The gentlemen in the picture above is called Minesh. He is an IT manager in the United Kingdom and he looks rather pleased in the picture doesn’t he? Or perhaps it might be more accurate to state that he is looking rather well-fuelled as he holds a trophy aloft, drinking in the positive fuel from the studio audience he stands before (and positive Thought Fuel arising from the knowledge of a significant television audience also watching). What has Minesh won?
His son, Rahul, a 12 year old boy was crowned Child Genius 2017 last night on this British television programme. Well done Rahul.
Given the international nature of my readers, many of you will not be familiar with this specific programme but you will be very familiar with the concept of young children being pushed to succeed in respect of some particular field – general knowledge, spelling, dancing, sport, reciting poetry, gymnastics – with ‘proud’ parents pushing, sorry willing their child on, from centre stage, sorry did it again, the side lines. You will recognise similar programmes in your country which form part of the reality television franchise.
Child Genius did not used to be a competition. Previous series took on a documentary format as the relevant gifted child was shadowed by the programme makers and then the families of the gifted child were interviewed by a well-regarded child psychologist. Interestingly, this child psychologist resigned from the show because she was concerned at the direction the programme was taking. Her concerns are justified.
We will come back to Minesh to discuss his glittering achievement, whoops done it again, Rahul’s achievement. The show wasn’t just about Minesh. A mother named Susan had entered, not one, but two of her children, Fabio (aged 9) and Olivia (aged 12). Susan referred to herself as a ‘helicopter’ mother who pushed her children to excel. Nearly all parents want their children to do well. Many would baulk at pushing their children to perform under the spotlight in a television series where the actual experience is of questionable use (more on that in a moment) but there are those who regard pushing their children as necessary and indeed helpful to the child. Such an approach will bring about divided opinions, but what about this comment from Susan to the programme makers which appeared on the aired programme
“I love my daughter dearly but I am rooting for Fabio.”
I wonder who is the golden child there then? What does Fabio think at being preferred over his sister? Does he agree with his status as the anointed one? Will he use this to his advantage (I know I did) or has Fabio learned sufficient empathy so far in his short life to counter this blatant favouritism?
How might Olivia feel about being triangulated in this way? Is she a scapegoat, is she the also ran who is given the veneer of encouragement but no matter what she does and what she achieves Fabio is the one who is always backed, lauded and admired? We will probably never know but a well established dynamic is rearing its head in front of us.
Of course no doubt if confronted by this blatant favouritism, Susan will deflect any such criticism. It would not surprise me if she actually forgot she was implicitly putting down her daughter on national television and saw it as a private conversation. I can well imagine there would be no acceptance of blame for this triangulation or even any recognition of it.
Is the competition of any real value? Depends on who you consider it being of value to. It is certainly of value to certain parents involved in putting forward their child, but it is of extremely questionable use to the children involved and this is for two reasons:-
- The word ‘genius’ is used but as with many words it is over-used. Genius refers to exceptional creative or intellectual power or ability. There is no creative genius in this show. The children do not break any creative ground and instead it is a test of cognitive recall which relies on technique rather than ability. Indeed, one even questions the extent of that technique given the allegations of parents mouthing answers to their children during the show.
- The children range in age from 8-12 years. They are placed in a highly pressurised environment. The impact of this has left the children upset and in tears. Fabio, as mentioned above, went to pieces when he was trying to memorise two decks of randomly shuffled cards and this led to the monitoring child psychologist stepping in. Another boy, Joshua, who is 11, suffered a moment of freezing and ran off the stage sobbing. A 10 year old girl left her older also-competing sister inconsolable after the younger girl knocked her sibling out of the competition and this left the 10 year old also upset at what she had done.
Thus, one questions what actual use entry into the programme achieves and also one wonders what the impact of it really will be given the upset described above alongside the apparent punishing home regimes put in place by certain parents to ensure that their child wins the title of Child Genius 2017.
Let’s get back to Minesh. As Rahul made his way to victory and secured the title, viewers observed :-
- Minesh had stated “We’re a family who are used to winning and doing well in exams and competitions and things.” Hardly a crime to do well, but it starts to paint a picture. “Used to winning” which means that young Rahul has had the bar already set high for him. “We’re a family used to winning” but who is doing the winning? The whole family? Possibly, but I suspect it is more likely that Rahul is doing the winning, doing well in examinations and so forth and Minesh is acquiring these character traits for himself.
- Minesh laughed when another contestant, 11 year old Josh got a wrong answer thus conferring an advantage to Rahul. Such a response demonstrates several things:-
a. A lack of empathy towards a young boy in a pressurised setting making a mistake;
b. A lack of awareness that such behaviour was being filmed and evidently not caring (or even realising) how it made Minesh appear;
c. The desire to win at all costs
3. Minesh sat hunched forward in his seat in the audience, fingers crossed and held high for the world to see. His wife sat relatively impassively but Minesh was visibly supporting his son or at least that is how he would explain his over the top behaviour. The reality was he was on that stage, answering those questions, because young Rahul was his father’s extension, his little mirror.
4. Possibly the clinching moment of the crowning moment with regard to the trophy. Look again at the picture at the start of this article, There is Minesh, rictus grin fixed on his face, eyes staring ahead, fuel washing over him, right hand gripping the trophy, held aloft in his (not Rahul’s) moment of triumph. He pulled the trophy from his victorious son and held it aloft as he drank in the applause. It was his win. His victory. He was the genius.
Naturally one cannot say for certain whether Minesh is a narcissist or rather an especially zealous father who has got over-excited owing to the occasion, but the behaviours exhibited during the programme, the comments made and in particular his behaviour when Rahul triumphed show at best a crass vulgarity in behaviour or at worst the fact that a narcissist father was trampling all over his son’s achievement as he drank in the fuel and claimed victory for himself.
Will the title of Child Genius benefit Rahul in the future? It is unlikely. The passage of time and the demands of the world tend to erode whether you achieved a particular title or grade back in your childhood. There is nothing wrong with excellence, striving to be the best and succeeding, I know this only too well. However, I have also realised the lasting legacy of the impact of being labelled as the golden child, the weight of the mantle of expectation and the harsh critical abuse when apparent under performance has been identified by a narcissist parent. The biting cold of snow under my feet as I was made to stand outside our house by MatriNarc in December until I could recite all three verses of Keats’ Ode To Autumn from memory and without mistake when I was 9 years old, is a memory which I try to consign to imprisonment but its legacy still impacts on me now.
What will Rahul’s legacy be? It remains to be seen, but we all know that Minesh will be fuelled from his achievement, apologies, his son’s achievement, for a while yet. I am not the only person to have noticed this behaviour. Many have expressed their concern at what they have witnessed, questioned the impact on the children of this behaviour and detailed their horror at the mind set of certain parents. As this was brought to my attention by readers it all had a ready familiarity of the narcissistic dynamic.
Has anybody else mentioned the N-word however?
Once again our kind move amongst society and continue to function, operate and pollute without recognition or restraint by millions.
What word might describe such a pervasive, wide-spread, insidious yet effective state of affairs.