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St. Louis County where all of the children are not only above average, but exceptional (not) so what does the parent of an ordinary child do




Based on an article written by Mary Fitzgibbons, Ph.D.



In a recent article in TIME magazine, the author makes the point that today the goal or many parents is to have exceptional children. Today’s parents often expect that all of their children will be accepted to universities that admit only 9% of applicants. The author of this article believes that today’s parents give their children a delusional sense that they will become top 1% top achievers. Obviously, this is impossible. Consider the sense of dejection and hopelessness when these children realize that they are not the exceptional people they were brought up to think they are.


It is Dr. Fitzgibbons’ belief that many parents are mistakenly raising their children valuing them for what they can become rather for who they really are. Parents create a world for their children where they are the center of the universe and, as long as children are continuously told they are the best, they believe themselves to be the best. But that just isn’t true. In most instances, the motivation for these children comes from others telling them what they should be and can be. It does not come from an inner sense of well-being that creates internal motivation that says, “I want to do well because it feels good to do well.” For the child who is raised to be exceptional It is not about the drive that \comes from an inner sense of wanting to do what the child thinks think is important for him or her. Rather, it is about what the child believes parents want for them.


The other type of children Dr. Fitzgibbons has spent a good amount of her time therapeutically with, is the low achiever. This child doesn’t believe in him or herself and neither do most of the adults in their world. Again, there is the lack of internal motivation. The mantra is, “I would rather not try than try and fail.” Often, they are too well acquainted with failure. Their parents cajole them, bribe them and if that doesn’t work,  punish them. Dr. Fitzgibbons believes, based on her clinical experience, that there can be a short-term positive effect from punishment of poor academic performance, but it does not last. Her experience is that it is appropriate to address the high achiever and the low achiever the same way. Parents must first value a child for who they are and not for the person they think the child can be. Parents need to teach their children to value themselves for who they are and not for what others expect them to be.


Parents should help children find their passions and gifts by allowing them to explore their feelings. What do they like, what do they dislike?  Allow them to talk about their honest wants and needs. Ask questions like “What is important to you? What do you want for yourself? How are you going to get there?” the parent’s role is to ask the questions – not to solve the problem, In today’s world,, the good parent should aim to help their child make the right decisions for them: choosing the right course work, keeping the right friends and achieving at their best, whether or not that id that n that platinum 1% level. However, in the long run, these are not our decisions. These decisions should be made by children knowing they are and what they want. The parent’s job is to help their children find these answers.





Mary Fitzgibbons, PhD is a licensed psychologist and has been the Director of West County Psychological Associates since 1986. Dr. Fitzgibbons created Comprehensive School Services, which provides consulting services and counseling to administrators, staff, students and parents. She has worked extensively with many public and private school systems in regard to dysfunctional families and at-risk children.

She provides emotionally-focused psychotherapy to youth, adults, and families.