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Giftedness can be both a blessing and curse. You might save a bundle in tuition fees, but it can be difficult keeping up with such a quick and adept learner! On the other hand, giftedness in your child may look remarkably different from another child’s giftedness – there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
As parents, we always want what’s best for our child. And if our child is gifted, what’s “best” might not be obvious – take this gifted children’s bill of rights for example. Here are some general guidelines for supporting your gifted child:
Remember you’re the parent
Your child might be rapidly outpacing you in maths, but he’s still your child. Don’t assume that just because he’s highly intelligent that he also has the EQ and maturity to make his own decisions all the time. As a parent, you know your child best. Help him figure out tough decisions, like whether to enter the GEP or what enrichment classes to take, together as a team – don’t let him shoulder all the pressure by himself.
In the Singapore’s rigorous academic environment, providing challenge may not be what you think it is. The challenge your child needs is the opportunity to try something out of his comfort zone, where he can fail safely, where he can be frustrated, where he needs to work harder than usual to figure something out. This lets him learn the value of persistence – a key Habit of Mind that will help your child develop the skills he needs to succeed in a competitive world.
Give him time
Overscheduling your child is not the same as challenging him. So, don’t mindlessly fill his free time with enrichment classes in maths or Chinese. Instead, think creatively about how to expose him to a variety of skills and activities that will let him discover his own passions and talents. He also needs regular amounts of downtime in his schedule to just read, play, daydream and process his day. A gifted child can be a very anxious and stressed child – giving him a little free time to breathe can really make a difference.
Praise him or her, but not too much
A gifted child is not a show pony – try to resist showing your child off to others, even if you are rightly proud of his achievements. Plus, comparisons can backfire. They might make your gifted child self-conscious about his talents (and thus encourage underachievement) or they might cause social problems if other children become jealous.
Still, don’t forget to praise your child. Here’s a great overview of how to praise kids – remember to focus on where your child has put in the effort, as opposed to where he has done the “best”. Look at rewarding the process, not the result. Try “I liked how you kept trying even though you got it wrong the first time” instead of “great job on another A”.
Above all, remember that if your child is gifted in one area, it doesn’t mean he is gifted in all areas. Be compassionate and considerate about areas where your child is less gifted, and watch for where your child is facing his own unique challenges and problems.
Gifted children are usually also very sensitive and aware, making them more susceptible to anxiety, depression or other issues. While there is no silver bullet or magic cure for maintaining your child’s emotional equilibrium, try as a parent to really “see” your child – not as you wish him to be, but as he is, and to meet him where he is and work together from that point.
Don’t forget, at the end of the day, your child wants nothing more than your approval. Encourage his efforts but don’t make your affection contingent on success. Let him try, let him fail and ultimately, love him no matter what.