Secret Brilliance

Our homes and schools are filled with Benjamins; brilliant boys and girls who are mentally unchallenged and bored beyond belief.

Introducing Benjamin: The first time I saw Benjamin, he was crawling under the produce counter at the local market. Having found no treasures under the bin, he randomly selected 3 papayas and experimented with the aerodynamic qualities of each. As one hurled past my shopping cart, I knew that Benjamin was a challenge. His mother, two isles over and preoccupied with cantaloupe, called for her son, “BENJAMINNNNNN!” He crawled on all fours, closing the distance between hand grenade-papayas and Mom.

Twenty minutes later I saw Benjamin again, this time curled up on the bottom shelf in the chip isle. As I passed his mother she looked at me and rolled her eyes in disgust. She was undoubtedly frustrated and weary with her son’s unruly behavior. But was he unruly? Or, was he simply brilliant?

Looking deeper: To the trained observer, Benjamin was a smart, creative child with an active imagination. Why did he select papayas instead of oranges? Was it because on the last trip he experimented with oranges and deduced from the exercise that spherical projectiles of any color, baseballs and oranges, follow the same trajectory? But papayas, now there was a challenging shape. Would the bottom-weighted orb follow the same laws of physics? Now he knew.

And why did Benjamin build a fortress out of boxes of chips? Why not from canned goods on isle 6? Had he already learned that redistributing eight-ounce cans of beans and sprouts would not be as time-efficient as rearranging large, lightweight boxes of chips? Benjamin’s time management skills were taking shape. Unfortunately, no one knew.

Bored Benjamins: Our homes and schools are filled with Benjamins – brilliant boys and girls who are mentally unchallenged and bored beyond belief. To meet this generation’s insatiable appetite for knowledge, we must change our focus and fortify our arsenal of parenting / teaching skills. In fact, if we apply standard business management techniques to parenting, many of the control issues parents face would be eliminated.

Consider stewardship: According to Stephen R. Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there are 2 different kinds of management philosophy or style: gofer delegation and stewardship delegation.

In gofer delegation, management wants the employee to do the task assigned, and only that task. Do this. When it is complete, do that. Initiative is not welcome. Just compliance. The benefit for the employer is that he can maintain total control. The downside for the employer is that each employee’s task must be followed up on, monitored, and approved. This process is time-consuming for the employer and boring for the employee. Benjamin’s behavior was a product of gofer delegation.

In stewardship delegation, management takes the time to train, teach, and guide each employee. The initial phase takes longer but subsequently, each employee is on his own to do his job in its entirety. Stewardship delegation is focused on results, instead of method. It gives the employee a choice of methods and makes him responsible for the result. Stewardship offers a clear, up front, mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations. The employee becomes a contributing, innovative, responsible team member. The downside for management is the initial training time and the need to give up control by trusting and having confidence in the employee.

Children want responsibility: Children want to feel important and needed . They want to be contributing members of the family. By receiving real responsibility through training and clear expectations, a child will gain both confidence and experience in making quality decisions. It is important to note that a parent must not assign token tasks designed to keep the child busy. The child must be given real authority over specific family needs. This evolving sense of stewardship will cause the child, when outside of the home, to thrive in circumstances requiring leadership – thereby illuminating the secret brilliance within.

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