Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dealing With A Gifted Child

Everyone hopes that their kid will be really, really smart. Well let me tell you, it aint all biscuits and gravy. Here is a website that describes my normal day, every day, day and night. Just a few examples:
· Asks many questions and is very curious
· Possesses a large amount of information
· Has a good memory
· Easily gets "off task" and "off topic"
· Is impatient when not called on in class

· Thinks independently
· Expresses unique and original opinions
· Is self-motivated
· Challenges authority
· Does not handle criticism well
· Does not work well in groups

· Has a sophisticated sense of humor
· Understands subtle humor
· Enjoys plays on words and satire
· Easily gets carried away with a joke
· Has a tendency to become the "class clown"

If they wanted video to show what that means, I could simply turn on the cam corder and send it in unedited.

If anyone has some real world practical ideas on how to lessen the undesirable traits while hopefully not lessening the desirable traits, I would love to hear. Post a comment or send ideas to:
andrews-dad @ hotmail dot com


Larry Sheldon said...

"lessen the undesirable traits while hopefully not lessening the desirable traits"

Can't be did.

Those are two sides of the same coins.

What you want to do is work on:

Staying the hell out of their way.

Keeping the world from stepping on them. (Let me say that a little stronger: Keep the world and its Ritalin away from them.)

I was one of them--I think I (we) raised three more of them.

It is not easy, but the spark can be put out and much of the world wants to stamp it out.

Don't let it happen.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain.
When you figure it out, LET ME KNOW.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and of course there are books, but in my (or rather, my daughter's) experience, they are useless. YMMV.

Beth said...

This one--

· Tends to be absent-minded regarding practical details
· Forgets homework assignments

--has been the bane of my existence this year. ARGH. And worse, she still kicks butt on in-class work, so she thinks that legitimizes her aversion to homework and "the little stuff" (the details).

I was always happy (still am) that my daughter got my brains and not her jackass father's, but she's also got my bad school habits, way too early. :sigh:

Anonymous said...

Throw in Easily Grows Bored with Routine Activities and the kid you describe was me, about 30-40 years ago. It also happens to be my six year old son. Go figure.

Recognizing his strengths and limitations is the majority of the battle, after that it's really about getting others (mainly his teachers) to also recognize those issues and effectively deal with the problems as they arise. that means being a very involved parent and learning a new skill (teacher management.)

But you can't change him, only accept that he is different and will often require non-standard approaches to otherwise normal issues. Getting people to recgnize that 'gifted' kids also have difficulties and defecits can be a real PITA, but it's essential.

Way back in the day I went to a public school for the gifted (Pineview in Sarasota, Florida) people laugh when I try to explain that we had special-ed classes for kids with various issues, but it's the truth, the problems were real and they can (usually) be dealt with.

Alot of people will ask 'he's smart - why doesn't he get it?' The simple answer for them is - well, he's smart, but he's also still a kid and sometimes their brain processes just don't work like you'd expect...

Sometimes I ask people if they are familiar with the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, that helps them put some of it in perspective.

IMO you biggest concern is socialization. Your child is different from most, sooner or later he, and his peers, will come to realize this. How he and they respond to this is crucial to his growth and development.

Anonymous said...

I have FOUR gifted sons. Here's what you need to remember;

They want limits. No, really. They do.

Those limits are on behavior; if they develop an obsession (they will!) indulge it while making sure they are learning as much as possible.

If at all possible, in any way - homeschool.

People who write books about gifted kids? They are usually not gifted themselves. Therefore, your kid will tell you what he needs vis a vis learning.

Try to shed preconceived notions; I have one son with a 165 IQ that didn't speak until 22 months - then spoke in compound sentences and was reading at 40 months. Another boy with a 160 didn't read until 8 years old. Well, didn't read *English* - he'd figured out a ton of Japanese Kanji on his own!

Most important - there is plenty of time. Tons. If a kid is truly gifted it is more important that they be allowed to be a kid - they are kids for 14-16 years - they are gifted for life. No need to push.

Oh - good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'll vehemently disagree with a previous comment by saying the following: Do not homeschool them unless it is absolutely necessary. The most important lesson a gifted child needs to learn is how to deal with others in normal social interactions (they'll figure the rest of life out by themselves.) The tendency of such children is to take the path of greatest resistance where things like doing assigned tasks (like homework) are concerned. They will tell you that there is "no point" in doing what they are told to do, and will insist that they know a better way. When it comes to schoolwork, they will often have trouble because they will "overthink" a problem and give up after hopelessly confusing themselves. They will usually not ask for help in such situations, a problem which is compounded by their generally small circles of friends. My advice as far as schooling goes is to keep them in a normal educational atmosphere, and to get a tutor (if you can afford one) who can help explain exactly what is expected of them. Other than that, give them the freedom to pursue their own interests. I'm not a child psychologist, but I have, let's say *extensive* experience working with current and former gifted children.

Joan of Argghh! said...

It's far better to channel the torrent than to try and stop it.

Good luck with the sandbags!

Anonymous said...

I've been there. I was a gifted child, I've raised several of my own, and I'm a pediatrician with developmental training.

Some thoughts that tend to get lost:

The poster that talked about limits is right about that - all kids, gifted or otherwise, want to know how to behave. The difference is that gifted kids will want to know WHY to behave as well, and you will do some deep soul-searching for some of it. Not all rules make sense, but sometimes you even have to obey nonsense rules. There are social reasons for that, and you have to explain them in detail to some children.

Be in control. Pick your battles carefully, but be prepared to win every battle you fight. This applies to life as well as raising children, but it's critical when parenting. If you stake a position and then lose the fight, you are teaching your child that the best way to get what they want is to resist until they get it.

With that in mind, be especially careful of situations where you CAN'T force the issue. You can make a child attend a class, but you can't make them like it. Gifted kids are especially good at figuring this out, and they will frustrate you a lot as they slither around loopholes you didn't even know existed. Pick very simple battles when you can.

Beware of ambiguity for the same reason. Don't say "later" when you mean "never", and don't say "maybe" when you mean "no" (or you mean "yes"). Reserve ambiguity for situations where you can explain in detail why a definitive answer isn't yet available.

Try to set up win-win situations. Most gifted kids work much better with positive reinforcement than with negative. Try to pick at least one thing out each day that you like about your child's behavior, and compliment them for it. (Make it real - see below). Even on the worst days, make it clear that you love your child. At least remind yourself.

Be prepared to say "yes". Not every interruption needs to be squashed, and not every behavior is something you need to control. Gifted kids need outlets for their impulses. Think outside the box here - this is a place where giving a gifted child an "adult" outlet (tools or experiences or resources that a non-gifted child wouldn't appreciate as much) can really buy you some credibility. Flexibility as a base attitude can buy you a lot when you're being inflexible on something that really matters.

Gifted kids don't act like other kids, they don't think like other kids, and you can't make them. Don't let teachers try - make it clear that you expect your child's actual needs to be met, and that you will be the first to help deal with behavior, but also the first to demand (and to help achieve) the elimination of situations where frustration and boredom feed misbehavior. I could write a whole book on dealing with schools around behavior issues and nontypical children (and I probably should, someday). The bottom line to it, though, is to borrow the line from the Marines: make it clear to the school that in you they can have no better friend, and no more fearsome foe. Start with the "friend" part, and you often never have to proceed to the "foe".

Try to always give a child a graceful way out of a situation, because they'll choose a graceless way otherwise. This is particularly true when you're dealing with gifted adolescents (and trust me, gifted children are EASY compared to gifted preteens or adolescents).

And a final plea: beware of those who worship at the altar of the Gifted Child. Beware of those who claim that such children have a mystical connection to the universe, that they can do no wrong, or that their crummy behavior is excusable because they're so special. Such dolts will prevent legions of gifted children from learning the basics of civilized behavior, and will thus keep them from ever realizing their actual potential. It's a tough world out there, and misty-eyed acolytes to the religion of Giftedness are utterly useless as you prepare your child to deal with reality. When my children are being horrid, I let them know in detail. Thus when I tell them they're terrific (and they are, mostly), they never have to wonder if they can trust me.

Anonymous said...

"Has a tendency to become the "class clown""

Remember: to some extent, this is an important survival skill. Better class clown than class scapegoat. More subtle intermediate forms take time.

I'd consider homeschooling for one simple reason: learning to deaden your brain to cope with total frustrating boredom for six hours a day is not a way to acquire good work habits.

Anonymous said...

Tends to forget homework assignments?
I can tell you this from personal experience. I didn't forget a single one. I blew them off. I didn't need the rote memorization to learn the concept, and I would ace the test anyhow. One teacher promoted me to the advanced track because of that. Another dropped me in with the remedials because of it. The slower kids were amusing, but I didn't learn a damned thing about English. I did learn a bit more about hiding the fact that I was really smart, though.
Public school is not for the gifted. For all I know private school isn't either. All schools will end up focusing on the huge hump in the middle of the standard distribution. They have to. As a result, gifted people can coast. I coasted to a 3.9 in high school and then a 2.7 at USNA. The 2.7 may look bad, but there was a larger plan -- that was about the GPA I decided I needed to graduate with before the end of plebe summer for a variety of reasons.
Raise holy hell to get the kid enrolled in as many advanced classes as possible. Some teachers will resent the child who is smarter than they are, and try to hold them back because of the 'inability to follow rules regarding homework.'
Because academics will be easy for them, make sure they face other challenges. Sport and music are good -- especially both.
Then again, a gifted slacker will still be very successful in the grand scheme of things, but still far less than they could have otherwise been.

Other things: don't BS them and don't talk down to them. It creates resentment. Like someone else said, be prepared to explain why something is the way it is. 'Cause I said so don't cut it.


Anonymous said...

re: the "don't homeschool" post - I vehemently disagree.

Expose your child to adult interaction so they will learn how to act like adults.

I experienced both ways myself - the only thing I learned from interacting with bratty kids at school was how to avoid interacting with bratty kids.

I've watched my Godchildren when they went to public school and when they were homeschooled - their general behavior was orders of magnitude better away from public school. While in public school, they picked up all the whiny brat temper tantrum behavior they saw there, as well as the insane expectations of other students and unproductive coping behavior of teachers.

When homeschooled, they don't just sit lonely in a room somewhere, they get to see adults interacting and interact with other kids in settings chosen by their parents.

In other words, they are allowed to mature, rather than spend several hours a day cooped up with unruly children.

I could go on for hours, but I won't. The summary point is that public schools are especially effective institutions for extending childhood and childish behaviors beyond their proper place.

I can't emphasize strongly enough that you'll have plenty of opportunities to expose your child to other children in a context where you can point out what behaviors are appropriate and not.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much harder it is to break bad habits than good.

Anonymous said...

The first thing you need to do is to stop thinking of your child as "gifted" if you intend to keep them in the public school system. The teacher doesn't care how smart your kid is. The principal doesn't care how smart your kid is.

To them, your child is nothing more than a behavior problem and it's the behavior that is the most important thing to them. Socialization is the be-all and end-all of public education today. Since Columbine and VTECH, no child in a public school today is allowed to be different, to be what we used to call a "loner". They are not allowed have no interest in group activities like sports, or to show any kind of "anti-social" behavior at all.

The days of teachers controlling their classrooms are over and teachers will come right out and say that. They don't have to. At the slightest "disruption" the child is sent to the office and the Social Worker deals with it.

The most important thing to try to do is get your child to at least be able to fake socialization. Start as early as possible. The older they get, the harder it will be. Kids get labeled, and it is almost impossible for them to over those labels. They become labeled by the other kids, by each teacher they get from one grade to the next, and if you allow any type of formal documentation they will constantly and forever be the "problem" of the Special Ed Department and the social workers.
If you are social yourself, it should be easy. But even if you're like me, and lack social skills of your own, force yourself to get your kid socialized as soon as you can. It is the only thing that will save them.

My daughter is almost 15 now and I was forced to take her out of the public schools because she just could not adapt to the demands that were made on her. She was bullied not only by the other kids, but by the teachers and the principal. But it was always her fault, and mine by extention, because socialization is all that matters these days.

I'm lucky that I can afford to pay for a distance learning school called Laurel Springs. The tuition is expensive. 9TH grade is costing me $4200. But it is worth every penny because she is now happy and loves the freedom she has to work at her own pace. She got all A's last year and is thriving under the programs.

If you do decide to keep your child in public school DO NOT under any circumstances change schools thinking it will get better. It won't. It will get worse. Kids like ours may not seem to have friends, but they do. In their minds they do have friends. I moved to another state when my kid was in 5th grade to be closer to work, and to get her out of the school she was in thinking it would be a fresh start. It was a disaster.
As bad as she had it in the old school, she went there from kindergarten on. After we moved I asked her how it was going and she said "at least I had friends at the old school". You can't look at their world from your eyes, you have to try and look at it from theirs.

Anonymous said...

Is homeschooling an option?

I won't extole the virtues at length if not.

You do need to pick your battles. Don't make rules at home for the sack of having rules. Be firm on things that actually cause harm and be willing to discuss everything else.

I'm not a big fan of using praise and rewards. It's manipulation and your kid is smart enough to realize it. I try to say things like "thanks, I appreciate that" if that's what I'm feeling instead of saying "great job throwing that in the garbage!!!" in a phony voice.

Okay, I'll say one thing about homeschooling. It does not keep kids from socializing or learning to deal with situations. It lets you pick and choose the situations, only when your child is ready for them. My son (turning 7 in a few hours) struggled with the authority in soccer and other sports in years past. This year he is having great success in soccer and doing Tae Kwon Do. We've had a couple minor bumps, but worked through them quickly. I'm very glad we've given him the space to be who he is without people telling him he's wrong all day long.

Now he's capable of doing things and behaving appropriately in ways that I never would have believed a few months ago. They do grow up!

OregonGuy said...

Start early.

I think I was lucky. My wife and I agreed upon "time-out" at my sons' early age.

Behaviour you don't like? Time-out. Lots of time-outs were short. Like five seconds. (One was brutal at over five hours.) But the first question was always, "Are you ready to talk?"

If the answer is yes, proceed. Point out the undesireable behaviour. Shoving your brother down the stairs is not an acceptable behaviour. Sure, brother may get shoved down when mom or dad aren't around...but the mod is in place.

Talk about outcomes for personal choices. Mom and Dad aren't bad for time outs. You choose an inappropriate behaviour? You get time out. And we're going to talk until we clearly see eye-to-eye on the cause and effect.

Never threaten. If I tell my sons that if they don't stop fighting in the back seat, that we will turn around and not go to the State Fair--and they don't stop fighting--you turn around and don't go the State Fair. Even though "you" really want to go and know you'd have a lot of fun with the kids there.

The concept is, or course, outlined above. You make behaviour choices and you get certain outcomes. These are the outcomes you chose. If "A" then "B" is a clear way of explaining choice. (My oldest son used to argue that this represented two choices, since he could either/or. He has since learned that it is indeed a single choice! His.)

Threatening is promising an action as a consequent when the consequent doesn't occur. Want to run track this year? Then get an A in calculus. Without the A the track goes. Amazingly, the grade was an A. It was not an empty threat. He ran at state that year.

Your kids should attend public school. Your kids will be okay. They're smart. They're good learners. What you can't recreate in home schooling is the socialization that takes place at school. Get them to play on a team. Soccer, basketball, wrestling. And make sure the coach knows the reason why your child is there is to have fun. If your child is having fun he'll want to continue participating. Not particularly fast? Go long distance. Even if he's the 51st finisher, if his time has improved that's a victory for him, his team and his coach. One you will celebrate, too. Learning how to take a beating in sports and still endeavour is one of those skills that you will always use.

Get them an instrument and require practice. There are incredible private teachers out there. Find a teacher that your child likes. And no matter how good or bad he is, at least once a year your child should play in a recital. Learning to memorize sixteen bars on the piano is more important than leveling up on a video game. Make sure they play in a group, choir, orchestra or band. Music is a team sport.

Finally, my job as a parent is to knock on doors of opportunity for my child. And to jack-hammer doors when necessary. Your kid will help raise testing results for the school he attends. Your kid may be the National Merit Scholar. Mine was. Number Two was second. Not bad.

But your school won't take the steps needed to educate him unless you're willing to storm the walls. I shuddered when I heard my youngest son's middle school principal exclaim that now that my sons were out of middle school he didn't need to worry about sending kids to the high school for advanced math. We had to call him "Doctor Bob". He were an Ph.D. Industrial educators are only worried about processing education with the least cost and effort. Much like you or I run our own businesses. Unfortunately, there is a degree of uniqueness that gets lost in the shuffle.

Never raise your voice with a member of the education community. Persistent polite inquiry pays benefits. Never threaten. (See above.)

Get to know the teachers. My oldest son was doing poorly in Chemistry. He and I finally went in to talk to the teacher. I told him the truth. That my son had difficulty with the way the teacher behaved in class. It was an eye-opener for the teacher. He and my son talked about it in my presence. This teacher soon became one of my son's favorites. And, perhaps, the teacher became a better teacher.

I made a significant cash contribution to the school. And always ask key teachers and principal if they "need" anything. You'd be amazed what $500 here, and $100 there can do to raise your esteem in their eyes. When one hand washes the other there's greater teamwork. What, you'd pay $200 a month for piano lessons but won't spend $100 to help buy new football uniforms? Team players get better seats.

Whether your child ends up driving truck for the county or gaining a philosophy degree from Chicago, your child's life is the result of your child's choices. But it doesn't end there. My youngest didn't want to run track last year. I put it to him, run track or lose the car. Ride the bus to school.

After setting two school records at State last year, he came up to me to thank me for "forcing" him to run track.

You are the parent. Be the parent. Let someone else be his best friend. He'll have lots of friends. But only one dad.

Anonymous said...

I have strong feelings on this subject, so please pardon any seeming harshness. I used to know an intelligent young man who never did his homework or other routine work. Once he hit college, his slack habits caught up with him, and he was left making C's and D's. I'm sure he still hasn't graduated (started college in '01), and he has no chance of getting hired for anything other than menial work. And I didn't marry him precisely because I was sick and tired of his utter refusal to accept how the world actually works. He preferred to live in his dreamland.

Every kid needs to learn how to function in the real world. You will not get a good job out of school if you don't have at least above average grades. (Granted, your GPR won't matter after you've been working for 5 years; but you have to get hired first.) Very few employers (at least in engineering) are going to take a chance on a C student.

Kids need to learn that there are rules, and they have to be followed, like it or not. Yes, most homework assignments are stupid. So is the paperwork you have to do at work. But if you want to keep your job, you have to do it. In the words of Mr. Paul Anka, that's just the f'n way it is.

(And yes, I was "gifted" or whatever you want to call it, and was very frequently bored even in my advanced courses. Somehow, I managed to rise above my terrible, terrible burdens and still get good grades and an excellent job.)

(And as another poster said, absolutely let the kid take all the advanced courses he wants. In high school, I took 7 IB or AP courses every semester, and got the IB diploma. I don't advocate putting him in advanced courses if he's not interested, however, because speaking from experience, those students who are there to learn do not appreciate the antics of those students who are not.)

In short: parents, don't let what happened to my ex-fiancé happen to your child. It's horrible when an intelligent individual is unable to get a college degree and must work at a job well below his capacity, simply because he never learned to follow the rules.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how old your Andrew is, but my daughter is 4 now and currently in a lovely preschool - but I am DREADING Kindergarten already!

There are a LOT of negatives about being a "gifted" child - as you know, and as my husband and I know from personal experience. I'm just trying to figure out to *not* have my children hate school.

I have been flat-out told by our public and parochial (Catholic non-private) schools that they consider "gifted" to be pretty much equal to "learning disabled" - and in the case of the parochial school, they steered us away from our school completely, saying they just aren't equipped.

I think that it's a good idea NOT to ever say the words "what if a child is gifted?" at a school open house or orientation meeting. Unless it's a private school, it seems to set them off a little! It might be that they instantaneously and instinctively hate parents who ask such things. I dunno, I'm at a loss.

Meanwhile - oh my GOD the questions!!!! the constant questions from this little person!!! I'm going insane! And now her little brother is getting in on the act too!

Anonymous said...

A classic INTJ answer, Mrs. P. ;)

But you're only covering half the problem: of course he has to learn to adapt to rules, and work, and dealing with some of the crap that comes with that.

But he also has to learn -- and not just theoretically, but experientially -- that there's some work *worth doing*, worth really investing in, and that adult life (unlike most of grade school) isn't about putting up with rule-laden crap just for its own sake. Or else he'll burn out faster than you can say "slacker".