Where’s the ‘OFF’ Switch?
Parenting young gifted children can be a challenge. A gifted child brings numerous intensities into the world around them. It’s often lamented that they do not fit into society’s notion of how children should act or react. Parents describe them as ‘more’ in every aspect of their lives and it can be exhausting for everyone involved. So … where is that ‘off’ switch and do you really want to flip it?
One of the first telltale signs of giftedness is a child’s extremely early penchant to ask questions; a lot of questions and not just simple ones. In many gifted children, asynchronous development leads to highly intuitive and complex questioning of practically everything. The best way to foster a child’s giftedness is to provide them with an exceptional learning environment in which those questions can be answered; no matter how often or how many. As author Christine Fonseca tells us, “we must remind ourselves that they are curious; and that’s a good thing!”
The intensity experienced by young gifted children extends beyond their insatiable curiosity and unfortunately can affect their relationships with adults as well as age-peers. The fact that they are labeled as gifted cannot be an excuse for bad behavior. One of the most important lessons we need to teach our children is how to optimize interpersonal relationships in a way that benefits all involved.
A characteristic such as bossiness is viewed as highly unfavorable; especially when directed towards teachers or other adults. Young children who are highly intelligent may not yet understand the nuance between being bossy and the qualities associated with leadership. A patient and well-reasoned explanation of the differences will work better than criticism of their behavior.
Gifted children often have a wide breadth of knowledge leading them to be criticized as a ‘know-it-all’. It’s important to guide them to know how to temper their approach to those around them. Gifted kids need to harness their abilities and learn to appreciate others’ viewpoints even when they disagree.
Navigating age-peer relationships with kids who don’t understand their intensity can be a source of angst for a gifted child. To nurture the qualities necessary to succeed in relationships, adults should explore the concepts of empathy, high expectations, emotional intensity and social justice with the child. Discuss emotional intensity in a positive light. Don’t disparage the child’s feelings; respect them.
In their book BLOOM, authors Dr. Lynne Kenney and Wendy Young compare intense children to flowers in a garden. Consider the quote below when thinking about your gifted child.
Sleep is often a major concern for parents of gifted children. Some research suggests that gifted children need less sleep; but they still need sleep and so do their parents! As with most advice on parenting, it rarely works for gifted kids. It is usually a case of trial and error to find what works best for each child. And sometimes; nothing works.
If and when lack of sleep begins to affect everyday life … an inability to complete school assignments, being habitually late to school, displaying inappropriate emotional responses … a parent may need to consult a professional who is familiar with giftedness for help. Otherwise, the risk of misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate interventions.
It’s important not to assume that young gifted children understand the nature of their giftedness. It’s more than just being smart. Talk to your child about what it means to be gifted. Explore ways to co-exist in a world that doesn’t always appreciate someone who performs outside the box. Emphasize to them that being gifted is not being better than someone else; it’s simply about being different. It is experiencing life in a way that doesn’t always conform to social norms.
Gifted kids do grow up. Consider hitting the ‘play’ button more often than looking for the ‘off’ switch. You will be building memories together to last the rest of your lives! And about that good night’s sleep that eludes parents of young gifted children? They eventually get it.
Note: Portions of this post were previously published at the Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT Blog.