One of the first words a gifted child discovers is the word “aha”! This is when they realize that they understand things others do not; especially their peers. The next word is a no-brainer for gifted parents – the dreaded “b” word. You know … bored! Fortunately, the solution comes in the form of the “c” word – challenge.
Research in gifted education continues to reveal that gifted children need to be challenged and when they are … amazing things begin to happen! And when they aren’t – which is far too often – their world becomes dark and lonely.
As the parent, it becomes incumbent upon you to do your best to challenge your child whenever possible. Most parents work very hard at getting schools to provide challenging work, but that leaves a significant amount of time to be filled. It may seem overwhelming at first, but dealing with the consequences of having a bored child can be much more difficult in the long run.
One of the best ways to challenge a gifted child is to engage them in conversation. Make it meaningful! Find out what interests them and then do some research on the topic so that you can talk to them intelligently. Discuss current events and world issues. Don’t be afraid to talk over their level of understanding. (Schools use this technique by accelerating students, offering dual enrollment in higher grades, or ability-grouping.) They will catch up before you know it. And play devil’s advocate once in awhile. Remember, they aren’t always going to agree with you on everything. Once they make up their minds on an issue … well, you know! It actually can be very stimulating and enjoyable for both parent and child. I like to call it, “gifted bonding”.
As your child gets older, rigor needs to be introduced into the way in which they are challenged. Sometimes, parents need to seek help at his point. An excellent choice is to find a mentor for your child in the area of their interests. A mentor can introduce higher level thinking which will motivate a child to learn more and reduce the stress which comes from being bored. Introducing more and more complex critical thinking tasks can improve a student’s growth in that area considerably. It enables a student to have a more positive self-image academically.
Another excellent source for finding challenging opportunities is to enroll your child in academic summer camps in your area, gifted classes (such as, Super Saturdays) at nearby universities, and national programs that can be located on the Internet. Peer-socialization is an important bonus with these activities. Friendships made here can last a life-time and provide long-term benefits in helping your gifted child to understand that they are not alone.
It’s important to remember that all the effort that goes into parenting a gifted child can pay off with incredible dividends in their lives. It is such an awesome experience to see that smile when they fulfill their goals and come to realize that it was their parents who supported them all the way!