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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Buat Bodoh Syndrome In Kids

To date, I have experienced 5 children with the Buat Bodoh syndrome. These are highly intelligent children who DELIBERATELY underperform.

The First One
The first one that came my way, it took me 3 years to figure it out. This is a family so blessed with intelligence and talent that the other 2 siblings are world class in their passion. I do not mean this as a hyperbole. They are truly world class as in, they win worldwide competitions REGULARLY. We gave this child every benefit of the doubt.

He was clearly intelligent. Yet, he did poor work for me.

We got him diagnosed as ADD. We applied ADD strategies and put him on vitamins and a special diet. Things worked for a while and then they stopped working. We put him on every therapy I could devise to help him focus. Then, he was caught stealing something from his brother. Only then did I put two and two together.

He was jealous. This eldest boy had figured out that whenever he underperformed, his Mother was forced to spend more time with him. Doing too well in school meant that he would get less time with his Mom. So we made some adjustments to parent strategies. Mommy started giving him a special afternoon a week to make up for her absences taken when she accompanied the other 2 siblings to overseas competitions.

This intelligent little one must have figured out that I had something to do with his Mommy spending more time with him. Hence, in an attempt to manipulate me to advise his Mommy to spend even more time with him, every one of his weekly PSLE compos done for me included an irritating brother. I know! I get it! You don't like your brother! You feel neglected! However, there is a limit beyond which it becomes unfair to take parent time away from another sibling. His Mom began to look harried and stressed. She was almost whining when she confided in me, "I spend a lot of time with him on his schoolwork, more than with the other two." 

So, I ignored his shenanigans, choosing instead to give technical feedback about his compositions.

So, this child upped the ante. He began to underperform seriously, hoping that I would then advise his Mom to spend more time to help him perform.

I did quite the opposite. After all, if we care for this boy, it would not do to reward him for being a Damsel in Distress. These sorts of children grow up into adults who live their lives expecting handouts from their parents. They will become deliberate losers so as to perpetuate the pattern of, "If you love me, you will help me. If you love me, you will give me."

I expelled him from my centre and explicitly told the whole family (in the boy's presence) that henceforth, the child should get attention only when he performed. He went on to win himself a coveted DSA spot in a good school, a scholarship and an A* for English.

He obtained his A* for English BECAUSE he was expelled from tuition, not because he stayed in tuition. So you see, I must be the only tutor who gets A* by NOT teaching a student.

The 2nd One
The 2nd time, it took me 7 months to figure it out. She hid her intelligence so well that I thought she was poor in Higher Order Thinking. She would stare for long minutes at easy questions. Her answers made strange and illogical connections.

I would never have found out except that this child LOVES to lead. She ADORES bossing people around. She is not only intelligent, she is also a gifted leader of other children, and a strong influencer of adults. However, in my classes, leaders are chosen only when I see them master the academic material 3 times faster than others.

These are often the high potential and gifted kids who see the answers almost as fast as they read the questions. These, I load them with further cognitive challenge over and above the academic material. On top of learning English, they must learn strategies to influence and lead.

As long as she stayed stupid, I would never choose her to lead. The metamorphosis was amazing. She morphed from a tricycle to a Ferrari in less than a month. When she unleashed her intelligence upon us all, even I was taken aback. In the 2017 SA2, she scored full marks for compre and listening compre. In compo, she was 1 mark away from the top in class. This was in stark contrast to her grades in SA1 where she was below average.

Again, this child is the eldest of 3. Tellingly, her Mom also said, "I spend the MOST time with her. She needs me the MOST." Oh well, it just goes to show that the Buat Bodoh (i.e., Act Stupid) strategy works! If the Asian child buat bodoh, the Asian mother will give her more attention.

These days, this one's brain ticks along as fast as a GEP brain. I bet you that she deliberately underperformed at the GEP testing too.

The 3rd One
This one was sloppy and careless. So, I requested that his Mother activate Throwback Therapy according to my method steps. Since his Mother and I were not close, I had little idea of the family dynamics until one weekend when Mommy was away at a ballet competition with a younger sibling. That day, this boy's brain shut down. The homework was disgusting and he completely drifted off in class.

If you know how Dr. Pet's classes are run, you will know that drifting off is quite hard to do. Apparently, he was determined to do so. He was on strike. His Mom was off giving her time to another sibling. He refused to work.

Troubleshooting with Mommy, I heard a now familiar plaintiveness in her voice, "This boy takes a lot from me. This oldest child needs attention from me all the time. I spend the most time with him."

Dear reader, you see a pattern now?

The 4th One
I am quite proud myself. At least, it shows that I learn from experience. I diagnosed this one within 2 months. This one cleared GEP testing 1st round. Yet, he could not answer simple questions with no right or wrong answers (e.g., What do you think of Cuthbert?) that other children who did NOT clear GEP testing 1st round breezed through.

His ineptitude sucked attention from everyone. At one point, he was assigned a student guide, a facilitator and myself. We were all waiting for gold to drop from his mouth. He held the puppet strings and was the puppet master. He had successfully become the centre of attention.

This one wasn't quite as skilful because he tried from Week 1 to draw my attention in a way that got me suspicious. He did it well, but he overdid it and he did not account for the fact that I tend to have very opposite reactions to some stimuli than normal teachers.

I have 5 cases but I shall not bore my readers with the details of all 5. After a while, every case has the same contours...
- eldest or elder child
- highly intelligent parents
- busy parents
- child overdoes the stupid act (i.e., even simple questions he/she has problems with)

Why does it happen?

You see. If your children are spaced closely together, the older one is not quite out of baby stage when the younger one is born. If you have experienced the homecoming of a baby, you know that a new baby sucks attention from everyone simply because he/she is completely helpless. If your slightly older one is intelligent, he/she will figure out within the 1st month that if he/she regresses towards babyhood, he would successfully grab parent attention and time away from his newborn sibling.

Parents are of course clueless. The pattern propagates itself through the years. The more helpless the older one, the more time he/she gets.

If you have an intelligent eldest/elder child who spends an entire childhood Buat Bodoh, he/she will really become bodoh once puberty hits and his/her body activates synaptic pruning (see HERE).

I wrote this post for any parent out there who has an eldest child who is needy and underperforming. The solution is twofold

(1) to signal to this eldest child that he/she will get attention only if he/she performs, NOT when he/she underperforms

(2) to make conscious effort to divide time/attention equally between children (do NOT tell your elder one that you must spend more time with the younger ones because they are more helpless).

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