Is your child an “Edison Child?”

Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Blog, Learning | Comments Off on Is your child an “Edison Child?”

Is your child an “Edison Child?”

Maybe your child has the “Edison Trait. In this age of distraction, we get increasingly frustrated that some of our kids find it hard to focus on the task at hand. They prefer Minecraft to slogging through another set of algebra questions. And, when we’re not looking, they flip quickly to Minecraft, Facebook, YouTube etc.

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all easily distracted, especially in this multi-tasking world that we now live in. I typically work on >3 projects “at once,” and switch constantly between email, IM, browsing, writing, thinking, researching, note-taking, coding, slide-building, drawing and various creative tasks. As I write this, I have 7 apps open (far fewer than normal) and 15 active tabs in my browser.

When I get frustrated by a particular task, I find myself switching back to Gmail to check my mail. I don’t need to check it, but it’s my “distraction habit.” It’s my “Minecraft.”

But Minecraft, or Gmail, is not the problem, nor is ADD necessarily (notwithstanding all the issues surrounding that “condition.”) There is a group of children who find it hard to do certain types of task simply because their brains are wired differently. If you believe one theory, it’s because they have more of the “Hunter gene” that would have caused their ancestors to scan the horizon often. When “confined” to certain tasks, environments or processes, such a child will “struggle.” They will day dream or switch to another task.

However, it turns out that there’s a flip side.

There’s always a flip side.

In this case, it could well be creativity and rugged individualism. And the down side to trying to “solve” the distraction issue is that it can easily crush the “creative chaos” that comes with a set of traits that Lucy Jo Palladino describes as “Divergent Thinking” or “Edison Traits” in her original text “The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child.” She re-titled the book to: “Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos:¬†How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored, and Having Problems in School.”

Per her description of Edison himself:

Edison flunked out of school twice, but he went on to become a prolific, world famous inventor. What caused this tremendous turnaround? His mother, Nancy Edison, identified her son’s passion for science and used it as a basis to motivate him to succeed. She made a deliberate decision to define her child by his strengths, not his problems.

By developing this “Edison Trait” theme, the book offers some important insights. The most intriguing for me is the suggestion that ultimately there may be little a parent can do to get their “divergent thinking” child to “conform” with regular patterns of learning and experience. That being so, the most critical and generous act is to let go of your expectations and enter into their world to see, cherish and then encourage their strengths.

The most powerful line in the book is:

Your child’s belief in himself begins with your belief in your child.


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