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Mr. Know-It-All

"It's recently come to my attention that my 11-year-old has a reputation as a know-it-all, and he's losing friends and annoying grow-ups, mainly his teachers. We've payer with him and recommended he hold his tongue when he hears someone say something he's sure is wrong (he does have a very high IQ), then come home and write about it in a journal or put it in a storyboard form. Do you have any other suggestions?"

A. I like your ideas, especially the journal. Your son may even want to take it to school so he can get his thoughts down right away rather than holding on to them until he gets home. Encourage him to do his writing when he has a quiet moment alone, rather than scurrying off to record the infractions of others each time an incident arises.

It can be difficult for intelligent people to let the mistakes of others go unchecked, but this is the perfect opportunity to help your son develop a sense of humility and self-control. If you haven't already, have your son read some Scripture passages that deal with pride and self-control, such as "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18) and "Let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Ask him to tell you what he thinks these verses mean and have him think of examples of pride, humility, and self-control he sees in his friends or people at school. Then ask him to describe some examples he can see in himself. Gently let him know that correcting people frequently probably does not draw them nearer to God. Then work with him to figure out a gentler way to express himself without offending others.

As parents who want our children to have friends, it can be difficult to find the balance between letting them be themselves and trying to temper the challenging parts of their personalities. So do your best not to squelch your son's gifts in an effort to help him get along with others. Instead, find opportunities for him to use his intelligence to help others, rather than to show off or correct them. Ask him to tell you what he thinks God had in mind by giving him such a great brain. Then help him think about ways he can use his gifts to help others. Perhaps he can tutor younger students in his school, or help his teacher think of fun math games for the class. Pray with him, asking God to provide places for your son to use his intelligence in thoughtful ways. Helping him find appropriate venues for "showing off" might tone him down in social settings.

Finally, if there have been specific complaints about your son offending others, have him write an apology to those he's hurt. He might even let his teachers know he's working to show more respect in school. Make sure he follows through on this promise by asking him about the good things his teachers and friends are doing. Set a good example at home as well by talking about your friends or coworkers in positive, respectful ways.

Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is the mother of two and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is the author of Sticks and Stones (W).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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