Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When children realize they are gifted

Maybe it happens when they realize that they can multiply and their classmates cannot even add. Maybe it’s when they figure out there’s no Santa or Tooth Fairy, long before their friends know. Maybe it’s when the same old games their friends are playing just seem silly and boring.

AHA!!!
At some point, gifted children recognize that they are different from their peers. No one has to tell them. They realize it on their own. Often there is a defining moment when it first registers that they “get it” in ways others will never grasp. Frequently this realization is accompanied by pride and excitement, but sometimes by confusion or even guilt. “Hey, I thought my friends were just like me. Why don’t they see things the same way? What does it mean if I figure things out so quickly? Will it mean I’ll always be different?

Young children don’t understand what “gifted” means. But they do notice the fuss parents and teachers make about their abilities. When too much praise is offered, they may become confused. “I don’t get any reward for cleaning up my toys, but they make a big deal about something that comes so easily to me.” “Why is it so important that I can solve math problems the other kids can’t do? Does this make me better than them?”

Due to a lack of maturity, young children also may become bossy and impatient with peers who fail to perform at their ability level. Gifted children can start to believe that their intelligence is critical to their self-concept, and that performing poorly will disappoint those who love them. They may believe that their abilities are all that matter about them.

Most gifted children will not articulate their “aha” moment. Gifted adults sometimes recall their first awareness of being gifted. But young children have neither the words, nor the maturity to fully put it in perspective. Parents should be alert to signs that their child is comparing his or her abilities to those of others. Comments or questions regarding differences in skills, devaluing peers for being too “slow,” expressions of impatience and boredom, excessive boasting about accomplishments, and complaints about feeling misunderstood because of precocious interests all warrant discussion.

Parents need to help their gifted children understand what it means to be gifted, and that their abilities make them no more “special” than their friends. Rather than a confusing, ambivalent experience, a child's awareness of being gifted should be a positive awakening, and a threshold to endless possibilities. Parents are in an ideal position to provide the framework and guidance to help their child understand it. 

What were the defining moments when you realized you were gifted? 



11 comments:

  1. When I was about 10-11 yrs old, I 'broke-up' with my best friend for no apparent reason. After reading this blog post I'm thinking that may have been my defining moment. My parents had shown me my IQ scores and had me put in a gifted program, but all through elementary school I was looking at my classmates and wondering why they always wanted to cheat answers off my paper, and was I the only one doing my math and spelling homework during reading class because it was so boring. I don't think there was much understanding of what 'gifted' meant, there was no discussion with me of the 'threshold to endless possibilities'. More than 30 yrs later, reading things like this blog, I am coming to understand why my growing years felt so different. Thank you for talking about this

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  2. Jackie,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like what a lot of gifted children go through. They know they are different, but don't have the words of perspective to understand it.

    Gail

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  3. I don't think that there ever was 'a moment' (I don't think there will be with my kids). I slowly over time learnt to accept that I was quirky but despite being offered a place in a gifted program and a sky high CAT score I never believed that I was anything other than average and lazy with it.

    When I grew up I slowly realised that I was out of step because others didn't know what I did. I was waiting for them to catch up yet always felt that I was the one who was wrong. Now I just sit and wait (sometimes for a very long time).

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  5. Katie,

    You make a good point that sometimes awareness is an accumulation of steps. Hopefully, parents can help their children frame the types of experiences you described so that they don't put negative labels on their on behaviors and reactions.

    Gail

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  6. I don't remember having a moment when I didn't realize that I was different from the crowd. It has been interesting watching my children navigate the world the same way I did, seeing them discover that they also think differently than their peers. My daughter has been more articulate about it than my son; she has brought it up off an on since 2nd grade. Why no one else is as interested as she is in so many things, why they like to watch cartoons and she enjoys watching NOVA and discussing the science.
    I've never liked the term gifted because it connotes that gifted students are somehow more special. I try real hard to emphasize the fact that they both just think "outside the box" and that while being able to do so has value, it certainly does not make them better.

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  7. Great response to helping your children understand their differences from others.

    I think your point about how your daughter's interests are so different from those of so many other children speaks to why so many "gifted" children benefit from opportunities to spend time with like-minded children, whether in gifted programs, homogeneous classrooms, or extra-curricular activities. Otherwise they end up feeling very isolated.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    Gail

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  8. I have two memories of aha moments from my early elementary years. One, when I was in a spelling bee during a first grade spelling class and my word was "cot", only my brain immediately went to "caught" and I started spelling it instead. The teacher stopped me and said it was wrong, only I knew I was right, so I cried. She realized what I was spelling and let me continue. I felt weird and different. I also remember in second grade feeling so embarrassed by the fact that I had never missed a spelling word because the kids got these little flash cards on a ring to use for practice but I never got one. So I misspelled a word on purpose to get one. I was finally identified as gifted in 4th grade I think, but I never fit in that class either. I remember the teacher made us play chess and I hated it. I am gifted in reading, not math and a lot of the gifted lessons focused on math so I felt I wasn't smart enough to be with the gifted kids, but not normal enough to be with the regular kids.

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  9. Shawna,

    Thanks for your feedback. Your experience is a clear example of how children will often go to great lengths to hide their giftedness to just be like their peers. It also shows how trying to fit gifted children into a one-size-fits-all mold in terms of instruction also can backfire. I hope you have moved past these difficult experiences.

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  10. My daughter is 5 years old and is in a gifted program. I feel like she has found her aha. One day she came home and said "mom I have to tell you something...I feel that I am smarter than all the other kids" I am not sure what makes her feel that way. But I see according to her teacher that she more so sit back and watch the other kids than participate. She told me that she is too shy sometimes.

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    1. CJ, It's great that she can articulate this already and share it with you. Maybe you can get more information from the teacher as the year goes on and this may help her with the school year. Good luck.

      Gail

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