There are two aspects to successfully raising your gifted kid. One is about making sure that you are developing your child’s talent and you are maximizing his (her) potential. The other is making sure that you are not pressuring your gifted child too much, or you are not pressuring yourself too much in raising him, which can cause emotional problems for you and your child.
Developing Your Child’s Talent
After observing parents of gifted children, researchers came up with the following insights on how to effectively develop your child’s giftedness:
- Be involved in developing your kid’s giftedness –Monitor your child’s exercise and practice, or if your child is gifted in academics, check his homework. Share with him in a loving way your unique experience and knowledge in the area where he is gifted. You can also be involved in his practice. Sit down beside him at the piano while he is practicing, give praise or gently correct him or give him advice if necessary. Serve as motivation and encouragement for your gifted kid’s efforts.
- Stress the importance of hard work and doing one’s best – Even the best talent can only blossom with hard work. Tell your kid that there is work or practice to be done before he goes out and play. In making your kid spend time in practicing his talent, appeal to his love for the field and remind him of the rewards for being the best he can be. Challenge your child at the optimal level, but don’t put too much pressure, especially if your expectation from him is unrealistic (see more tips below).
- Ensure that your kid makes productive use of his time
- Provide your kid with enriched environment – This includes finding a good teacher to develop your child’s talent, and making sure that the teacher is doing a good job. Put him in the best school you can afford or find a good school where you can get free or low-cost tuition. Take the family to watch competitions or attend concerts so your kid will learn more about his field and observe the performance of more advanced people in the field.
- Do not feel bad about getting your gifted child to accelerated courses – Although many educators and parents believe that acceleration will hurt your child socially and deny him of some important childhood experiences, education researchers generally agree that acceleration actually benefits the vast majority of gifted children socially and emotionally, as well as academically and professionally, according to this article.
- Expose your child to resources that make him stay interested and motivated in his field – Subscribe to magazines, buy him books, videos, or software that are related to his field.
- Give him space where he can practice – Convert an area of the house, like a basement or an attic where your child can have space and privacy to work.
- Learn to judge your kid’s progress and assess his strengths and weaknesses – Attend all of his meets, tournaments or recitals so you can gauge his development.
- Give rewards and praise for a job well done – Decorate your family room with ribbons and trophies that your child has won or fill the scrapbook with newspaper clippings about his achievements. Stress the joys and pride in winning, as well as the satisfaction of doing one’s best.
- Teach him the values of setting goals and doing one’s best to attain them, and to establish priorities – Tell him that he can only be good at one thing at a time. Defining a task and sticking to it is the way to excel.
Avoiding the Pressures of Having A Gifted Child and Being Gifted
On the other hand, too much pressure on your gifted child and yourself can give rise to serious emotional and developmental problems like anxiety, depression and burnout.
- Love your child regardless of his (her) gift – you may be giving too much attention to your kid’s giftedness and he might think that he is loved only because he is gifted. This might make him feel insecure and fearful that he would lose your love if he does not perform to your expectations. Show your kid that you love him for what he is, regardless of his gift. This love will give him emotional security.
- Present your child with other learning experiences – While you nurture your child’s talent, do not let him be too focused on his gift, but introduce him to other learning as well. That way, he gets to enjoy his childhood – with explorations and a variety of intellectual stimulation that should go with it. Even if he is good in athletics, for instance, make him appreciate the arts. Also, learning from fields that seems unrelated may stimulate his mind and enhance his gift.
- Let your child enjoy life – don’t make him do too much or make him excel in many things. Remember that he is just a child and it is good for his emotional health to enjoy childhood things like playing and being with friends. Have realistic expectation from your kid, and do not push him too much. Also, help your child create a normal and diverse social life.
- Help your child if he is stressed with being a perfectionist – A gifted child tends to be a perfectionist and is disappointed with himself if he fails. Do not add to his feeling of inadequacy if he does not achieve perfection. Rather, always be on hand to comfort him if he does not feel good about himself. Always assure him that his worth is not measured by his performance alone. Also, teach your child that making mistakes and failing are a part of life, and can be good by being better next time.
- Don’t let your child’s inner life go unnoticed – Again, do not see your child only by his giftedness. He has an emotional life that also needs to be nurtured.
- Do not be overly proud of your kid by bragging about him – This might damage your kid’s identity development and well-being. If you have to brag, limit it to a few close friends or your parents.
- Communicate openly with your child – There are lots of things that your child has to understand about himself. Help your child understand that he is unique – that he thinks differently from other kids of the same age. Help him adapt and have a normal life. Make him understand, for example, that this shouldn’t make him treat other children as if he is superior, and don’t make him feel like an outsider because he is different. Although he has an adult- like reasoning power, don’t treat him like an adult, because he doesn’t have the life experience to act like one. Also, gifted children tend to be emotionally intense. React to him patiently, appropriately, and with understanding. Talk to your child so you will know how your child feels about school, friends, family life, and you will be able to help him if he has problems.
- Do not over-identify with your child – Most of the time gifted children inherit their giftedness from their parents. Sometimes, parents have bad childhood experiences because of their giftedness. Be aware of the baggage you have. Be careful not to let your past experiences and unresolved feelings and issues affect your child’s situation. For example, if your parents are not supportive of your pianistic talent, don’t go to the other extreme by pushing your child too hard to master the piano. Your child has her own life to live separate from you.
- Enjoy your child – Your gifted kid is still a child and should be a source of joy and happiness, independent of his talent. Do not focus too much on the future (how he should go to college, what programs should he enter etc.), but appreciate your relationship “here and now”. His childhood happens only once; don’t let it go by too fast.
- Do not try to be a perfect parent to your gifted child – Gifted kids are hard to raise, not knowing the perfect way to raise them is normal. Being good enough is okay. You do not need to overfocus on parenting since this creates anxiety in both you and your kid.
- Find people or community who can support you in raising your gifted child. This can be crucial to your mental health and well-being.