Monday, March 2, 2015

7 Myths Surrounding Parents of Gifted Children






Recent stories in the media characterizing parents of gifted children as pushy, overbearing, helicopter parents or ‘know-it-all’ fanatics who only care about their own child have become all too common. I would like to clear a few things up ... 

Myths surrounding parents of gifted children:

  • They would rather praise their child than see them work hard
  • They believe intelligence is fixed
  • They think the gifted label is the equivalent of the “golden ticket”
  • They want nothing more than to see their child accepted into an Ivy League school
  • They lack empathy for learning disabled students
  • They can’t wait for the next parent-teacher conference
  • They ‘push’ their children to excel


They would rather praise their child than see them work hard

Parents of gifted children are often the only advocate their child has when it comes to their education and acceptance in society. What appears as excessive praise to others is perhaps the only time some gifted children receive positive feedback at all from an adult. It in no way negates the realization that hard work is an integral part of succeeding in life.  

Why do you think parents desperately try to convince teachers that their child needs to be challenged from the very beginning? Many parents of gifted children are products of the same educational systems they find their children in and know first-hand how debilitating it can be to sit in a classroom where no challenge exists at all.
 

"Many parents of gifted children are products of the same educational systems they find their children in and know first-hand how debilitating it can be to sit in a classroom where no challenge exists at all."


Early on, gifted children reach the conclusion that hard work isn’t needed because they are not given work that challenges them. Parents see the results at home when their child refuses to do the stack of unfinished worksheets sent to be completed as homework. Parents see the love of learning slip away year after year. They are the ones left to deal with the inevitable melt-downs that occur when their child arrives home after an unfulfilling day of being required to do things they already know.

Parents of gifted children know the value of hard work. They also know the value of providing their child with a support system that values their social and emotional needs more than only their achievements.


They believe intelligence is fixed

In recent years, this particular myth has been the result of misunderstanding how we define intelligence and how we conceive giftedness. It is an argument steeped in semantics. Recent scientific evidence is pitted against anecdotal evidence in nature-nurture debates that cast parents as uninformed participants who simply need attitude adjustments. They do not. 

Parents of gifted children are extremely aware of the fact that intelligence can be nurtured. They also know that the definition of giftedness is highly debatable in the halls of academia, but truly personal when it comes to their own child. Exceptional ability cannot be viewed as either an entry point or a destination when discussing giftedness. This is a false dichotomy based on a lack of understanding of what giftedness is and is not.




They think the gifted label is the equivalent of the “golden ticket”

Parents of gifted children do not believe it’s going to be smooth sailing simply because of a label. None. Unfortunately, it is a label required by most schools to participate in gifted programs.

These programs are rarely seen as ‘elite clubs’ for high achievers by the parents I know. They are life-lines to challenging curriculum; a refuge from bullying; a place to spend time with peers and teachers who get them. The number of effective and advanced education programs in this country is few and far between; and for most gifted students, they are on the decline or non-existent.



They want nothing more than to see their child accepted into an Ivy League school

This myth is the result of conflating giftedness and talent development. Parents of high achievers may set an Ivy League education as a goal for their child, but parents of gifted children know that this is a decision best left to their child.

What parents want most is for their child to be happy in whatever path they choose regardless of where they go to college or if they go at all.

They lack empathy for learning disabled students

News reports about funding gifted education sometimes devolve into contentious arguments between allocating resources for either gifted or special education. It suggests that parents of gifted children lack empathy for disabled students.

This myth is offensive and particularly so to parents of twice-exceptional children who must advocate on both fronts for their children. It is not an either-or debate. No one child or group of children is better than another. It is a matter of meeting needs.

"No one child or group of children is better than another. It is a matter of meeting needs."


They can’t wait for the next parent-teacher conference

Parent-teacher conferences are often the most stressful situation the parent of a gifted student must face in the K-12 years. In order to mitigate tensions during these meetings, parents are advised to not mention the ‘g’ word, the ‘b’ word, or their child’s social-emotional needs. While other parents are encouraged to tell about their child’s successes outside of school, parents of gifted student may refrain in order to not appear to be bragging about their child.

Many parents report being made to feel guilty for suggesting their child needs support. They are reminded that resources are scarce and that their child is already ahead of the game. Who wouldn't want to attend one of these meetings? Right?

They ‘push’ their children to excel

Why else would their child be identified as gifted? They must have read to them in the womb, bought Baby Einstein videos before they arrived home from the hospital, and certainly sent them to the finest pre-school available.

Parents of gifted children will tell you that the ‘spark’ they see in their child comes long before their child is identified as gifted. Providing a nurturing environment is a response, not a prerequisite for giftedness. These children push their parents – often to the edge.

"Parents of gifted children face many more obstacles and tough choices than meets the eye."


The truth of the matter …

The truth of the matter is that parents of gifted children face many more obstacles and tough choices than meets the eye. For many it is a daily struggle dealing with the social and emotional issues faced by their children, advocating for an appropriate education for their child, and providing financial resources for enrichment and additional educational opportunities. If you subscribe to any of these myths, may I suggest you take the time to sit down and talk to the parents of a gifted child, making a sincere effort to understand the life they lead? 

What has been your experience as the parent of a gifted child? Have you encountered any of these myths? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

Graphics courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC 2.0 

30 comments:

  1. Lisa, this is the best article I have read in a long, long time. Heartfelt, honest, truthful and factual. Everything you said was exactly true. You captured the life of a gifted parent like no other article I have read. Thank you for supporting us parents while we support our gifted kids!

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    1. Thank you, Celi. I truly appreciate your kind remarks. It has been a long and sometimes arduous journey raising two gifted kids. Many thanks to you for your excellent blog, Crushing Tall Poppies, at http://goo.gl/tDLpts . I am a regular reader and look forward to reading your new book, Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling, at http://goo.gl/CL8irW

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  2. Lisa, Brilliant overview of these appalling myths. I have certainly encountered all of them. And many of my clients have experienced them as well. What a shame that parents of gifted children still need to apologize, minimize, repeatedly explain, and come of with strategies to avoid upsetting others just to ensure that their children get an appropriate education. What a shame that kids who never saw a flashcard, were never hot-housed, and were treated like any other child are viewed with such envy and disdain by so many others. I hope your post can help to dispel some of these misconceptions.

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    1. Thank you, Gail! High praise coming from someone whose writing I've admired for a long time at Gifted Challenges, http://goo.gl/ncjR5k These are the myths I've heard so often over the past 20+ years and finally decided to speak out!

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  3. Lisa, thank you for this. This one really hit home over here :)

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    1. Thank you, Cait! I love your blog, My Little Poppies at http://goo.gl/b4doJ4 So many of your posts remind me of when my two children were younger. I wish you didn't have to face these same myths that I did for over 20 years. Hopefully this post will help educate a few people.

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    2. Lisa, that means the world to me. I look up to you and all that you do for the gifted community. Thank you!

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  4. Lisa , reading this article I felt like you have put all that we have been through as parents on paper. Hoping that this article will help at least a few ,especially people close to such families understand and be empathetic .

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  5. Thank you! No parent should have to face these criticisms. I'm always reminded of the 'walk a mile in my shoes' saying. Happy I could put pen to experience.

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  6. Thanks for your work to dispel these myths!

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  7. Thank you, Bob! I enjoy reading your blog at http://goo.gl/XffV9Z and all your work in the gifted community.

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  8. What could I add to the previous comments?....nothing!!

    I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through...I have had many a debate with teachers over the need for my kids to be challenged and not allowed to just "coast" along into boredom....and how do I know this? From my own experiences as a child, and from my inability to deal successfully with those challenges myself when they did come, because I had always believed that everything would be easy and had never had to learn how to deal with challenge.

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    1. 'If I'd only knew then what I know now' ... what we all come to realize as adults and parents. Hopefully as parents we can use this realization to better our children's experiences in school and life. Thanks for your comment!

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  9. This is one of the best articles I have read about parents of gifted children, its so true of my own experience. It is tiring and challenging enough being a parent of a gifted child without being 'blamed' or misunderstood.

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    1. Thank you, Helen. Happy to hear this post spoke to you. Life is certainly tiring and challenging when parenting these kids. Parents need to be supported, not criticized!

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  10. Fabulous article! Thank you :)

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jaye!

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  11. Many people assume that gifted children breeze through school and that is simply not the case. Issues with anxiety, depression, and attention make it difficult for some of these kids to learn and show what they know. Every day is a different kind of drama that they struggle to overcome. Teachers think they must not be so smart if they can't demonstrate it in a typical class setting. All parents have their challenges and having a gifted child does not eliminate those challenges but often increases them!

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Couldn't agree more which is why I hope this post will raise awareness of this situation.

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  12. Is the 'b' word bullying?

    thanks

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  13. The 'b' word is bored; although bullying is definitely another word that parents are not suppose to complain about.

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  14. Thank you for writing about this topic! I wish this were required reading for teachers, especially K-6.

    Parents, please keep your chins up and keep advocating for your child. Our struggle with nonspecialist teachers became easier when we decided to share our research and experiences with them - gently educating the educators, if you will. As gifted folks ourselves, we could talk about our childhood troubles and put them in context for the teachers who didn't understand our son's atypical behaviors. We could look them in the eye and say, yes, we had these behaviors, too, and we outgrew them with a little help and patience. It helped them to see that some of the issues were developmental phases, NOT because he was a spoiled brat with no discipline at home. ;)

    Many teachers expect that you are going to be yet another combative parent, but if you show them that you'd prefer to work WITH them as a team for your child, they often relax a bit and are more open to suggestions and feedback. In our case, it definitely made a difference in how they treated our son day-to-day. Professionalism and mutual respect work wonders.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. You are absolutely right that working with your child's teacher is always the way to go when possible. As the president of our local parents group, I often shared resource packets with teachers when issues arose with gifted students.

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  15. I agree whoeheartedly with Lisa's article. In my decades of experience in working with parents, I have found very few of them who are pushy, inappropriately proud, or enmeshed with their children's lives. Like all good parents, they do want the best for their children, and that is simply good parenting behavior. However, their most frequent reaction is one of puzzlement and of feeling alone and seeking resources. They know that their child is different from most others in many ways, but they aren't sure what they should do about it, whether they should be worried about it, or whether all gifted children are similar. They struggle with issues of peer relations, sibling issues, lag of judgment behind intellect, managing intensity and sensitivies (and quirky behaviors), asynchronous intellectual development, and a host of other issues, and they soon learn that there are relatively few health care or counseling (or even educational) professionals to whom they can turn for information, help, and advice. There are indeed a lot of myths about parents of gifted children in the same way as about gifted children themselves, and most of them derive from the pressures toward conformity, mediocrity, and fitting in so as not to be "different" than others. Thank you for circulating this excellent post!

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    1. Dr. Webb, Thank you for your comments. I deeply respect your work and appreciate all that you have done to support parents in raising their gifted children through your books, presentations, SENG and Great Potential Press.

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  16. May I copy and share this at my next BOE meeting. I'm finally getting an opportunity to get my hand in the door to start the conversation about the need for gifted programming.

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  17. Some people (including family members) think all we do (and did when our daughter was younger) was 'force' her to learn things. My child (actually, children - because my son is bright as well, but does much better socially and emotionally) deserve to have enrichment both at home and at school. People have said that we shouldn't give enrichment because they'll be bored in school. Enrichment can be carried out outside the realm of traditional academics. We provide them with many opportunities to engage with their peers socially via numerous activities (not just organized, but letting them roam the neighbourhood and call on friends - GASP!) and give them other enriching experiences when we're together as a family. Someone has told me (on more than one occasion) in regards to my daughter's challenges that, "Being smart isn't everything." Well, no duh! I would love my kid to be great socially and emotionally - and gifted. However, read the profile of gifted kids - asynchronous development is very common. In other words, gifted kids are often way ahead in some areas but behind in others, quite often socially and emotionally. We did not neglect these areas of her development - she was not raised in a closet! This is who she is, and it's our job not only to nurture our kids' strengths, but to help them in the areas where they are lagging.

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  18. Great article. Being a failure of the education system myself it is simply heart breaking watching my twice exceptional daughter being broken by the system. Trouble is even when you find schools / teachers that are receptive - they rarely have the resources to meet your child's needs. It is simply a tragedy when ANY child does not have the opportunity to experience the joy of learning and achievement.

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  19. Oh thank you for this. I am printing it for a trip to the school. Highlighting areas, of course, and letting my gifted 10 year old read it so he knows we are not excluding him from anything.

    This is so right on - people don't want to hear about his reading level, and can't believe he struggles with some parts of math. They can't relate to hours long discussions of obscure topics or the ongoing horror of an unclear health class on contagious diseases (thanks for NOT telling the kids they can't catch ebola and other bad things in our rural area or small town school).

    The worst thing is the disappointing non-discussion after a long psychological assessment that ended with a, "wow if you really tried you could have been all the way over here on the bell curve with everything instead of many.". REALLY? He skewed it, not on purpose of course, trying to be at what he thought was her level and where she wanted him to be. Sigh.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

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  20. Thank you for a really great post Lisa! It is sadly so true - there are so many myths and misunderstandings about the parents of gifted children.

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