This book is so full of important content that I’m going to have to break it down. Here is part one of my discussion about the Introduction of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children.
The main idea of the Introduction of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children is that parenting gifted children is a lonely experience, fraught with misunderstanding. The misunderstanding stems, in part, from the fact that society believes that the life of a gifted child is a walk in the park. It’s true that the gifted child may have an easier time with academics, but a unique set of challenges make life more difficult than you might think.
Parents are important
Despite the many challenges that highly capable children face, a solid home foundation can make the difference between surviving or thriving. Read more about my take on family stability. When building that foundation parents must address the many emotional issues the gifted child faces and also act as an advocate for the child at school.
“Where there are insufficient educational opportunities, parents can provide enrichment and negotiate with schools to help ensure that there is a match between the educational program and the child’s interests, abilities, and motivation to learn,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xvi).
There was a time when I believed that there was no point to providing William with extra enrichment. I figured I would just be pushing him even more ahead of his peers academically. But I have since changed my tune. He is so very inquisitive and enthusiastic about everything he learns. I would hate for that flame to die simply because I chose not to meet his needs. I feel fortunate that we can afford a private school where he can read 3-4 grade levels ahead, do math that is a year ahead and be challenged in many more ways than I can count.
Parenting a gifted child is a lonely experience
While parents play a particularly key role in the life of a gifted child, few parents are aware that certain characteristics including intensity, sensitivity, perfectionism, less need for sleep and allergies are typical and more frequent among gifted children. These traits make parenting all the more difficult.
It was only a year or so ago that I figured this out. We have dealt with all of these issues (plus sensory processing disorder and the blood sugar roller coaster), but I had no idea they were related to giftedness. It was at birth that William first exhibited his sleeplessness. That first night in the hospital, I was exhausted but he was wide awake. I remember asking the nurse if it was okay that I go to sleep! To this day (he’s now 7), he takes melatonin every night because he can’t quiet his brain well enough to go to sleep.
Unfortunately, parents of other children are rarely sympathetic to the unique needs of the gifted child. The prevailing idea is that parents of gifted children are exaggerating their child’s successes or putting undue academic pressure on the child.
I feel guilty about the fact that I once bought into this portrayal of the gifted child. I figured that a truly gifted child doesn’t act or look like a typical child at all. Looking back, I realize that William (a fairly typical child) exhibited gifted traits that I didn’t even recognize for what they were.
Before the age of 2, William seemed to want to learn his letters. I didn’t push it and, in fact, wanted him to learn through play. But he would ask me to name letters, and he identified them so easily that it became a game. We were playing once at Starbucks (they had wall art made of stories written in capital letters), and a stranger commented on it, calling it “impressive.” Of course, the comment put a smile on my face, but even after seeing it from a stranger’s perspective, I didn’t think that William was all that different from other kids. It wasn’t until a few months ago, many years after this incident, that I started to wonder about giftedness.
Myths about gifted children
The misunderstanding gifted children and their parents face is fostered by myths of them portrayed in the media.
“The media, for example, often portray gifted children as pint-size oddities—geniuses who can solve amazingly difficult math problems, or play a musical instrument like a virtuoso, or go to college at age 12, and do nothing but read, practice, or study all day.
“Another myth, particularly common among educators, is that gifted children do not need any special help, because if they are so bright, they can surely develop their abilities on their own. Still another misconception is that gifted children are those children who do well academically in school or in a particular talent area, which leaves out those who are potentially gifted and currently underachieving. …
“Some gifted children are good in many areas; others are gifted in only one or two areas, such as math or science,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xvii).
Below is a list of common myths surrounding gifted children. It’s a long list, but each one is important to consider when forming opinions about the gifted children in our lives.
- Gifted children are usually gifted in all academic areas.
- Giftedness is wholly inborn.
- Giftedness is entirely a matter of hard work.
- All children are gifted.
- Children become gifted because their parents push them.
- Gifted children will become eminent adults.
- Gifted children seldom have learning handicaps.
- Gifted children are not aware that they are somehow different than others.
- If you tell gifted children they have advanced abilities, they will become egotistical.
- Gifted children will show their abilities and talents in their school achievement.
- Gifted children are usually well organized and have good study skills.
- Gifted children will only fulfill their potential if they receive continual pressure.
- Gifted children’s emotional maturity is as advanced as their intellect.
- Gifted children seldom have emotional or interpersonal issues.
- Gifted children enjoy demonstrating their talents and abilities for others.
- Families always value their gifted children’s advanced abilities, intensity and sensitivity.
- Gifted children are easier to raise than most children.
- Parents cannot identify giftedness in their own children.
- Educators will know exactly how to work with gifted children.
- (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xvii-xviii)
What are your thought processes when you meet a gifted child? Do you believe the child to be naturally gifted or do you feel that the parents are exaggerating the child’s abilities? Now that I’ve educated myself about giftedness, it feels good to do my part to dispel these myths. Please do the same as you read these posts!