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.
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?