Kids might be immensely great at something, but they’re never performing at a great adult level.
It's very important to realize that when kids are immensely great at something, such as playing the violin or they are particularly good at a sport, they’re never performing at a great adult level. They’re only sticking out for what other kids can do. The reason that’s really important to point out is that they’re great at a technical skill - and I’m not trying to take away from what they do because obviously it is amazing to watch - but it’s important to realize that for example when you look at Mozart, yes, he was performing for kings and queens when he was 5, 6 years-old, but his performances could not be compared to a great violinist of 25 or 30 years-old.
There is a large group of child prodigies who go on to a life of relative mediocrity.
There are so many misconceptions about child prodigies. Probably the more important misconception is that the people who are great as adults are also the ones who are the child prodigies.
The difference in personalities between people who get good at stuff or get great at stuff is the people who get great at stuff really find satisfaction in the constant pushing process.
People look at people we call geniuses, people who are at the very, very top of their field and think what do they have? They must have some kind of quality that all these other people don’t have and they must have been born with that because you can’t see what it is.
A parent who wants their child to be great at something, absolutely cannot put love out there as a reward.
A parent who wants their child to be great at something, absolutely cannot put love out there as a reward. It actually works in the short term. You can get a child to be really, really good and really, really motivated by saying, "I’m not going to show affection until you cross a certain skill level," but it’s a disaster emotionally for kids and it gets even worse as they grow up.
David Shenk is the national bestselling author of five previous books, including "The Forgetting," "Data Smog," and "The Immortal Game." He is a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com, and has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, NPR, and PBS. His new book, "The Genius in All of Us," will be published by Doubleday in March 2010.