Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Handicapping your kids with poor social skills

I just came across an interesting story about a man named Chris Langan - an off-the-chart genius.  He has an IQ of 197 (Einstein's was estimated around 160) and aced his SAT exam, even though he fell asleep half way through and woke up in time to finish with a perfect score.  He was speaking at 6 months old and taught himself to read at 3.  He barely showed up for high school classes, just for the tests which he would breeze through effortlessly.  In his first year of college, his enthusiastic love of calculus was frustrated by his humiliated professor, who understood much less than his teenage student.  This guy is so smart, he makes the rest of us look severely retarded.

Chris grew up in a very abusive, poverty stricken home.  He has all the brains to become the next Einstein, and find his place among the highest echelons of scientists and professors in the world, but Chris never made it even close.  Why? One reason that has been suggested is that his past somehow handicapped him in an area just as crucial as academic intelligence: lack of social skills.

It sounds too simplistic, but being unable to relate to others in a way that motivates them care for and help you, can actually speak louder than intelligence.  It makes no sense that a college with a genius for a student, wouldn't bend over backwards to find a way to keep him enrolled, and aid him to become the great academic that he was meant to be.  It seems he found ways to alienate himself, and people who should have been thrilled with him, turned their backs on him.  The smartest man in the world ended up as a construction worker, a farm hand, a deck hand on a clam boat, and even a bouncer at a bar.

Social skills aren't taught at school; they are shown by example through the people we grow up with.  Society expects us to be reasonable and considerate, but there are finer-tuned skills that can determine whether someone really does well in winning the trust of others, or, in subtle and unexplainable ways, puts people off.  This can mean a world of difference in who gets chosen for a job, gets accepted into a program, or a college, is accepted into an inner circle of friends or in a company and so on.

It's those who know how to put others at ease, who can convey sincerity and trustworthiness, who can explain their ideas and thoughts clearly and intelligently without being offensive or rude, who know how to be funny, serious, sensitive, and bold all at the right times, these are generally the kind of people that have the skills to go far in this world.  Put that together with a good amount of smarts - not genius, just smarts - and you have the basic ingredients for a successful life.

So what does this have to do with our kids?  And how do we handicap them?  It all starts in the kind of homes we have, they way we interact with them, and the activities we encourage them to enjoy on a regular basis.

Even if you live in low income housing, send them to sub-par schools, work long hours as a single parent, and are too exhausted to do much at the end of the day, there is still much you can do to either equip your children with skills for their future - or paralyze them.  It all begins with understanding one of the basic needs of your children.

What is that basic need?  Read more in the next post, coming soon....