Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: Not Now, Maybe Later

Although procrastination is not always a bad thing, it can lead to stress and be especially incapacitating for children. It can compromise their dreams and self-esteem and result in underachievement. It can be a game changer as they live within their family, move from one grade level to another, and as they mature and develop a sense of self.”     ~ from the introduction.


Nothing says procrastination like putting off a review of a book about procrastination. Maybe I’m onto something here; or not. A pdf of the new book, Not Now, Maybe Later, by Joanne Foster has been in an open tab in my browser for several weeks now. I had tons of excuses … looking for a paid gig, blog posts, Twitter chats, laundry (okay, maybe not laundry) … but I finally sat down and read it.

Truth be told, I should have done this weeks ago. It is a book that every parent should read. Too often parents buy books only to leave them on the shelf because – who has time to read when you have kids? I’m here to tell you that you need to take the time to read this one; it’s just that important.

Not Now, Maybe Later is about teaching our children executive functioning; getting things done, completing tasks they don’t think are important, meeting deadlines, finding fulfillment in everyday life. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids? Who doesn’t want that for themselves?

In my opinion, Chapter 1 is priceless. Contemplation of why we procrastinate and strategies to deal with it will prove invaluable to any parent who is frustrated by their child’s failure to complete anything. Think of a world of where you don’t hear the words, “in a minute” or “why do I have to?”

Joanne Foster, Ed.D.

I really appreciated advice like this from Dr. Foster:
Parents should understand that while a child’s procrastination isn’t something that should be praised, it does not always merit scolding or reproach. Sometimes people—young, old, and in-between—just need help getting past whatever is causing the procrastination in the first place, along with some good old-fashioned encouragement and support.
Of course, procrastination can become a serious problem, but parents need to decide what approach they will take with their gifted child. An authoritarian approach never worked with my children; not to say I didn’t try a few times. Dr. Foster suggests using common sense in deciding which way is most effective in motivating and guiding a child to task completion.

Take time to find out the cause for the procrastination. It can be a matter of ability, perceived dangers, lack of an endpoint, or simply bad timing. Understanding why the procrastination is taking place can go a long way in figuring out what to do about it. A child may simply be “taking his time weighing options, planning, reflecting, or working on the task elsewhere with others.”

Another reason a gifted child may procrastinate is the fear of failure and their inability to cope with making mistakes; they see it as a way of avoiding an undesirable outcome. By helping a child work through these feelings, they will begin to develop resilience; a valuable skill that will help them throughout life. Many strategies are offered to cope with failure including talking to your child about the benefits of perseverance, planning ahead, learning about trial-and-error, and knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.

Not Now, Maybe Later is an invaluable resource that will provide you with the knowledge and tools to help your child become a self-reliant, independent adult. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?  

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of the manuscript for review. 

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