Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


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Why Do Child Prodigies Fizzle Out?

Instead of giving direct answers, David Shenk implied his answers and I'm not satisfied with them anyway. My answer: they fizzle mostly because of the way their parents or custodians handle them. Give them just one big puzzling life problem then watch them fizzle out. Cumulative small problems will surely do that too

'...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.

'It couldn’t be then and it certainly couldn’t be now. Another point to make is that with the Suzuki method and other methods now there are many, many, many performers now who are performing at that age, 5 and 6 years-old, 7 years-old as good or better than what Mozart did when he was a kid...'

  • Jan 3 2014: The heart of the issue is that child prodigies simply develop sooner, not necessarily better.

    Compare a child prodigy with an intelligent person that developed at normal speed, and what you get is that the prodigy outclasses then at age 10, but by the time they're both 20, most of that gap is gone. The prodigy would have had a few extra years of experience, but that's about it. Most of them end up as talented, albeit not extraordinary members of their field--like most intelligent people. The prodigies just got there sooner, is all.

    In short, ceiling of ability is often more important then how early you get to it.
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      Jan 3 2014: Most child prodigies of the Chess world are or were great world
      record holders, e.g., Robert Fischer, Gari Kasparov, etc... But I agree that
      ceiling of ability is often more important than how early you get to it.
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    Jan 12 2014: Poch,
    Child prodigies might fizzle out because at a very young age, they are participating in a very competitive "adult" world, sometimes with parents pushing them, sometimes with managers and promoters pushing them, sometimes everyone around them pushing them to achieve. And sometimes, their love of what they are doing causes them to miss the childhood stage of life.

    I remember years ago hearing an interview with Dorothy Hamill, Olympian and world champion figure skater. She said she didn't have a childhood because when the other kids were going to sport events, parties, dances, etc., she was at the arena skating. She said she never even had time to get a drivers license when she was busy practicing and competing.

    Children and young adults may be so dedicated, like she was, that they can make it through the pressure....some not so much. When you think of the focus one needs to reach that level, it is no wonder that more kids don't "fizzle out"!
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      Jan 12 2014: There are so many entertainment stars--singers and actors--whose lives are ruined
      or eventually ruined because they were 'forced' to miss childhood. That is why parents are
      always advised to balance play and work among their children. But it's one of the eternal
      problems of life. We can only wish that those children don't fizzle out or crack up.
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    Jan 24 2014: BURN-OUT! Doing difficult things too much too soon. A child prodigy is like a three-year old car with 300,000 miles in its odometer.

    Have you seen on TV what some of our young, famous, and successful superstars are doing lately?
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      Jan 24 2014: Probably the primary reason Rodrigo. And burnouts happen because they were 'forced' to miss childhood
      and train full speed for something for fame. There are so many entertainment stars--
      singers and actors--whose lives are ruined or eventually ruined because they were 'forced' to miss childhood.
  • Jan 12 2014: I think many child prodigies make a conscious decision to do what they want after doing so many years following the plans of others. Let me give you an example: Young man shows great promise, graduates from Med school in his early 20's. He does research in pediatrics and teaches pediatrics at Stanford. One day he stops and decides he wants to setup a practice and treat people in the middle of nowhere. Last I heard he was happy and his patient were very happy he moved there. Was he a success? In my mind, yes. Maybe not the success people expected.
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      Jan 12 2014: Ahh yes Wayne. Most people associate success with wealth, not with
      a person's happiness. I have a relative who values people with the amount of money they earn.
      That backfired on him when his good finances became tight. He became grumpy and depressed.