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Why I'm Glad My Kids Aren't Child Prodigies

kieron williamsonJackie Evancho, the 10-year-old opera singer, not only blew away the judges on “America’s Got Talent” earlier this week. But she also earned a standing ovation from the audience. It was clear that a star was born.

8 year old art prodigy Kieron Williamson is already taking the art world by storm and has been dubbed the “mini Monet,” because of his sophisticated paintings. His most recent art exhibition sold out in a half hour — and raked in nearly a quarter million dollars.

Am I jealous? Do I wish my kids could garner such acclaim and attention – not to mention the big bucks? Not at all. In fact, I’m relieved my girls aren’t prodigies, thank you very much.

Why? For various reasons. Growing up in a comfortable environment where they are encouraged to express themselves, I fear they are already developing a sense of entitlement. I can’t imagine how much of an attitude they would get if they suddenly had camera crews trailing them making them feel super-special.

Also, I want them to experience a simple childhood – without feeling self-conscious that they’ll be misquoted or recognized on the street.

Most of all, I fear that things generally don’t end well for prodigies — they get a lot of attention for their youthful talent, but once they grow up, the public loses interest or they burn out. There’s so much pressure on them to succeed, that in some cases, they never live up to expectations.

Just think of tennis player Tracy Austin who, in 1977 at the age of 14, became the youngest player ever to enter Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Six years later, due to injuries and exhaustion, she retired at the age of 20.

Then there’s Tatum O’Neal who became the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award in 1973 when, at 10, she was awarded Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “Paper Moon.” She never came close to achieving that success again.

Williamson’s parents are clearly concerned about the pressure on their son, who now has a website and a business card, according to The Associated Press. Strangers ask him for his autograph. Journalists clamor for an interview.

Kieron’s parents, Keith and Michelle Williamson, have said they are a bit uneasy about all of the attention being showered on their son.

It’s not a natural thing to want to put your kid in the media spotlight,” Michelle told AP. But “when your child has got such a gift and a talent, you have to support him.”

If your child had an amazing talent, would you want to share it to the world or keep it under wraps before they were old enough to handle the attention?

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