Raising A Gifted Child

I was reading a favorite blog and was touched by something this mother wrote. I thought about commenting directly to her, to offer advice and encouragement, but I realize there may be other frustrated moms that might be interested by one who has been there and done that. Raising good kids isn’t easy; raising a good gifted child is harder still. I hope maybe I can offer something to make their job easier.

Gifted kids ARE kids, so they still need all the love and guidance any kid needs. But, they are different, too. I’m pretty much convinced that truly gifted people are born with a certain set of characteristics, the “gifted syndrome” I’ll call it, that is recognizable to other parents of gifted kids. Their intelligence may exacerbate these characteristics, but just like kids with Down Syndrome and other inherited conditions, they are born with a bundled package.  And some of these little gems in the package are what makes raising your gifted child so challenging.

They are highly sensitive to physical stimuli.  My son used to drive me crazy agonizing about the “toe line” on his socks and seams in his clothing.  It really bugs them.  Please be sympathetic; they are not just trying to be difficult.  This is probably why these kids are often diagnosed with ADD, like mine was.  They can do well in school just because they’re so smart, but they are highly distractable and won’t necessarily work up to their awesome potential.  Yes, it’s extremely frustrating!

Don’t expect your gifted child to be the next Hank Aaron.  (I’m not stereotyping, I’m just offering my observations).  Most of these kids are not endowed with an abundance of athletic ability.  Part of it may be they are just not that interested in sports.  I still maintain that whether they like it or not, an active body is a healthy body so I bribed and prodded all my boys to run with me.  Find an individual sport (like running, tae kwando, golf) that your gifted child can embrace.  Team sports are fine when they’re very young, but their teammates won’t be all that supportive when your child is trying to catch butterflies in the outfield.

They are so advanced intellectually that it magnifies how immature they are socially.  But imagine how frustrating it would be to know more than many of the bigger people who are in charge of you!  They don’t suffer fools very well and they sometimes lash out.  You have to be there to remind them that elders still require their respect.  Just because Aunt Ann does not know a parrot from a toucan, you cannot yell at her!  But be supportive (although quite firm) when correcting them and explain alternative ways to handle these situations.  Also, peers will give them a hard time because they are different.  Some kids truly admired how smart my son was but they didn’t know how to relate to him.  Others were just brats who would be mean to anyone they perceived as different.  You have to be there to support your child, intervene when necessary, and let the child know that none of this is his fault.  I volunteered at my kids’ schools and made sure I got to know the teachers and administrators (without being obnoxious) and even though they didn’t really always know what to do for my son, they definitely did try to make sure that all my kids got the teachers that were best suited to teach them.

What I wish I had done different?  My main regret is that I did not always totally accept my gifted child just the way he was.  I expected more from him in ways that perhaps he couldn’t live up to.  I think he was hurt many times thinking that he was disappointing me because I took some of his shortcomings personally.  Sometimes I spent too much time worrying about why he wasn’t living up to his potential instead of just enjoying the terrific things that he did.  Of course, these were my pre-Lexapro days and I think today I could handle a lot of things better (without yelling and being stressed out).  Also, although I think it’s important to expose these kids to their peers rather than hide them, I wish I had the opportunities to cyber-school him like people do now.  He was born just a little too early for that.  He learned so much more on his own than he could in school; however, even though kids can be mean, I do believe it’s important to expose your kids to the outside world.  They will have to exist there someday, and you’re better off learning these things when you’re young.

If you’re not doing everything perfect (and who does), don’t worry.  As long as you love and support your child, treat them to be considerate of other people’s feelings, and stay tuned into their lives, you will all end up fine.  They will find their own path to follow and even if it’s not the one you would have chosen for them, they will be fine if you’ve raised them with love and respect.  I’ve raised three of the most wonderful young men on the planet, and although it wasn’t always easy, it was the most wonderful job in the world.

9 Responses to “Raising A Gifted Child”

  1. 1 Anna June 29, 2008 at 12:50 am

    Oh! Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us. My son (10 yrs old) just came home from a week long boys camp and was sad because he did not do well in ball sports (although he came in the winner in swimming). Ball games are my son’s weakness. He enjoys and excells in fencing and swimming but not in the ball sports. He is a very smart kid; although this depends so much on who is teaching. The last couple of years, when his teachers were very positive and have shown TRUST in him, he did very well and scored in the 90’s in all subjects in his Terra Nova exams. This year, his teacher is sarcastic in nature and did not show trust in him, he did very poorly. Went down to the 70’s??? Very worrisome to us. I have gone to the school principal and have complained about the teacher’s attitude. I pray she will improve next year, because she will still be teaching my son. I am considering transferring him to a different school, but is that running away from your problems (according to my husband). What should we do?

  2. 2 mamaneeds2rant June 29, 2008 at 11:23 am

    My gifted son loved fencing too–he did it while in college! He also enjoyed martial arts. By all means, I would keep him involved in the activities he enjoys and excels in. As for schools, that’s a little trickier. You usually have to work with what is there. My son loved learning on his own but was not motivated to do the busywork they gave him at school. That is why I think he would have done very well with a cyberschool–which there seem to be a lot of very good ones now. Private schools are expensive–and you still can’t be too sure with what you’re getting. Maybe if you can talk to the teacher and explain to her that your son will work better in a supportive environment–(but you can’t really control her actions.) I agree that you can’t keep switching schools every time there is a problem, but you do have to make sure your son gets what he needs. If that means being at the school all the time, then go for it. Just make sure your son knows you support his good efforts, and work with him when he needs help. Also, if the teacher shows a willingness to do better, make sure she knows you appreciate her efforts too. Good luck with your son. It’s frustrating now, but if he knows you care, it will all work out in the end.

  3. 3 Laura July 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I realize you wrote this 2 years ago, but you are describing my son, except, that his very interesting in sports. And exceeds in any sports he plays.
    He is 7 years old, and in the “gifted” program at school. He tested at a 4th grade level, for math and reading, the beginning of 1st grade.
    I contantly struggle with the fact, that he knows he is smarter than many, including adults. Your statement “They don’t suffer fools very well and they sometimes lash out. You have to be there to remind them that elders still require their respect. ” happens all the time. I try to remind him that he needs to respect elders and not correct them, but time and time again, he feels the need to correct. I know that is his immaturity, but it is very embarrassing.
    Thank you for sharing. I’m realizing raising a gifted child, can be as challenging as raising a mentally challenged child.

    • 4 les July 23, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      Good luck in raising your son, Laura. You’ll be glad to know that despite the challenges, these kids can grow up to be awesome! My son didn’t finish college, but he now has a great job working with computers because he knows so much about them. You are lucky that he excels in sports. This will help keep him grounded and more likely to be a “team” player and accepted by his peers! 🙂

  4. 5 Laura August 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you so much for your advice!

  5. 6 Susan April 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’m so glad to read that others are having similar ‘issues’, is that wrong? I have a 10 year old son who fits the description of a gifted child. He has no interest in sports, lives in his own world, communicates better with most adults, hates recess and gym, can barely tolerate children his own age and often has his nose in a book. I love everything about him, he’s a really interesting person but I find it difficult to let him be himself all of the time. As a result, I feel like the worst mother ever. As if I’m embarrassed by him. The more tired I am (I work 2 jobs)the harder I find it to tolerate his quick outbursts of energy, the loud squeals, odd jumps in the air, or his constant questions. The last thing I want him to think is that I don’t like him, because I do like him and love him very much.

    Even writing this makes me feel guilty. I know you’re not a therapist, but I need to know how to be a better mother for a gifted child. The kind that he needs. I remember when my second son was born I said, ‘now this one’s more my speed’. He’s patient and quiet and doesn’t require my constant attention.

    The bottom line is that I need to find a way to be comfortable with him being so different. He won’t be like the other children, he won’t blend in and make things easier for himself and for me. And, why would I ask him to? Why should he? Any advice you can give me would be appreciated. I need to know that it will all work out fine. Thanks for reading.

    • 7 les@mamaneeds2rant May 1, 2011 at 10:26 am

      Oh, Susan, I can so relate to what you’re feeling. As a mother, you so want your child to fit in. It tears at your heart to see other people look at your child when they’re “acting up.” The best thing for me was to find places where my son DID fit in. The main reason I wanted him to get into his school’s gifted program was to find and be with kids more like him. Are there computer or library classes you can get him into in your area? Chess clubs or music lessons that can encourage his gifted tendencies and put him in contact with others that may be more like him? It was always really satisfying to see my son interact and fit in with kids with whom he had things in common and best of all, he could be himself.

      Hang in there. You sound like a good mom and your feelings are perfectly normal. I’m not an expert, but sometimes these kids have other issues too. My son as an adult still has trouble staying on task and is seeing a therapist who concurs that he has ADHD. Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning autism disorder) also has some of these symptoms. Perhaps it’s all part of the same package–you get the good with the bad–but it’s all part of the wonderful gift that is your child. Stay positive, let him be himself, and it will be fine. Good luck!

  6. 8 Susan May 2, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks Les, I feel better already. You have a gift. Just tonight I sat through a thrilling new rap my son wrote about the Canadian election. Yes, this is different parenting!

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