In honor of National Parenting Gifted Children Week from July 20-26, 2014, Dr. James T. Webb joins the dialogue about the challenges of parenting and the need to nurture, support, and guide gifted children and adults.
“Parenting a gifted child is like living in a theme park full of thrill rides. Sometimes you smile. Sometimes you gasp. Sometimes you scream. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you gaze in wonder and astonishment. Sometimes you’re frozen in your seat. Sometimes you’re proud. And sometimes the ride is so nerve-racking you can’t do anything but cry.”
Parents have described to me over the years how puzzled, lonely, and exasperated they are with their child’s intensity, sensitivity, quirkiness, and asynchronous development. However when they share their experiences with other parents, or even relatives, the reaction so often is, “Well, I wish I had your problems! Your child has everything going for him, and you have it easy!”
Our society operates on the basis of several myths:
- gifted children are just like other children, only just a bit brighter;
- gifted children don’t have any special needs;
- they will make it on their own;
- gifted children are easy to parent because they learn so quickly.
Truth is, the very things that make gifted children what they are also produce the behaviors that make them so challenging. Parents and teachers often find themselves criticizing gifted children with statements like:
“For someone so smart, you have no common sense at all!”
“Do you have to be so sensitive and intense about everything?”
“Why do you always have to question everything? Can’t you just do things because I say so?”
“Why do I have to cut the tags out of all of your shirts?”
In Guiding the Gifted Child, we call these “Killer Statements” because they kill communication, chip away at a child’s sense of self, and convey to the child that they would be better liked if they were just like other children.
Statements such as these, not surprisingly, lead to family issues such as power struggles, sibling rivalry, underachievement, perfectionism, and even depression.
Gifted children, though a very diverse group, show commonalities:
(1) They see things differently.
(2) They do things differently.
(3) They act, think, and feel with intensity.
(4) Their judgment lags behind their intellect.
These are some “Ups and Downs of Giftedness.”
For every characteristic that’s a strength for a gifted child, there’s a downside of potential problems associated with that strength.
The brighter the child, the more likely the child is to be asynchronous—not only in the lag of judgment behind intellect, but also that the span of abilities within the child is likely to be greater, so much so that it is not uncommon to find very bright children who also are learning disabled or twice-exceptional in some other way.
Parenting a gifted child is often is a very lonely experience. In fact, being a gifted adult is often a lonely experience. This is why finding others who can relate and empathize is so important.
Fortunately, there are many resources to find help, guidance, and support.
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted is a non-profit whose programs and resources include the popular parent support groups and an annual conference.
National Association for Gifted Children advocates on behalf of the gifted to ensure quality education and keeps on top of the most current research and needs.