Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What not to say to your gifted child

Who hasn't had regrets about what they have said to their child? Whether in a fit of anger, frustration and exhaustion, or in an attempt to get them off the sofa, we all have been there.

But choice words directed at gifted children can take on a different dimension. Parents of gifted children may feel unique levels of frustration when they witness their child "waste" his potential, or struggle with basic social interactions, or fail to perform in school. Overexcitabilities, asynchronous development, underachievement, conflicts with school administration, and an absence of other adults who "get it" all compound the problem.

Here is a partial list of what might easily slip out in a moment of frustration or carelessness - but, nevertheless, should not be expressed:

  • If you're so smart, why can't you act your age?

  • Why can't you just fit in with the other kids?

  • You should be ashamed of yourself for not getting all A's when you're so smart.

  • I wish you would just stop asking so many questions.

  • You had better not let those other kids get ahead of you in school - you should be top of your class.

  • Stop showing off - other people don't want to know that you have the answers all the time.

  • We just spent all that money on SAT prep - you had better do well on it.

  • (To girls) Boys don't like it when girls are smart - don't let them see how smart you are.

  • (To boys) You had better get involved in sports, since kids don't like boys who are nerds.

  • Why can't you just be more mature and act like the other kids in your class?

  • We are so amazed at how intelligent and talented you are.

  • You need to get into the best college out there - grades are everything and getting ahead and being successful is so important.

  • That teacher is just stupid for not knowing how to teach properly.

  • Why can't you get good grades like your sister (or brother or friend)?

  • You need to sit still and wait until the other kids in the class get their work done - it's selfish of you to think the teacher should spend extra time finding work for you.

  • I am going to tell you your IQ score so you know how smart you are - that should motivate you.

  • OK, smartypants, if you're so smart, then why don't you know how to ____?

  • Why can't you just be normal?

The problem with the above statements might seem obvious. And even if we haven't said them...we probably have thought some of them. Most parents of gifted children struggle with mixed feelings and guilt associated with their reactions when raising children with such unique needs.

What these statements remind us is that we need to ensure that our children accept and appreciate their differences without disparaging others or themselves. We need to avoid overinvesting in the significance of their abilities and potential, and check our disappointment about their struggles (particularly when it comes to peer relationships and social maturity). We must be alert to our own anger, frustration and dreams, and avoid shaming them or criticizing others when our expectations are not met. And we need to love and appreciate who they are, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. A tall order - but as parents, we are up to the task.

What would you add to the list?