Challenging Gifted Kids Appropriately

Ah, childhood! Playing outside until sunset. Rock hopping in creeks and splashing in mud puddles. Playing with friends. Saturday cartoons. Not a worry or care to slow us down. Telling silly jokes and pretending to be heroes. Lots and lots of laughter and giggles. But in today’s world, helping children to experience joy is a parental challenge for all of us.

And how much more so for the parent who has a gifted child – an adult-like mind in a kid’s body. The daily life of a gifted child is surprisingly complex. The child may be one age physically, another emotionally, and yet another intellectually. So how do caring parents insure that their gifted child does not lose the joy of childhood?

When we challenge our gifted child, we must consider the following issues:

Our own expectations. We must be careful to evaluate our expectations. What are the goals we have for our children? Are these appropriate for this particular child? If our gifted children feel pushed beyond their comfort level too often and in too many areas; they may never reach appropriate goals because they cease to dream or stubbornly resist the perceived pressures. Unfortunately, underachieving is not unusual for gifted children.
Use a team approach. Very often, the parents of a gifted child will encounter the complaint, “I’m bored.” There may be areas of learning where the child feels they are not being challenged. If so, talking with the child’s teacher or caregiver will be helpful to develop a team approach. If the child is placed in the AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted) program, the AIG specialist should be a team member. Designing creative activities and stimulating projects may be one strategy to address the particular need.
Understanding strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses can help you discern when to challenge and when to back off. Gifted children will often challenge themselves with the intensity of a star player in championship competition. The parents may be more helpful providing or creating opportunities for fun and playfulness. The more intense the child, the more difficult the parent’s task becomes. Parents may seek extracurricular programs involving recreation and non-competitive play in order to encourage fun activities with friends where the gifted child can find release.
Be patient. Your child is a gift. Raising a complex child can be a delightful journey.

By Ellen D. Begley, RN, NCC, LPC for www.sixtysecondparent.com – Ellen is a registered nurse as well as a licensed and national board certified counselor. She has a private practice that serves children ages 2 to 18 and has over 18 years of experience counseling children and educating parents.