It may seem like a dream to have a gifted child. Success in life seems like the ultimate achievement, and a gifted child certainly has an advantage. School, testing, and general knowledge may come easily to a gifted child.
While you may receive praise from teachers and shining report cards, raising a gifted child has its challenges. Gifted children can have trouble “fitting in” when they have skills far beyond that of their peers.
Still, it is possible to raise a gifted child without applying too much pressure. You can find ways to encourage and challenge your child, helping them reach their full potential.
A Bright Child vs. a Gifted Child
There are subtle differences between a bright child and a gifted child. How do you know if your child falls into the “gifted” category?
In 1989, Janice Szabos published a comparison of the bright child versus a gifted learner in Challenge magazine. Her list has often helped educators make decisions about giftedness for school programs.
Of course, her list is not absolute. And high-achieving children also experience a great deal of success in the classroom. The idea of delineating giftedness is to understand the child’s complex and creative thought process.
Below are a few distinctions from Szabos’s list.
Qualities of a Bright Child:
- Knows the answers
- Works hard to achieve
- Enjoys school
- Has a fine imagination
Qualities of a Gifted Child:
- Asks the questions
- Knows without working hard
- Enjoys self-directed learning
- Uses imagination to experiment with ideas and hunches
How to Raise a Gifted Child
If you have a gifted child, you will probably recognize that your child will react to situations differently than other children. Your job is to guide your child through all of life’s challenges. At the same time, your gifted child will process things differently than other children.
Here are some tips for raising your gifted child.
Provide Intellectual Challenges
School comes easily to gifted children. They can finish work quickly and with little effort. As a result, they often become bored in the classroom, and this can lead to frustration.
Provide your child with additional challenges outside of school. Gifted children are highly creative and need an outlet for that creativity. You can find ways to stimulate your child according to their interests.
If your child has an aptitude for writing, provide opportunities to write stories or create art. If your child likes math, you could look into coding apps or other STEM activities. A child that enjoys music might benefit from lessons or instruments at home.
Do Not Over-Schedule Your Child
While you may want to challenge your child, do not put your gifted child in so many activities that you become over-scheduled. Your child needs the freedom to discover their passions and talents.
Gifted children – like all children – need down-time to recharge. A single activity focusing on your child’s greatest interests is appropriate for an elementary school child. Older children may be able to handle more than one activity if they need extra stimulation.
You can still create meaningful, challenging activities without rushing from one scheduled event to the next.
Focus on Positives
Like all children, your gifted child will have strengths and weaknesses. The strengths will likely be obvious, but weaknesses can include frustration or underachievement.
At the same time, do not attempt to hide from your child that they are unique. Your child likely senses that they are different. An age-appropriate, honest conversation about your child’s abilities will help to alleviate some of that frustration your child likely feels.
Don’t be tempted to compare your child to other children, especially siblings. All children do things at their own pace. Your gifted child may learn in a way that is completely different from peers.
Teach Basic Life Skills
While many things will come easily to your gifted child, don’t forget to teach basic life skills. Your child may need help learning to prioritize and organize work. The creative spark your child possesses may brush off what feels mundane, but these are still necessary skills to be a functioning adult.
Gifted children are often perfectionists. There is a difference between doing one’s best and having high personal standards and feelings of stress or anxiety.
Help your child set boundaries and learn to let things go. Let them understand excellence without it becoming a compulsion. Model a healthy approach in your own behavior and emphasize the process over the result.
Seek Additional Help
A strong outlet for your child’s giftedness will likely be your school. Many schools have programs that identify Gifted and Talented children and provide them with additional outlets. Teachers in these programs know how to bring out the best in gifted children.
If your school does not have a formal program, you may need to provide intellectual challenges for your child at home. Find out if there are any parent groups in your area where you can connect and share ideas.
Beyond the academic support, gifted children often have trouble fitting in. They sometimes find it hard to make friends because they have more esoteric interests. They may come across as a know-it-all or act older than their peers.
This can have several damaging impacts. One is that your child could be bullied for being “too smart.” Or your child may experience depression from not having a supportive circle of friends.
Either way, you need to address these issues. Bullying should be brought to the attention of your school. If you feel that you cannot provide emotional support for your child, seek the help of a professional.
Remember That Your Gifted Child Is Still a Child
While your gifted child may seem like a mini-adult at times, it is important to keep age in perspective. Gifted children still need adults to guide them in decision-making and provide authority.
Above all, have fun. When you raise a gifted child, you can enjoy the delights of your child’s inquisitive and perceptive mind.