because the wish to do that regime did not come from within him: it was not his deep desire to do so - it came from outside. It was forced upon him. By being forced upon him, there was no way it could ever succeed, for it was not supported by his own inner desires, abilities and interests.

Only the child can know what the child wants to become. Getting the child to imitate others will only create a variation on the life story above. If the child wants to read, the child will read. If the child wants to count, the child will count. If the child wants to sing, the child will sing. If the child wants to draw, the child will draw. If the child wants to do science, the child will do science. However, if the wish to do these things does not come from within the child, I believe from the evidence I have seen in the lives of others, and in my own studies, that only harm can come of it.

Be yourself, therefore, and let your child, gifted or not, be themselves: whatever that self maybe. The best result is the one that they want for themselves: not the one you want for them. Let them be that, then. That is true success.

(For posts on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:09 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. That was a very nice piece. :) Refreshing.

- Kathy

4:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks. The advice above is the best for parenting...but may be hard for some people to follow much of the time. A good read and think about what I have written would be of help to those in that situation.

Thanks for your feedback, Kathy.

Best wishes

5:09 PM  

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