Knowing Your Gifted Child

Tommy seems like other kids in first grade. But, his knowledge base and vocabulary resemble kids three times his age. That’s why Tommy’s Mom has decided to have him tested to see if he’s gifted.

When parents wonder whether their child is gifted, chances are that the child is doing things which seem remarkably jaw dropping compared to children of the same age. If this is the case, parents need to keep a few things in mind.

Make sure your priorities reflect your values.
There is something much more important than a child's giftedness to keep in mind: your child is a child, and the most important thing is to help your child master the developmental tasks he or she faces in order to become well-rounded and socially connected in appropriate ways. A child's intellectual giftedness should not become a dominating priority.

When children speak in whole sentences while other children are using only words or phrases, show unusual awareness of their environment or ask thoughtful questions, parents sometimes become so impressed that they center their parenting on developing their child's intellect instead of nurturing their child's emotional and social growth. Sometimes loving parents become so caught up in trying to satisfy a child's need for intellectual stimulation that they make it less likely their child will develop as a well-rounded person. Rather than focusing on their child's intelligence, parents of bright children need to stress play, responsibility, perseverance, imagination, affection and having fun with others.

Parents must be careful when comparing your child with other children.
You can form some impressions by observing your child in playgroups or preschool and by talking to other parents.

But keep in mind that, during their first 8 years, children reach developmental stages at very different paces and often change quite dramatically within a relatively short period of time. These are fluid years, and parents must be cautious about forming any hard and fast conclusions from a few impressions.

Consider your child's overall characteristics, not just one. Because there is no single criteria of giftedness, parents need to be on the lookout for a variety of traits which typify gifted children. Gifted children tend to be:

  • abstract thinkers
  • challenged by difficult tasks
  • concerned about world issues
  • competitive
  • creative
  • different from their peers
  • emotionally intense
  • humorous
  • leaders
  • logical
  • perfectionistic
  • rapid learners

Many parents turn to testing to confirm their own observations, uncover areas of weakness which might be masked by a child's general intellectual prowess, or inform a decision about early enrollment to kindergarten. Testing is generally not useful until a child is at least four years old. Parents should be aware that testing can be unreliable for preschoolers because many factors-like shyness, fear of a particular tester, or just having a bad day-can cause a preschool child to score lower than his or her true abilities.

Being gifted isn't always a walk in the park. Gifted kids are often misunderstood by their teachers, classmates and even their parents! To help you better understand these kids here are some  common myths and surprising truths about giftedness.

Myths about gifted kids

-Gifted kids can accomplish anything they put their minds to, they just have to apply themselves.

-Gifted kids have fewer problems than others; they do not need or deserve extra time and attention.

-Gifted kids are self-directed, they know where they are heading.

-Gifted underachievers just need to try harder and get organized.

-The primary value of the gifted child is in his or her brain power.

-A gifted child's family always prizes his or her abilities.

-Gifted kids need to serve as examples to others and they should always assume extra responsibility.

-All gifted kids are high achievers; they don't have to work for grades.

-Gifted kids don't need help with study skills, they can manage on their own.

Truths about gifted kids.

-Gifted kids are often perfectionistic and idealistic and may equate achievement and grades with self-esteem and self-worth. This can lead to fear of failure and can interfere with their achievement in and out of school.

-The social and emotional development of a gifted child may not be at the same level as their intellectual development.

-Gifted kids may experience heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and those of others, producing constant guilt over achievements or grades perceived to be low.

-Some gifted kids are "mappers" (sequential learners), while others are "leapers" (spatial learners). Leapers often can't say how they got a "right answer." Mappers may get lost in the steps leading to the right answer.

-Gifted kids may be so far ahead of their chronological age mates that they know more than half the curriculum before the school year begins!

-Their boredom can result in low achievement and grades.

-In school, gifted kids may need real problems to work on in order to achieve at high levels. Gifted students often refuse to work for grades alone. 

-Gifted kids often think abstractly and with such complexity that they may need help with study and test taking skills. They can justify all the answers in a multiple choice question, or skip reading test instructions because they are impatient.

-Gifted kids who do well in school may define success as getting an "A" and failure as any grade less than an "A." By early adolescence they may be unwilling to try anything where they are not certain of guaranteed success.

Remember your priorities. Being a parent of a gifted child means nurturing a well-rounded, emotionally healthy, socially adept child who can utilize the talents and intellectual gifts he or she possesses. First and foremost let your gifted little one be a kid!