Your Kid is Smart
by Marissa K. Lingen
Glenn Seaborg, a Nobel prize winning chemist, once said that if a foreign power imposed the American school system on us, we “would rightly consider it an act of war.” If your kid is gifted, he or she has a pretty good chance of not getting everything he or she should out of school–and that means help from home is needed. Here are some helpful hints from someone who was a gifted kid not too long ago:
1) Accept it. You’ve done that, you say? How hard can it be? No, I mean accept it. Accept the fact that your child will be fascinated with things other people can’t understand. Accept the fact that he or she will be called “geeky,” “nerdy,” and just plain “weird” by the other kids at school. It’s not fun, but it’s a fact of life. And there’s not much you can do to make the other little yard-apes behave. The best thing parents of a gifted kid can do is make home a sanctuary. Make weird a compliment at your house. Don’t go out of your way to give your kid lectures about daring to be different–just rejoice in the ways he or she already is.
2) Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. If your child hasn’t already asked you a question you can’t answer, it’s only a matter of time. Admitting you don’t know is much better than bluffing, especially if you follow up by helping your child find out. With your help, even a young child can look things up at the library, call their information desk, or find facts on the internet. You don’t have to try to be infallible–your kid will figure out you’re not soon enough. (Unless you’re my dad. Then you really DO know everything.)
3) Let your kid loose. Don’t limit what he or she can read. If your child is too young to deal with sexually explicit content, it will probably be boring and confusing anyway. I tried reading Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” in kindergarten. It was too old for me, so I put it aside and came back later, when I could appreciate it. Also, don’t assume that your children will all be ready for the same things at the same times. My little friend Mallory’s parents didn’t realize that she could handle The Chronicles of Narnia, because her older sister was struggling with them.
4) Don’t say it. There are a bunch of variations on the same theme, but they all start out with something like, “If you’re so smart….” When your kid wins the spelling bee, the last thing he needs to hear is, “If you can remember all that, why can’t you remember to clean your room?” Most gifted kids are already aware of their own flaws–they’re smart! This doesn’t mean you can’t point it out when their rooms need cleaning or they forget to brush their teeth. It just shouldn’t be tied to their intelligence.
5) Talk to your kid’s school about available programs. If your child was having trouble with reading, you wouldn’t let it go without getting extra help for him or her. Why should it be any different for gifted kids who aren’t getting the help they need? Being gifted doesn’t mean they pick up information from the air–it just means that when they have the chance, they learn some things faster. Be pleasant, but don’t take no for an answer. Too much focus on group work in the classroom can mean that your kid gets stuck doing all the work in a group project.
6) Reason with your child. While you’re still in charge, you shouldn’t be afraid to explain the reasoning behind your rules for him or her. Gifted kids will see the inconsistency in “explore the world” vs. “because I said so.” Kids are not just miniature adults–but they are people and do deserve to be treated that way.
7) You’re not alone. There are other parents going through all the same things as you are. There might be a group in your area. If there isn’t, check out the internet. Sometimes the best ideas come from the most unlikely places.