Parenting a gifted child can have its own unique challenges. Parents feel frustration when their child does not fit in with other children or is unappreciated by adults. This can be difficult to understand when they see their child building working contraptions in the basement, discussing current politics, and installing Windows 8 on the family computer. And, they’re only 10.
So, how could anyone not appreciate such a young marvel?
Why teachers may not appreciate your child:
No one likes a wise-guy. Did the little bugger really have to point out to the whole class that the teacher spelled ‘judgement’ with an extra ‘e’ on the chalkboard? While the child probably had no malintent, it can be annoying to the teacher to be corrected by a child.
And paybacks are hell, the same child, a gifted 4th grade boy shared, “My classroom teacher had each of us stand up and answer a math fact. When I was asked what was the factor of 8×7 I blanked. The teacher then said in front of the whole class, ‘It’s hard to believe you’re in the gifted program.'”
This is obviously a teacher who should not have gifted children placed in her class. This is a blatant example of a bad attitude as seen in the dealings with this child. Teachers who complain about the gifted children in their class are usually the very teachers who should not have such children in their classroom.
However, remember gifted kids can be very insecure and overly sensitive. For example, one teacher stated, “I thought my students would enjoy watching a taped episode of Oprah which featured gifted children from around the world. Instead, my gifted students said it was mean I showed it to them because it made them feel bad about themselves.” Unpredictable, aren’t they?
Gifted children may present additional frustrations for the regular classroom teachers who already have enough challenges dealing with other special situations in their class. Further, teachers may believe a bright child should have enough sense to make their job easier, not more difficult. This thought process makes the teacher a ripe candidate to dislike or resent gifted students. The gifted student may present unwelcome challenges to the already overwhelmed teacher.
What you can do:
Assuming your school has more than one choice for a regular classroom teacher, write a letter to the principal requesting a teacher who takes a special interest in gifted education and/or has patience for the gifted child. If you are able, volunteer in the teacher’s classroom. Teachers like parents who make their life easier.
Why other parents may not appreciate your child:
We all have plenty of insecurities and no one likes someone who makes them feel bad about themselves, even if that someone is way younger than us. It can be a little annoying if you are say, 35 and still trying to decide what you want to be when you grow-up and an eight-year-old kid is plotting his early entry to an ivy league school.
Also, some parents, especially mother’s tend to think everyone wants an update of their special child’s latest accomplishments and this can be somewhat annoying to some adults.
For example, would you enjoy hearing these kind of comments repeatedly? “Brooke has never missed a spelling word, the teacher thinks she is the smartest child in the class, she recently memorized all the state capitals with very little practice. I’m thinking she might need to skip a grade.”
Such comments can cause other parents to feel envious and resent the pride you have in your child.
What you can do:
Don’t brag too much and make sure you are an interesting enough person yourself . Your child should be only a small part of your conversation. While a parent should be proud, it might behoove them to think about how what they say sounds to other parents. That requires the parent to switch focus from their feelings about their child to the feelings of others.
Take time to acknowledge the accomplishments of other children. Telling friends you admire how well their son plays the piano or how polite their daughter is may go a long way with your friends and leave them more open to hearing about your child.
Why other kids might not like your child:
Your child’s classmates may think your child is unusual or as they say “weird”. Many gifted children don’t have the social-emotional intelligence to match their very high IQ. In some cases this translates into inappropriate behavior and this makes them a target for criticism and teasing among their peers.
For example, a teacher told of a gifted boy who would pull girl’s hair when standing in line and hold the door shut so other students couldn’t get into the classroom. Sometimes he would take something from another child and refuse to give it back.
The teacher’s breaking point came when the boy shot Elmer’s glue up his nose and sat during a science lesson with glue dripping out of his nose onto his desk. All of these actions came from his high need for attention. He got attention alright, negative attention, but it was still attention. This caused other children to not like him and refer to him as “weird” yet, he wouldn’t change his behavior.
Some students think negative attention is better than no attention at all, particularly if they do not know how to attract positive attention.
Another problem encountered with gifted children is when the child would rather play alone than play with others at recess. Some gifted children are active in sports, however, the majority of the highly gifted children have little interest in sports or the play of their same age peers.
The highly gifted child would rather play alone than have to be part of any aggressive game. Recess and sports are a bonding arena for most children. When your child goes off my themselves, it sets them up to be viewed as an outsider.
What you can do:
“In How Can My Gifted Child Make More Friends?” Dennis O’Brien stated, parents and teachers may make it more difficult for gifted children to acquire the age-appropriate social skills and peer friendships by encouraging the gifted student’s intellectual growth at the expense of social development. Consequently, many gifted students who excel academically may not have acquired the social skills to get along their peers or teacher.
Dr. B. Marshall suggests in, Gifted Children and the Friendship Factor, several ideas to help gifted children develop better social skills. He says parents should teach their gifted child the following: to introduce themselves, say hello and good-bye courteously, listen when others are talking, table manners, appropriate language and topics of conversation with different groups, ways to include others in a conversation or play activity, how to get along with different types of people and how to ask to be included in a game or activity, to name a few.
Gifted children are complex, conscientious, creative and intelligent but are sometimes burdened with extra-sensitivity and less developed social skills. They may get very little feedback which says they are OK and will resort to bragging or acting superior to feel good about themselves. This is not an endearing quality to parents, teachers or peers. Inferior parenting or schooling may contribute to these children becoming unusually shy and timid or acting out. As a surprise to many, some fall into the high-risk category of failing in school or dropping out.
Gifted children are not always the easiest to parent or teach, but with extra effort on the part of all involved, the gifted student will thrive and take their place as contributors to a better world for all of us. And if we’re lucky maybe one of those wickedly smart kids will go from building contraptions in your basement to inventing an express line in the supermarket that actually works.