Parents Are Crucial to a Gifted Child’s Development

By now we all know Justin Bieber’s story; how he was catapulted to success by a video clip on YouTube – a white kid with funny hair singing very soulful R&B hits. He is not only a talented performer, but also someone who exudes confidence, self-esteem and a joy of living.

Justin was fortunate to have a supportive mother. Pattie Mallette was an aspiring actress when she became pregnant with Justin at the age of eighteen. She and his father, Jeremy Bieber, were never married. They moved in together shortly after Justin was born, but separated a few months later. Justin was raised by his mother, who gave up her own acting ambitions to tend to Justin. His father remained in Justin’s life, but he married another woman and had two kids.

Pattie, who is French Canadian, worked at low-wage office jobs in Stratford, Ontario while caring for her son and finding the money to send him to the Jean Sauve school, where he was taught in French. When he showed an inclination for music, she encouraged him to learn to play the piano, drums, guitar and trumpet, all of which he did on his own.

In 2007, when he was 12, Bieber sang Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” for a local singing competition in Stratford and placed second. His mother posted a video of the performance on YouTube for their family and friends to see. She continued to upload videos of Bieber singing his own versions of various R&B songs, and Bieber’s popularity on YouTube began to flourish.

Soon an agent came calling, a man named Scooter Braun, who contacted Pattie and asked permission to speak with her son. She allowed him to fly Justin to Atlanta, where he signed his first recording contract at thirteen.

Now, just turning eighteen, Justin Bieber has become a world-wide phenomenon.

That story has been told, but few know the story of Marvin, a patient who came to me many years ago. Like Justin Bieber, he was gifted, displaying an ability to sing harmony at the age of four. When he and his two older brothers sang for a talent show (he singing the second harmony), they easily won the show, and he was invited to sing for various clubs in the town as well as during the halftime of a football game. At five, he sat down at a neighbor’s piano and began playing songs.

Unfortunately, his parents were too disturbed to nurture his talent. The father was an abusive alcoholic and the mother had a self-defeating personality disorder. When their three boys won the talent show they stopped fighting for a short time and felt proud of them. When the youngest was invited to sing for various events, the son’s local fame distracted them for a while.

Then they resumed fighting, and the father would yell at and sometimes hit the mother and the mother began taking her anger out on her youngest son. Whereas in the past he had been her little darling, now his need for attention became a bother. She started pushing the boy away, and when he complained she would snipe, “Your father gives me hell every night, don’t you give me hell too!”

The two older brothers, who were jealous of the younger brother’s talent and the attention he had gotten because of it, also turned on Marvin. They accused him of being too big for his britches and began taunting and picking on him. His nearest brother would sneer, “You think you’re smart because you can sing? Singing’s for sissies.”

Soon he and his brief fame were forgotten by the family and he was treated not like someone who was special, but like someone who was bad, idiotic, and a trouble-maker. This became his personality as he grew up. As an adult, he never developed his musical talent.

Flowers can either blossom or wither on the vine, depending on whether they get enough sunshine, water, minerals, and the right kind of air.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D., a licensed psychoanalyst, professor and author of Psychotherapy with Creative People has a website at

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