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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[NOV. 11, 2005]  Q: We have a very bright seventh-grader. We have been so proud of her academic achievements over the years. Here's the problem. She has decided that she no longer wants to strive for the honor roll (and our bumper sticker has to go!) because her friends at school will make fun of her. All of a sudden, she's embarrassed about being smart. What can we do?

A: There's no question that middle school is tough -- for students and parents. You've probably noticed changes both big and small in your daughter over the last year or so. At times, you may wonder what stranger is living under your roof. At school, fitting in and being accepted by peers is probably more important to her than anything else. It can be hard for your daughter to see how her academic performance now will affect her future.

Unfortunately, the middle grades are a time when students tend to form cliques. They may say and do mean things to those who aren't in the group. And stereotyping still exists. Bright students often find that other students make fun of them for doing well in school.

You are right to want your daughter to continue doing her best in school. Encourage her to find friends who respect her abilities, rather than being threatened by them. Check with your school to find clubs and activities that attract bright, capable students. If she likes sports, this is also important for gifted students. Joining a team can help her learn the importance of working hard and develop the self-confidence she needs.

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If she does get teased, her best defense is not to let the teasing get to her. She can either ignore it or make light of it. Here are some examples of responses she can give: "Hey, thanks! I didn't think you had noticed." "I don't have a problem with that. Do you?" "I'm glad I'm different." "Who said I was perfect?" "Hey, you're above that." When the people who want to make fun of her realize that their name-calling doesn't get to your daughter, they'll get bored and stop.

Finally, if all else fails, your daughter has another option: lie low. Tell her to be proud of making the honor roll but not to brag about it. And you can help her out by losing that honor roll bumper sticker! Above all, let your daughter know that you have faith in her abilities and that you are proud of her. Having a supportive family can help her keep up her self-confidence, even on the battlefield of middle school.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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