To the uninitiated, parenting a gifted child might seem like an enviable task. Big complications can accompany big talent and intellect, and gifted children often struggle in ways not experienced by their age peers. It is for this reason that there are disadvantages as well as advantages associated with the parenting of a gifted child.
School Successes and Struggles
An advantage of having a gifted child is that you know she is capable of excelling in school curriculum. Ironically, your gifted child may struggle in state school, getting bored quickly and having trouble focusing. A gifted child can lose interest because she is not challenged or motivated. Gifted children can be difficult to match with an appropriate class because, although they are cognitively ahead, they may be socially younger than their age peers, which can result in behaviour problems. These difficulties can lead to scholastic underachievement, which creates teacher scepticism of your child's giftedness. Your alternative is to pursue private gifted schooling, which can be expensive. So while taking comfort in your child's academic potential is an advantage of parenting the gifted, supporting her in actually reaching that potential can be complicated, expensive and difficult.
Perfectionism and Mastery Drive
Gifted kids are often mastery driven. If your gifted child is in violin lessons and he is inherently motivated to practice, this makes your job as a parent much easier. You won't have to remind him to spend time with his instrument because he is almost involuntarily drawn to it, captivated by the music in his head, and immersed in the will to recreate it with his hands. If, on the other hand, that same mastery-driven child can't proceed with the rest of his science homework because there is one question he knows he has answered incorrectly, he has been stymied by perfectionism. Gifted children who struggle with perfectionism set impossibly high standards for themselves and are prone to complicated, stress-related behavioural issues that are a challenge for parents to solve.
Atypical Thinking and Social Ostracism
Your gifted child astounds you with her depth of thought. At the age of four, she asks you what would happen if the earth stopped turning, and where the universe ends. She is the only child in her grade one class who can play chess and her first words spoken were the names of the letters of the alphabet. You are proud of her atypical insight. You are also concerned about her social struggles. Her intense behaviour draws scorn from other children and she has trouble relating to them. You know that she may some day contribute to society in a unique way, but meanwhile she has to survive years of school playground encounters first. Your coexisting pride and worry are typical of the double-edged sword of parenting a gifted child.
Intensity of emotion is often matched by intellectual level. There are always exceptions, but generally the more clever a child is, the more emotional he can and will be. A child gifted with enough musicality to be moved to tears by a ballad may also suffer hurt feelings more easily than his friends. He may happily read a science magazine to his younger sister and explain to her in detail how mountains are formed, but then fly into a rage if she looks away or stops paying attention. The same sensitivity that enables him to acquire information and comprehend it at a different level from his age peers also makes teaching him to manage his reactive emotions much more difficult.
Exhaustion and Inspiration
Keeping up with the intellectual and emotional learning needs of your gifted child can be exhausting. She is hard to over-schedule and does not need as much down time as other children her age. She craves new cognitive input and drags you on a constant whirlwind of learning adventures and misadventures. You are more worn out than the average parent, but you have also brushed up on your card game skills and now know how to reconstruct the motor of a battery-powered train that was altered by your budding engineer. Parenting a gifted child may be tiring, but it is never boring.
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- Hoagies Gifted: Parenting Gifted Children
- National Association for Gifted Children: What Is Giftedness?
- National Association for Gifted Children: Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act
- National Association for Gifted Children: Gifted By State - Key Contacts
- National Association for Gifted Children: ABC's of Giftedness