About a Boy

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Of course, many possible topics exist after the events of this week, but I want to ask readers for a parenting tip. This is a great chance for you to help my family.

My son is eight. He’s a very smart boy with an enormous vocabulary. He reads at the grade level of kids nearly twice his age. His math skills are way above his peers. He reasons differently than most peers, too. Think “little professor” and you get the idea.

Other children notice this. He often gets labeled “Brain.” Boys his age treat him differently. He winds up in a group of one when other kids play. He’s an only child, which only compounds the issue.

We put him in public school to try to alleviate some of this problem, and it has helped from a socialization standpoint. He’s much better at being part of a group.

Still, he’s the odd man out in too many activities. Sadly, this is even evident at church. Other children simply do not include him in their groups. Often, they purposefully exclude him. Our son has no problem interacting with other children, though. He’s not shy at all and approaches peers easily.

My wife is concerned that our son doesn’t have friends. It’s sad for both of us to see him left out, eventually drifting off to do his own thing or attempting to remain part of the group when others don’t want him to be. We’re also concerned that the rare, spontaneous groups that do allow him to join are often comprised of maladjusted boys who look for trouble.

Anyone out there have advice on what we can do to help our son make solid friendships?

48 thoughts on “About a Boy

  1. Dan,
    I have been a reader for only a few weeks and really enjoy visiting this site. Your post was touching. I have 4 children myself, 2 teen girls and 2 little boys. I wish that i had some great advice for you, perhaps someone here will. The only thing that I can say is try not to focus on the group thing so much. Some kids (and adults too) only need one or two close friends. Is there a friend he could invite over to his house in order to cultivate a friendship? I sure hope you get some good responses.
    Diana

    • Thanks for contributing and for being a new reader, Diana.

      Our son does have one good friend, but he’s three years older and I know that things will change once that boy becomes a teenager and hanging around “little kids” will not be deemed “cool.”

  2. Dan,

    I was in the same boat when I was younger. In 1st grade I was reading from 6th grade books. I was accelerated from 1st to 3rd grades, and did have trouble making friends. I was the odd kid out because I was the smartest kid in my old class, and the smartest kid in my new class. It’s tough being labeled the smart kid. I did spend a lot of my time alone, and developed into something of an introvert because of that.

    I didn’t really have any good friends until I was in junior high and high school. Even then, as I started getting more serious about my faith, I ended up putting more distance between my peers and myself. I do have to add though, that my school was pretty small. My graduating class only had 27 kids in it.

    This is easy for me to say, but I really wouldn’t worry about it that much. How many of your grade school/high school friends do you still hang around with? The best friends I made were in college, where the playing field seemed to even out. I didn’t have the baggage of being the smart kid there.

    Just my $0.02. Good luck.

    • Clay,

      Our son is quite social, an extrovert who has no trouble interacting with people of all ages, so it’s a bit strange that we find ourselves in this position.

      I’m not as worried about him maintaining friendships forever, only that he not be left so alone.

  3. “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lamentations 3:24-32 KJV).

    Every young person should be taught this Scripture. It explains the social ostracism up to and including physical persecution of everyone who will live a godly life (2 Timothy 3:12). The young naturally and especially abhor this persecution, but they must face it if they want to live a godly life.

    If possible, find other smart children who will be friends with your son. Get him involved in activities, too, requiring smarts as well as physical activity. If he ends up being a loner, anyway, then he would do well to learn outdoorsmanship, auto mechanics, carpentry, and other skills that too many children are too busy to learn…because they are too busy with their other friends.

    Let him make friends with children younger than he is. Many younger children love having people smarter than they are around, as long as the smart are not obnoxious.

  4. Joseph

    So, I feel like I can relate to your son.

    I’m relatively intelligent (I go to an Ivy League college) but was very awkward growing up. (Doctors thought I had autism until I was seven, then they realized I actually had a gluten sensitivity. I was basically a complete nerd until about three years ago. Not that your son is autistic or nerdy, but I was often excluded.)

    Growing up (and even now), I’ve found that I can get along much better with people who are a few years older than I am. This works especially well at church, where there is more fluidity among the grade levels. (At least, this was true in my church.)

    The best thing for me was to get involved in activities. Things like chorus, musicals, and sports were a great way to get to know a lot of different people. (Especially sports. Maintaining an adequate knowledge about current sports events and caring about sports is the only way I can converse with almost half of men my age. And if he doesn’t like playing sports, maybe he’d like the mathematical and statistical side of baseball or something like that.)

    When it comes to the kids at church, I also think talking to the parents or the children could help.

    I still feel like friendships are something I have to work at – they don’t come naturally to me as they do to other people. I could be pretty content reading books and playing video games all day, but that wouldn’t be healthy (or righteous). Just being nice and selfless to other people is one of the best ways I’ve found to be a good friend – and it’s a way that doesn’t depend on your social skills at all.

    • Joseph,

      Our son is somewhat nerdy if for no other reason than that his tastes are more adult than a lot of kids his age. He talks about adult subjects and likes what a lot of adults like. He’s been ridiculed by kids who aren’t as broadminded as he is. We’ve had considerable problems about his diet, since he eats a well-balanced, adult diet and not macaroni and cheese with chicken nuggets. I never thought kids would taunt another child over the fact that he likes his pizza with more than just cheese on it, but there you go.

  5. Joanie

    Hi…I’ve enjoyed your site for several months but never felt like I could add much of anything to the conversation…so this is my first comment.

    This topic is one that hits home for our family. We have 4 kids. Two of them are completely at ease in any social setting and have a natural and amazing knack of attracting friends (a knack they most definitely didn’t inherit from their mother…heh!).

    The other two kids…well…the oldest, our son who is now in college, was probably a lot like your son at that age. In social situations, he naturally gravitated toward visiting with whatever adult was around, if he could. When he outgrew his childhood oblivion (that mercifully protected him from realizing that the other kids probably thought he was something of a “nerd”), it was painful to watch him face rejection, particularly in the middle school years!

    But then, around the age of 14, he found his niche. Praise God. For him, this niche was music. He began playing the bass guitar and turned out to have quite a natural talent. Soon he was playing in the youth praise band at church, where he found enough buddies that he never again lacked for people to hang out with.

    He’s now got so many friends on facebook that I just sit back and marvel sometimes. No doubt a lot of that has to do with how he has hit his stride as a young adult who continues to grow in Godliness. But we trace at least part of his ease and self-confidence back to our decision to buy him that first guitar. If your son can find his own niche – something he does well, with confidence – it will open all kinds of doors for him and help him to cross paths with others who share his interests.

    One of our other children – ten years younger than her brother – sounds almost exactly like she could be a female version of your son. We’re doing our best to equip her in the same way, although it seems to be more difficult for girls than for boys. As Diana said above, we’ve been trying to teach her that she doesn’t need to be “popular” – and that if she just has one friend whom she can talk to, she can actually be less lonely than others who are always surrounded by crowds.

    I’m sorry this first comment is so long-winded, but your post struck a chord with me. I guess I know from experience, both past and present, how gut-wrenching it can be to watch a child experience unwanted solitude. But I also know that God has amazing ways of bringing friends together. I’m trusting that He will do this for my daughter, and He will do it for your son!

    • Joanie,

      Thanks for “de-cloaking” and offering your input. I appreciate it.

      I’ve worked in ministry positions with kids for many years, so I thought I knew it all, but my own son seems to break a lot of my preconceptions, so…

      We know that he will probably be an engineer, since he likes construction toys. He has that temperament, too. He really likes experimental science, too, but that’s a tough subject to try to do well at home. He has an electronics kits and a microscope, but he uses them fitfully. He’s not quite as interested in the soft sciences like biology or zoology, though, which is where I am strong.

      We are a musical household, but he has not shown much interest in music. He likes acting, though, since it allows him to be the center of attention. He’s a good storyteller, too.

      I’m a little bit mystified how best to direct all this.

      • Have you had him examine a drop of creekwater under his microscope? I did that with a friend and his low-powered scope when we were young. I was amazed at the multicolored diatoms we saw.

      • Joanie

        A friend who has a science-loving son (a boy who also struggled mightily with finding friends who were on his wavelength) enrolled him in an after-school science club where he gets to do all sorts of cool experiments. He’s really enjoyed it and has even had a couple of playdates with “like-minded” kids he’s met there. A call to your school district office can let you know if there are programs like that in your area.

        That same friend also recently signed up her son for a Christian youth theater. The jury’s still out on that one as far as if he’ll meet make new pals there, but he seems to like it.

        It’s taken this friend some diligent searching, but it definitely seems like there are a lot more programs out there now than there were ten years ago when our son faced similar challenges.

        I was a junior high teacher for a few years before staying home with the kids, and I always thought I’d be well-equipped to walk my kids through the tough stuff like loneliness and rejection from their peers. But somehow, when it’s your own child, it’s just a lot different! Thanks for the welcome to your site. I know you already know this very well, but God will work things out. I’m a lot more philosophical about this whole socialization thing now, after seeing how things turned out for our son.

        One final thought – when my daughter (the one who struggles with a combination of academic giftedness and hypersensitivity about being “unpopular”) was bemoaning her lack of friends awhile back, I felt led to launch out in faith. I told her that the two of us were going to agree in prayer, right then and there, and ask God to send her a friend. We had an excellent discussion about how God can do things that we as humans can never hope to do in our own strength. It’s funny, because until I started typing out this comment, I’d sort of forgotten about that prayer (it took place a couple of months ago). My daughter hasn’t yet met the “best friend of her dreams” at school, but it just occurred to me that she HAS met a girl in her Sunday school class whose mom just told me at church last night that she’d like the girls to get together sometime outside of church. Turns out we’d both been praying that our public-schooled girls could find at least one Christian friend.

        How cool is that? God is good!

  6. Having been in the “kid business” (children’s & youth minister, Christian Ed Director, educator, principal) for nearly 20 years, and raised two boys of my own – one of whom sounds like your son – here is my input. First, a word of encouragement – second some practical strategies.

    1. This is a most awkward age due to the individual differences in the maturity levels of his peers and how that intersects his need for social connectedness. Life and relationships are turbulent at this age on several levels – especially the spiritual plane, which kids are generally more in touch with even though they lack articulation. The enemy often tries to leverage opportunity and plant undesirable seeds. However, your steadfast involvement will provide the bedrock for his security and ability to navigate the turbulence and protect his soul. Kids are resilient and can weather these socio-emotional storms if anchored firmly – even though the journey with them can be heart-wrenching at times.

    2. Key in on his interests and find viable social outlets wherein he can engage a new sphere of kids with similar interests. As an example, my boys are excellent musicians and they are involved with a youth group that is not directly associated with our community of believers playing in the worship band. My wife and I fervently prayed that they would find such a group for they were in a similar situation as your son. My oldest engaged with several groups of kids until he came to his present sphere – which have turned out to be excellent friends.

    Lastly, although I am certain you are already doing this – make your home the hub of activity for whatever sphere of friends he is with. Include some of his most promising relationships in your family activities to help strengthen his base. With prayer and interaction you will prevail and the right group will emerge.

    I will stand with you in prayer during this season and hope my input is beneficial.

    • D.W.,

      I would love for our home to be the nexus for activity, but we live in a rural area where the houses are far apart and the children are few and of varied ages. Almost everything has to e scheduled and it seems that everyone is packed with scheduled activities.

      Our son is new to Cub Scouts, so that’s one added activity.

  7. Interesting that music has been mentioned more than once. I was thinking the same thing from my own school experience. Music has two great virtues: it brings kids together, and it’s “okay” to be excellent. It’s not “okay” (among other students, that is) to be brainy, but it’s okay to be a great trumpet or guitar player.

    But we don’t know if your son has that aptitude, so this may be missing the mark; but you may not know yet yourself, either.

    Be prepared for rough times for a while yet to come. It’s already been said, and you already know this, but the spiritual preparation is hugely important. Another crucial thing to do as parents is to have a positive presence at his schools, volunteering to help with things, getting to know his teachers, and building very positive relationships with administrators. You’re going to need them as allies, so you need to know them and build mutual trust.

    Our (very bright and openly Christian) daughter was being bullied daily in her fourth-grade classroom. The teacher was absolutely unequipped to resolve it (oh, the stories I could tell!). We worked with the situation there for months, and finally we went to the principal, with whom we had a good trust relationship, and insisted he transfer her to a classroom where the teacher had some control. He did that, and our daughter’s happiness level jumped instantly higher, and stayed there the rest of the year.

    Middle school is likely to be the roughest. In high school, students start sorting themselves out into different academic tracks, and your son will likely find others who value learning and excellence as much as he does. Until then, if our experience and observations of others is any guide, don’t be surprised if he gets rough treatment from other students along the way. Be prepared.

    But it usually gets better as kids mature into the later teen years.

    • Tom,

      We have a lot of underachieving kids in our area because it tends to be lower income. Most of those kids will gravitate toward the non-brainy activities, so it would be great if our son found a different niche.

      I was a brainy kid much like my son, but I never seemed to lack for friends. In fact, I was always one of the more popular kids in school. Oddly, my son does not seem to share that same success and I’m not sure why. I suspect that where we live makes the “stigma” of being whip-smart all the more profound. Sometimes I think that being mentality dull is rewarded here with social success.

  8. Steve Myers

    We raised six of our own children and also had foster children and occasionally older teens or young adults living with us. Today we enjoy 13 grandchildren. Our church places great emphasis on children and youth.

    Children require a great investment on our part. Parents must invest their time, interest and participation in their lives. Michael’s response is the correct direction; “Get him involved in activities, too, requiring smarts as well as physical activity.” Sports is the greatest opportunity for training a child. Not one, but several seasonal sport activities. I have witnessed great changes in children and youth through active lives in sports.

    In raising our children I faced many challenges. I believe there is a key to each person’s heart and through consistent prayer the Holy Spirit will guide you as to what to do each day with your child. Most important is that you rest in God’s sovereignty trusting that all things will work to the good for your child. By resting in Him, it will keep you from focusing on the ‘problem’ and encourage in the continued growth of your son.

    • Steve,

      We’ve had him in both sports and group activities ever since he was small, but he’s always the odd man out, through no fault that I can see in his social skills.

      I’m not as keen on sports as our experiences so far only magnify the one or two superstars on the teams at the expense of everyone else. Save for one decent experience on one team, sports has been a major letdown. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the nature of our society today has ruined sports as a good vehicle to teach children teamwork and the value of training. Too many parents want their little superstar to get a sports scholarship to college from the age of 2, and I’m totally down on sports for that reason.

      Plus, my son is never going to be good enough in sports to make it a compelling discipline for him. That I do know. With so many of the teams striving for total domination by packing themselves full of superstars, there’s no real space for a kid who is just average—or worse. My son has already learned that lesson.

      I’m open to persuasion in the other direction if you can offer it, though.

    • Nathan

      Umm. . . Sports are NOT the greatest opportunity for training a child. (They are great for some, but not for others)

      The other kids are excluding your son for a reason. If that reason is something that you would not have your son change, then there is nothing that can be done to get them to like and include your son beyond teaching the other kids tolerance.

      Remember that the kids rejecting your son aren’t the only people on the planet with which your son can socialize. Don’t forget clubs, classes and groups for brainy kids (and even older people). Try individual sports like diving, swimming, gymnastics, dance. He likes to act? A local theater may need a child actor.

      He likes to socialize? How about having him socialize with shut-ins or those in a home?

      As you find the activities where your son will find satisfaction and socialization, remember the best thing for your son to get through the lonely times is let him know that you do not reject him. Knowing that his father accepts and loves him will outweigh a lot of rejection that he may get from the world.

  9. I am still in the same boat. As are my own children.

    What has helped a little is to teach a person that it is okay to have a small group of very deep friendships, rather than many “friendships” that are a mile wide and an inch deep.

    For a wider group of friendship, my kids generally find a common goal to bring people together, whether it’s working in a soup line, reading to inner city kids or building a Habitat home. Those involved in outreach find a common goal that brings groups together (not that I don’t think you’re already doing this, it’s just what I’ve noticed).

    • MzEllen,

      We probably need to be more involved in the kinds of activities you mention. Some of our home situation makes that more difficult, but I will consider your suggestion.

      Is that the kind of thing that brings kids together, though. My experience is that it’s mostly adults doing those things, and our son has no problem relating to adults.

  10. the girl @ love God, not money

    I’m in my twenties now, but I was very, very awkward through elementary school and middle school age. I was homeschooled through seventh grade, which probably contributed a lot to my social awkwardness in eighth grade. I generally felt much more comfortable around adults than I did around kids my age.

    I think a lot of the tips here are really wise. Perhaps there is an activity at school that is more suited to your son’s skills. On my first day of eighth grade, I met a girl who ended up becoming my best friend. I didn’t have many friends, but just that one person who stuck with me made eighth grade tolerable.

    Is there any other family within your church that perhaps has a son around your son’s age? Sometimes in a group, it’s hard for other kids to step out and be kind (which isn’t an excuse). Maybe if it’s more one-on-one, it would be easier for him to get to know other kids.

    • the girl,

      We do have plenty of kids my son’s age at our church, but they have often come out and said they prefer other playmates than my son. I’ve watched the kids ignore him, too, In fact, church seems to be one of the hardest places for him to fit in.

  11. Folks,

    One of the things I forgot to mention is that many of the options for him that we have investigated, such as special enrichment classes with other smart kids his age, are proving to be prohibitively expensive. It has driven home to me that if you want your kid to have a rich set of experiences in today’s world, there’s far too many people willing to empty your wallet in order to provide it. The “Two Americas” thing comes to mind, too.

    Free or cheap suggestions are highly welcome!

  12. When I was in my forties, I was visiting friends across country who had at least two gifted children in their collection. I found a book on educating gifted (or perhaps “exceptional”, including other issues than outright brilliance) children, and one chapter listed the downsides–physical, emotional, social, etc.–of growing up gifted, which the teacher ought to keep an eye on.

    It was like the classic case of reading a medical encyclopedia and finding you had all the diseases except for a few limited to Arctic dwellers: I had no idea that anyone had troubled themselves to notice the problems I’d regarded as “normal” and deal with them, much less enumerate them to prevent them. In short, check out a few texts for teachers of gifted children, looking for ideas there (regard it as plundering the Egyptians if you must).

  13. You’ve gotten so many thoughtful ideas, isn’t the internet a great tool?

    My husband and I have 5 children ages 27,24,17,13,10. Three are boys. I understand you and feel some of your concern and anxiety for your son. These are just thoughts from my experience, perhaps something here will help you in your thought process.

    I may be odd man out here, but this has proven true for my children and was true for me personally as a child. It isn’t crucial that your son have lots of peers for friends. And I agree with the one writer who mentioned younger children.

    Having friends of all ages is character building, edcational and fulfilling. When your dear son goes to work one day, he won’t be hired to work on the floor where the 20 year olds work, right? He will work with people of all ages and backgrounds. It seems more like a myth to me to think that children must have friends of their own age to be well-rounded or happy. Consider offering him opportunities to meet different people and engage with them in work or play.

    Great places to look for friendship opportunities could include: Sunday School classes that are involved in service projects, Senior Citizen groups that offer public activities, clubs like chess and collections, library reading groups, community history clubs…And I think its important that you participate with him in these kinds of groups. It is your job to teach him how to relate, how to talk to people without sounding haughty or “know it all”, so these are perfect opportunities to teach humility and gentlness.

    One last thought. Potentially your son’s desire for and grief about not having a lot of friends might one day be directly linked to your own feelings about it. So, I’d say be careful not to project your own fears and worries on to him.

    Well, I’ve written so much I sound like a mama. Sorry about that.
    I’m praying for you today.

    Sylvia

    • CH,

      He does need some friends his own age for play. I think every kid needs that.

      My son doesn’t come off as a know-it-all on purpose. His normal conversation is simply different from other kids and they pick up on that right away:

      Other boy: I just designed a gun that fires exploding bullets.
      My son: My weapon concentrates a beam of tachyons by tapping into the sun’s nuclear fusion.
      Other boy: Oh.

      If my son does have one social nexus touchpoint, it’s that he loves Pokémon.

  14. Am

    Well, in my experience prayer is free, cheap, and highly welcome. I’ll start by offering that to you and your family.

    I’m in a similar circumstance with my eight year old son. He is smart, funny, and gets along with many different ages but lacks close friendships. One of the problems is the other children around here are SO involved with sports they hardly have time to just come over to play. The sport schedule competed so much with our cub scout activities last year that it often ended up with my son as the only boy able to show up. So much for making friends there. This year we changed to a larger cub scout pack with the hope of having more social opportunities for him. We’ve been in the scouting program for a long time. My older sons have made lasting friendships over the years through the program. Cub Scouts could be just what your son needs.

    Do you have a family YMCA near enough to possibly utilize? The one near me has a variety of kid-friendly classes and activities-including a drama class. The cost can be prohibitive, but sometimes they offer special rates or scholarships. You might be able to work something out by talking with the director.

    • Am,

      Honestly, the Y has been a big letdown. He played on three Y soccer teams and his experience was decidedly mixed. Plus, the Y soccer teams are hurting because after about age 7 they can’t field enough teams. Parents take their little superstars to the Select teams in their local areas and avoid the Y teams. They can’t get enough good coaches, either. It’s been a disappointment.

      They used to have soccer teams at the Y for kids ages 5-6 (about eight teams), 7-8 (about six teams), and 9-10 (about four teams) teams. But so many kids started leaving after the 5-6 age bracket for the local Select teams that they had to combine the 7-8 and 9-10 teams, and even then they could only field two teams total! The other team was so good that my son’s team lost every game they played against them. I repeatedly asked the other coach to hold back some of his best kids, but he was so intent on winning every game that our poor team just got clobbered week after week. It was really sad. Our team didn’t even have a coach for the first two games, either. Also sad. And this from a Y that pulls from two entire counties.

      Too many parents put their kids into the Select teams, hoping to develop the next Beckham or Hamm, I guess. Still, those teams only take the best kids, so I wonder what happens to all the kids who can’t cut it.

      Didn’t life used to be simpler?

  15. Sounds a lot like me at the same age.

    Try getting him to join an extra-curricular activity where he gets to co-operate with others and others get to depend on him, and where the academic side of things is largely irrelevant.

  16. Dan, I know this all too well. Here is what I had to contend with. Most kids looked at me pretty bizarre when I brought up topics of interest to me. They wanted to play nintendo. I wanted to figure out why people groups acted the way they did. I was 10 when I started reading about cultural anthropology. They were concerned with the color of nail polish. I couldn’t care less.

    Maybe find an older group where instead of him pouring into younger people, he can learn from older people who will enjoy having a brilliant young mind to pour into. Something tells me he is ripe for learning, and has the same “eyes” as his daddy. That alone will set him apart.

    Is there a middle school advanced placement group that has activities? Maybe a project business kind of group in your area that you could find an engineer that would be a “big brother” to him?

    Don’t let anyone hold him back. Trust me, that just frustrates you in the process and you learn behaviors to cope that you don’t want to deal with as an adult. Let him know its totally okay to not be like these others. Maybe sending him to an AP school?

    I’ll be praying God guides you Dan.

  17. Chris

    Dan,

    As always, I enjoy your blog very much. Your willingness to learn from others makes me admire your thought even more. I see much wisdom in the comments above. I have one other idea based on my own family’s experience. When my (only) son was about seven, I noticed a somewhat similar situation occurring. A couple of activities that seemed to work well for us were fishing/camping and karate.

    I tied these activities to his great grandparent’s time, telling him that we needed to keep certain basic living skills alive; his grandpa enjoyed going along with this and helped out many times.

    Both required from us an odd mixture of involvement and hands/off treatment. My son would invite another friend from school or church to go camping or fishing with us and we would always make sure to learn an old skill, which impressed the other boy; he got to go home and impress his parents – but also just let them have time to just play. His grandpa was especially good at the camping part; other kids loved to go with them. I took care of the fishing and another friend of mine helped out with the hunting.

    Karate was also a very positive influence because it was a team sport without all of the pressure associated with sports like basketball. The kids can excel in either kata or kumite. And there is a quiet confidence that often comes from karate if the instructor is good. Interestingly, after a few years in karate, my son took up baseball and basketball on his own and while he is not a star in either, he became a very proficient role player at the high school level. One caution-not all dojos are created equal. I would talk extensively with the sensei and sit in on a session to gauge the overall environment.

    My son is now 18 and getting ready to enter a civil engineering program next year. He is equally comfortable with the jocks, the rednecks, and the brains. He is certainly not perfect. He struggles with organization, focus, etc. It’s been hard to see some of my own struggles appear in him. To some extent we all “mess up” our kids but I tell him that and tell him that it is his job to improve on what I gave him and be an even better father. That’s what my dad always told me.

  18. Chris

    One other thing that I don’t think I really communicated. It may seem counter-intuitive but your involvement in these other activities is key. I suspect that he values what he thinks you value.

  19. Phoebe

    Dan, I really enjoy your blog. Your son sounds very much like our oldest son. He was in first grade in public school when I realized how often he was left out of activities and other children made fun of him because he was “different”. He was reading at about the 8th grade level. By second grade he was at grade 12 and didn’t reach a frustration level. It worried me that he didn’t have close friends. I knew he would not struggle academically; however, he needed to learn how to interact and have health relationships with his peers. After all, these are skills he would need to successfully navigate the work world.

    We encouraged him to try activities he was not drawn to immediately. Because he was advanced academically, we looked for group and team activities that were non-academic. In second grade we “required” him to take music lessons and participate in one team sport. In both cases it was difficult at first but in time he excelled. In both instances there were other children who did as well and better than he did and he didn’t always get to play during a game or sit first or even second chair.

    In high school he participated in forensics (debate), mock trial and mock United Nations. Through his participation in band, jazz band, soccer and baseball, and forensics he developed healthy relationships with his peers. He played in band and jazz band through junior high school, baseball through high school, and soccer through college. In college he became involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. He completed two degrees in 5 years . . . he just completed his P.E. exam and is working as a geotechnical engineer. He now tells me his experiences in music, sports, and forensics (and Latin!) were the activities that best prepared him for college and for work. He has great confidence in his academic abilities. His circle of friends today include the the engineering “nerds”, athletic types (he still plays soccer and basketball recreationally), and musicians. While he can’t sing in tune, he loves music and has a wide range of friends who perform in bands and sing in groups.

    I agree with Chris, your involvement and interest in these other activities is key. I did not have an athletic background at all; however these were opportunities to learn and appreciate new experiences . . . we learned together.

  20. Phoebe

    By the way, we did find that many parents put their kids in Select teams; however we look for and found recreational leagues in other areas of our city. We also volunteered to coach and manage teams. We learned new sports and used it as opportunities to teach discipline, team work, etc.

  21. Sonya

    My nephew faced similar challenges but for different reasons. Now at 16 his parents have taken in a foreign international student for a year. It is a boy his age and its working very well. He has a ‘brother’ and someone to mentor/disciple.

  22. wendy

    This has been an interesting blog, and there have been good comments. I look at friendship in a different way then some. I believe there are Friendship skills :

    “Those children and young people who develop strong friendships have a definite set of skills that help make them easy to like, easy to relate to and easy to play with.

    Here are twelve essential skills that children have identified as being important for making and keeping friends:

    1. Ability to share possessions and space
    2. Keeping confidences and secrets
    3. Offering to help
    4. Accepting other’s mistakes
    5. Being positive and enthusiastic
    6. Starting a conversation
    7. Winning and losing well
    8. Listening to others
    9. Starting and maintaining a conversation
    10. Ignoring someone who is annoying you
    11. Cooperating with others
    12. Giving and receiving compliments

    Friendships skills are generally developmental. That is, kids grow into these skills given exposure to different situations and with adult help.

    They were reminded by parents about how they should act around others. They were also ‘taught’ from a very young age. ”

    If you and your wife were sitting at my kitchen table talking about this topic, I would suggest you observe your son and talk to parents of kids his age at church. Find out exactly what is the turn off for the other kids.Is it just that he is on another wavelength academically? Is that is what is making the kids not relate to him? What other things can he talk about that kids CAN relate to? Maybe there is something from this list above he could work on. Kids unfortunately don’t like kids to be different. He is already different by his faith and his mind. I would say think about finding ways for him to have common ground with kids his age. He is already uncommon, but he needs to connect to kids and find the common ground.But every Christian parent WANTS their kids to be different from the culture. But they need to be different, but not odd. It is very tricky to navigate that and requires much prayer , support and insight from us especially with you talking about public school. Friendship skills can be developed and will develop as he grows. Every situation he is in can be learned from and tweaked and changes made. Go over with him when he is successful. and when he is not.( Casually of course) Sometimes it will be him, and sometimes it will be the kids. Pokemon is a great equalizer!
    I have two well liked Christian kids in public high school , they have very good Friendship Skills that they were trained up in, so that is where I am coming from. They don’t conform to the culture , but they are able to relate to alot of different kids from different social groups and ethnic backgrounds. I am not sure if this was helpful, but I do enjoy your blog alot, and wanted to take a stab at it.

  23. Maybe have people over to your house for events, parties, etc. Does he do well with older kids? It may be that he just more naturally fits in with kids more on his intellectual level. I would continue to encourage him and continue to build his self-worth and confidence. Regardless of how kids make it seem, parents are still more influential when it comes to their view of themselves. So keep keeping on and be a HUGE encouragement to him and chances are he will be fine.

  24. Suzanne

    I wish I had stellar advice for you, but I don’t other than to live through it. Our daughter sounds quite similar to your son; bright, advanced in reading, able to think critically long before her peers, and a passion for music. Middle school (Christian) was hell, but we are talking about girls here, so you might be spared some of that. I don’t know if kids were intimidated or what. She’s never needed a huge group of friends, but had trouble finding even a few. She didn’t do sports, which was really the God the school which she attended worshipped. She ended up attending an arts boarding school for part of high school, and blossomed. Finally, she found a place of acceptance! So, keep plugging away, and he will eventually find his niche. I sense from your blog that you are a family that communicates, and thinks things through deeply, so your son probably is like you. Most kids don’t even get that, no do their parents expect or want them to. The kids, and parents, are too caught up in winning the contest of “coolness”.

  25. I’m new to this blog, but I’ve been reading this post and the comments that follow it, and I felt compelled to post a comment myself.

    I’m not a parent, but I’ve been your son, and I feel for him. I’m a girl (girls have a worse time than boys, I think), but I understand what it’s like to, um, know more than everyone else and get ostracized for it.

    I grew up homeschooled, and, to disagree with one of your readers, I don’t think it contributed to social problems later on. I had more and deeper friendships with fellow homeschoolers than I ever had after I went to a public college. I think that was because other homeschool kids in my area were (1) raised in devout, Christian homes, (2) interested in learning. Tachyons were cool to them.

    When I entered a public college, I was actually taught that it was wrong to let anyone feel like they were less intelligent than I was. They teach young teachers these days that they can’t even grade papers in red ink because they might make the child feel bad for getting a correction on his/her paper.

    I spent some time trying to fit in with these people (which basically meant trying to lower my vocabulary levels and learning speeds to accepted parameters). Then, one day, I just decided that I didn’t need friends if I couldn’t be me. There is no sin in being smart. (On the other hand, sometimes it is acceptable to hold back a little bit of what you know and not come on too strong, to cite the gun conversation example above.)

    The problem I had in my public school experience was that I literally couldn’t find anyone who was (1) a strong Christian, (2) putting a lot of value in academic excellence. Could it be that your son is unable to find people like that? Since he goes to a rural school, he may not have a large enough variety of people to choose from. My only solution is to encourage him to keep meeting people, and until then, embrace being himself.

    He also needs strong, supportive parents. If he doesn’t find peers his age, at least let him know that he has his parents to talk to when he is lonely. Consider getting him a pet (pets are great conversation starters). Finally, teach your son to remember that Jesus is the only friend who will stick around, love you for the way you are (he made you that way, right?), and keep you fulfilled.

    Don’t worry about him. He’s in the hands of a great God and loving parents. Everything will work out for his good, just like the Bible promises us.

  26. connie

    Well, when I was young I was “that kid.”

    Two things to ponder-first, your son may have to develop the social skills of “dumbing down” his conversation in order to fit in at school. This will at least get him socialization and is a useful skill to have BUT it’s not particularly good for him to have to do. I recommend you allow him to socialize with selected older individuals. As smart as he is, they will accept him because he will be able to come up to their level.

    Second, as long as he himself is not troubled about this you as parents might need to back off, at least as far as he can tell.

    Some of this he will grow out of, and some of it he will simply have to endure.

  27. Leta

    I haven’t read all the comments (please forgive me) so I may be retreading some ground here, but your son sound so much like the male version of me that I had to comment.

    – Good for you that you got him involved in Cub Scouts. Girl Scouts did me a world of good. It helps to do things with troops from other areas/school districts, too, so if you are a Den Dad, maybe you should try to quarterback something like that.

    -Look into Gifted and Talented groups, magnet school/public academy advanced student groups, student tutoring groups, and science “Explorer” groups (Astronomy Explorers, Medical Explorers, Botany Explorers, etc.).

    If you can’t find Explorers in your area online, get in touch with the nearest museum, hospital, or planetarium, as these are usually the hosting organizations.

    Many of the kids may be older than your son, but that’s okay, because most the kids involved in these type of activities (IME) have a great deal of empathy toward younger kids who are smart and don’t quite fit in. For example, in my high school Explorers group, one of the teenagers brought along her little brother (about 10 or 11) because he was so interested, and he became the pet of the class. She talked -constantly!- about how much he loved it.

    Not that your son needs tutoring, or even to be the tutor, but getting involved in peer-to-peer student tutoring and Scouting led me to my only solid elementary/middle school age friendships. The kids in these activities weren’t all alike, by any means, but we worked hard at getting along and supporting one another.

    Oh, and most of these things are cheap or free. Like Scouts, Explorers charges dues, but when I was involved, it was something like $25 for the entire year.

    I would guess that your biggest expense will probably be in gas and time ferrying your son around.

    Oh, and P.S., your post from 11/3 was one of the best political/social posts I’ve read this election cycle. Regardless of who you voted for (I am guessing you and I voted differently), the questions you raised and points you made were neccesary and thoughful. Good job.

  28. Bill

    Just like a lot of others, describes me and my kids. Cub/Boy Scouts has been a blessing for them. I would suggest looking for a fairly large group, as the odds of finding some kids to relate to go up. My boys are now in a Boy Scout troop with over 100 boys (and great leaders), and they have really blossomed.

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