What I’m Reading: “A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children,” Preface

I love to read. I read mostly fiction, but I also have a particular affinity for parenting books. I thought I would start a new blog post category to share with you my thoughts about whichever parenting book I’m reading at the moment, chapter by chapter.

Right now, I’m reading A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. A friend, whose daughter is extremely bright, has inspired me to learn more about gifted children, and she and I are taking a class based on this book. (I’m seeing some gifted traits in William, my eldest.)

Giftedness is not solely genetic

Before you decide that this book isn’t for you, let me assure you that while there is certainly a genetic component of giftedness, it’s not wholly inborn.

“Environment plays an important role as well. Gifted children, like any other children, thrive in supportive environments and fail to thrive in non-supportive environments. Young children can even show an increase in measured intelligence if they are given strong emotional and educational enrichment. Up to seven or eight years of age, IQ scores may increase with enrichment of the child’s environment by 10 to 20 points or more,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. 3).

Toddlers learn best by experiencing their worlds

Now, before you run off to buy flashcards for your two-year-old, let me explain my theories about educating toddlers. I wholeheartedly believe that toddlers learn best by experiencing their environment. They learn best by tackling challenging puzzles, going on nature walks, playing with peers, having tea parties with imaginary friends, listening to you read to them and seeing you read to yourself.

Academic learning of letters and numbers, no matter how much the child may request it, should take a back seat to experiential learning at this age. When a child reaches school age, and school becomes his “job,” then it will be time to dive into abstract academic learning. When you focus too much on abstract letters and numbers too early, the child will miss out on important social and imaginative learning. As you’ll soon read, gifted children often struggle with social skills. Don’t rush your child through important developmental milestones.

Raising gifted children is complex

This brings me to the crux of this book: parenting gifted children isn’t easy.

“One mother said, tongue-in-cheek, ‘My son is afflicted with giftedness.’ Suppose you do have a gifted child living in your house. This means she will grow up to be a contented, responsible, contributing, and valued member of society, right? … Well, not necessarily. Some gifted children with high potential never live up to it. Other factors can get in the way, and often, these are social and emotional factors,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xiii).

Parents must help their children, gifted or otherwise, find a balance between fitting in and following their own path.

“To help and support gifted children, we must first recognize that they are thoroughly different. Next, we must understand how they are different, because not all gifted children are the same. And finally, as the important and influential adults in their life, we must guide them—not only in academic endeavors, but also in social, interpersonal, and self-development skills,” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, p. xiv).

So while all parents may hope to have children who excel academically, we must understand that parenting them is a complex endeavor. Success in life is measured on many levels, and we must address them all if we are to help our children live up to their fullest potential.

Comments

  1. I’ve heard good things about that book in homeschooling circles too, I’ll need to check it out. That last quote: “To help and support gifted children, we must first recognize that they are thoroughly different. Next, we must understand how they are different, because not all gifted children are the same.” is so true. When I was stubbornly insisting Tobias was bright but essentially normal all I did was frustrate him and make others feel their kids were behind because they weren’t doing what he was. Things settled down for us once we recognized he’s kind of a freak (in the best way possible :) ) and started parenting differently, especially adding in academic challenges that he needed. Once we did that the sleep issues improved, he stopped picking paint off our windowsills (long story), and was better behaved. All he wanted all along was for me to sit him down and teach him to read.

  2. I don’t know if your book touches on this, but there are children who are considered “twice exceptional”-meaning that they are cognitively gifted AND have another issue such as dyscalcula, dyslexia, ADD, dysgraphia, sensory processing issues, etc. It is something that is often ignored in gifted books and literature.

  3. Lynn, yes the book does discuss this in a later chapter. And in fact, William is “twice exceptional” since he is cognitively gifted and has sensory processing issues.

  4. Manda, I thought of you and Tobias when I was writing the post. It’s interesting that while many parents want their kids to excel academically, not all want them to be labeled as gifted. The term sometimes connotes abnormality. I gave up on thinking my kids were “normal” a long time ago. If we are going to deal with sensory issues, I’ll take the giftedness to go with it! That’s interesting that your sleep issues improved. We have had constant sleep issues with William, and they didn’t improve after he started school. Then again, it’s probably sensory related.

  5. I think the reason I resisted (and still resist) the gifted label is more for social reasons. I have strong memories of being teased when I was put in the Gifted Program at my school, and hiding my report cards from the other kids so they wouldn’t sneer at my A’s. I feel like even in parenting there’s this sense that any parent who labels their kid as gifted is a snob or a pushy parent, or just bragging if they mention it in conversation. I don’t want that, and I don’t want Tobias to think he’s better or smarter than others. It’s so complicated, I just pray that Peter is normal, lol!

    I’ve been thinking about the gifted and sensory processing connection lately too. It seems like a lot of people whose kids fit the SPD criteria are also gifted or at least very intelligent and creative. I wonder how that would inform our treatment of SPD, whether perhaps indulging the giftedness of a child could lessen some of the SPD symptoms. Like I said above, a lot of Tobias’ general mischief and sleep issues were resolved with more academic challenge. But then it seems other kids have more pervasive symptoms that might not be so easy to resolve.

  6. Manda, I was lucky enough that all of my friends were in honors classes with me. In my group, it was cool to be smart. So it inspired me to push myself in school.

    I definitely see what you’re saying with parents sounding snobby or pushy. I’ll cover that in a future blog post.

    As for the sensory stuff, it’s so true. I watched a webinar produced by the author of this book, and he spent a good 45 minutes describing my child. It’s as if William was the basis of his research. SPD, allergies and blood sugar instability are all part of it. Apparently the gifted child’s brain uses more glucose and so these kids often have hypoglycemia. I’ve seen it in William, myself, and two friends. I’ve got allergies and I’m sure I’ve got SPD, too.

    As for hoping Peter will be “normal”, I’m not sure you’ll feel that way in a couple years. Lucas appears to be “normal” in every way, but I’m at the point now where I’m starting to watch his academic progress. It’s bad to compare your kids, but sometimes it’s so hard not to!

  7. I look forward to the parents sounding snobby/pushy post! I’m sure you experienced that a bit with just Babywise and your kids STTN early on.

    Funny about gifted and incidences of hypoglycemia because I was diagnosed hypoglycemic in high school and now have milk intolerance. Autistic kids also seem to have a high incidence of food allergies, I’ve always wondered where that line is between autism and genius, seems there are a lot of cross-overs, especially when you look at Aspergers and stuff.

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