When I was eleven my parents were told the good news. I was gifted. I got a letter inviting me to a “Special School” that would develop my talents. I remember the day very clearly. My dad and I had just had a huge fight, because I got a B average on my school report and he was convinced I’d never amount to anything. (He was wrong, and he knows that now ;)).
No one was surprised, and when my sister got her letter, we just assumed it was in the genes. A bit like a free pass to Hogwarts, but without the cool stuff.
Being me, I paid close attention to every aspect of “being gifted”, so that when my gifted children arrived (as they undoubtedly would), I ‘d be ready.
When they did arrive, I was ready. What I didn’t know, was that gifted has many faces. And the girls’ version of it looks very little like mine. (In fact, now that I know them I rather suspect someone bribed the guy who marked my assessment).
Here are my tips for parenting a gifted learner:
Take it slow
Just because your son or daughter has a superior capacity for learning than the so-called average learner, that doesn’t mean they’ll use it. In fact, the pressure might be too much and they could just give up under the weight of expectations. In fact, the more pressure you apply to a sensitive, gifted learner, the worse it could be. Take it slow, and let them unfold.
Giftedness often manifests in very specific focuses
For many gifted individuals, being gifted manifests in an intense interest in a very specific field. Your gifted child might be an expert on World War II, but know (and care) not at all about rugby (or vice versa). Just because the potential for taking data on board is massive, don’t assume a gifted child will want to take it all on board.
Giftedness is not the same as common sense
Just because a child is really bright, don’t expect them to remember that the stove being on means a potential for being burnt. Or to remember what it was they got up to do. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go that way. (I rather suspect that we all get the same amount of smart. If all of yours is used up in IQ, there’s not much left for, you know, brushing your hair).
Gifted doesn’t always mean smart
This may seem illogical, or it may seem like I’m repeating the above. It’s neither. Being smart is about EQ: your emotional quotient. It’s about navigating the social minefield we call life. Some people, especially the severely gifted, simply don’t have that.
No two gifted children are alike
My sister and I received the same assessment: gifted. Yet we’re really n very much alike. Our brother, who is also (supposedly) gifted, may as well be from a different planet, I sometimes think. He truly is unique. My parents got it right when they parented us: they knew hat worked for one would not necessarily work for all. That’s not being unfair. That’s being wise. And it’s vital to your family’s success. You need to identify each child’s unique temperament and needs, bearing in mind that these WILL change with time. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it will make you all a lot happier. Just be transparent about the process, and be very careful not to turn a character trait into a crutch – an excuse to justify poor behaviour.
Patience is the key
When we see the potential in our gifted learners, we tend to expect a lot. Often, they will exceed our expectations and astound us with their wisdom, logic and insights. To be fair, they fuel our expectations by their sheer brilliance. But these expectations set us up for disappointment. It’s much healthier, and infinitely more exciting, to allow them to unfold, to live in a state of expectancy. Just wait and see.
Boundaries – you need them
Just because your child is a genius, that doesn’t give them license to do whatever they want, or get whatever they desire. These boundaries are as important for your child as they are for you, since clear, strong structures create a sense of security – perfect for the learning requirements of your gifted child.
Have you got a gifted child? What are your experiences like? Do you agree with what I’ve said, or do you have a different perspective? I’d love to hear it.