Raising a Gifted Child
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Most parents of gifted children are aware of the importance of such activities as reading to their children from an early age, familiarizing them with the library, talking with them about a range of topics, and taking them to places of cultural interest. The following are some less obvious principles to keep in mind as you help your child develop her talents in a way that preserves self-esteem.
- Promote your child’s interests and skills. While you may have interests that you would like your child to pursue, let her discover for herself what she has an interest in and then provide the time, materials, and opportunities to allow her to pursue it. Once she gets involved in an activity, avoid taking over or being overly intrusive.
- Set reasonable limits and stick to them. Bright children can often be difficult to discipline. They want to debate every point and often do so with the skill of a Clarence Darrow. Choose your battles carefully. Once you have determined which issues are important to you and what restrictions are appropriate, stand your ground. If you give in frequently to your child’s pleas, you will be showing her that rules are not to be respected.
- Encourage your child to express herself. Show interest in your child’s thoughts and feelings and be respectful of her views, even those that are different or novel.
- Don’t neglect your child’s emotional and social needs. Allow your child to act her chronological age. She may be light years ahead of her peers in her ability to read but she likely has the same needs for emotional support and peer acceptance. Promote her social development by providing opportunities to play with children her own age.
- Be sensitive to the pressures your child may be feeling. As the great philosopher Linus said to Charlie Brown: “There’s no heavier burden than great potential.” Gifted children often feel the weight of their giftedness, especially if their parents have dwelled on their need to live up to their potential or have showcased their talents for friends or family.
- Encourage your child to take chances. Some gifted children are reluctant to take risks for fear of failing and as a result may deny themselves opportunities for growth and enjoyment. Avoid talking about their gifted status or they may sidestep challenges for fear of being found out that they are really not gifted.
- Consider the needs of your other children. The sibling of a gifted child can develop feelings of low self-esteem and jealousy if you are always placing the gifted child in the spotlight. While you do not need to have the same standards of performance for all your children, it is important to find areas in which your other children can shine.
- Avoid stereotyping your gifted daughter. Even the most enlightened of parents can fall prey to sexual stereotypes. Monitor your own biases in talking with your daughter. Don’t steer her towards certain subjects or careers or away from others because of her gender. If she shows an interest in science or math, for example, support and encourage her.