Parenting for High Potential

I Is Not for “I”

Dr. Joanne Foster

In this column I implore parents to take the word “I” off the table.  Instead of thinking “What can I do for my children?” consider, “What can they do for themselves?”


How can you invoke children’s independence—and initiative? Start by inspiring them to investigate, imagine, and use their intellect. Here are some ideas, each one formatted as an inquiry, so as to provide immediate impetus for implementation…


IdentifyWhat are your children’s interests and learning goals?

(Encourage them to articulate these.)


IncorporateHow might your children incorporate those interests and goals into what’s happening at school?

(Perhaps start by co-creating one or two action steps, and let them build from there…)


ImportantWhat is most important to you when it comes to your children’s education and well-being?

(And, what is most important to them? Is there some way to align these objectives?)


Intelligence edge – How can children develop the edge they will inevitably need –including learning to meet challenges, overcome obstacles, and manage change?

(These are acquired skills. It’s a fast-paced world. Consider slowing down a bit, so as to create and spend quality time with children. Respect and discuss their concerns, and model how to deal with them successfully.)


IntegrityDid this word come to mind in relation to the earlier question about what’s important?

(Along with honesty, determination, responsibility, and other virtues, integrity builds character and fortifies children’s moral fibre so they will act ethically as they forge ahead.)


Information What kinds of resources do you regularly access in order to be up-to-date on matters having to do with gifted/high-level development?

(Well-informed parents—and teachers—are better positioned to encourage gifted-level outcomes in children.)


InsightfulHow carefully do you listen to your children when they talk about the day’s events?

(Children’s perspectives are often far more insightful than we give them credit for. By getting a true understanding of children’s daily experiences we can reinforce their efforts and resilience, so they will progress to the next step— all the while knowing they have the support they need if the going gets rocky…)


Interpret – How much do you know about assessment procedures?

(Perhaps there are reports you’d like clarified or diagnostic procedures you want to find out more about, so you can encourage your children to engage in suitable tasks, feel confident, and succeed.)


InvestIn what ways are you invested in your children’s education?

(Not just monetarily, but in terms of day to day interactions, ongoing communication channels, homework assignments, technological know-how, social networking, and so on.)


InviteTo what extent do you feel welcome in the school?

(If you feel comfortable, think about how to become more involved. If not, think about speaking to the teacher about how to bridge the gap—without being intrusive. By increasing your involvement in the life of the school you become more attuned to the ebb and flow of learning processes, including how your kids learn best.)


IdentityHow well do you know what makes your children tick?

(Throughout childhood and adolescence one’s sense of self is a work in progress; kids’ capacities, emotions, and identities are in flux. Some days are better than others… and so it is for everyone.  Effective parenting involves knowing when to leave things be, or encourage, or intervene, or discipline, or guide, or offer constructive advice or assistance—as children grow and develop autonomy.)


Issues What kinds of concerns do you have, and what is being done to address them?

(If a child is experiencing social, emotional, behavioural, motivational or academic problems then it may be time for some serious discussions with professionals who can provide assistance—for example a guidance counsellor, pediatrician, psychologist, or others who possess the necessary skills and expertise to help.)


InclusionDo your children feel “a part of” things or “apart from” things?

(There’s a big difference. Belonging is important, and feeling disconnected, different, separated, or pigeon-holed can make or break a child’s school experience—depending on whether or not solid supports are in place. Individualism is good. Isolation is not.)


Influence What sorts of influences affect your children’s learning, at home and at school?

(Family members? Friends? Activity or peer groups? Teachers? Cultural forces?  Books? Social media?  Mentors?  This represents a short-list of possibilities. There are likely more. Plus, there are internal influences such as feelings, aspirations, and motivations. Be aware of the various influences and their possible impact, and be ready to help children be mindful and stay in control.)


IgniteWhat sparks a child’s imagination?

(Choice. Lots of opportunities to think, communicate, act freely [albeit safely], and to take sensible risks.  Let children’s fire or passion come from within. In short, step away from the blaze, but from time to time celebrate the sizzle, and fan the flames…)


InquisitivenessQuestions (big and small) are a foundation of learning. Who asks and who answers in your house? 

(There’s an old adage: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”  With that in mind, embrace inquiry-based learning, model and stimulate curiosity, and appreciate children’s sense of wonder—all of which can lead to enhanced creativity and accomplishment.)


IdealIf you could make three wishes for each of your children, what would they be?  Be practical…

(Realistically, consider how you can work together to make them come true.)


Author’s Note – Joanne Foster, Ed.D., is coauthor (with Dona Matthews) of the award winning book Being Smart about Gifted Education(2009, Great Potential Press), now in its second edition. She is also a parent, teacher, consultant, researcher, and education specialist. Dr. Foster has more than 30 years of experience working in the field of gifted education. She has written extensively about high-level development, and has presented on a wide range of gifted-related topics at conferences and learning venues across North America. She teaches educational psychology as well as gifted education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She can be reached at or you can visit her website at


This article is part of a series entitled ABCs of Being Smart, featured in the National Association for Gifted Children’s journal Parenting for High Potential. This particular piece was published in the January 2013 issue, and it is reprinted here with this acknowledgement. To view the actual article visit:

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