Why Raising a Gifted Child Is Challenging

Challenge #1

The first challenge when you are raising a gifted child is to accept that your son or daughter is  REALLY gifted. This awareness, acknowledgment and acceptance can make all the difference when it comes to your sense of yourself as an effective parent who can make good enough decisions about parenting. In my new book, CHALLENGES OF GIFTED CHILDREN, I go into great detail about how you can truly know for sure that your child is gifted. And by the way, parents who call me for advice always ask me how I know their child is gifted. Commonly, parents question my assessment or the assessment of the school counselor or another psychologist. Parents question whether or not their child is gifted because their son or daughter is so hard to handle. Often, frustrated moms and dads think that their child’s problem may be different than giftedness. They are concerned that their child is autistic or ADHD. Personally, gifted children are challenging enough.

All parents, not just the parents with gifted kids, are often concerned or confused about what is wrong with their son or daughter. Why is he so temperamental and hard to calm down? Why won’t she listen? Obviously, children come in many many different varieties. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting style that works for every family. All children need special types of attention to help them grow up strong, resilient, flexible and compassionate. Too much attention or too little attention will damage a child’s potential. Gifted children actually have “special needs” when it comes to understanding how much love, attention and intellectual and social stimulation is enough. “Never enough” or “not enough” won’t work. “Good enough” parenting is what works with high strung precocious kids.

In many ways gifted children are in the “special needs” category. The “special needs” of a gifted child are very different from that of a child on the autistic spectrum or ADHD or even with learning disabilities. Gifted children need to learn the rules about who makes a decision. Who IS the BOSS? In some ways smart kids are born “know-it-alls.”  Insatiable and perfectionistic by nature, they are intensely quick children who know what they want. Clearly, highly spirited kids are smart enough and persistent enough to get what they want, and what they think they need. I know this fact to be true because I raised two gifted children and have consulted with thousands of parents about how to deal with the demanding-ness and insistence of their remarkably savant child.

Parental intensity coupled with the child’s intensity makes taming their smartness, perfectionism and persistence a difficult and complicated responsibility. In actuality, parents are mostly concerned about the best way to settle down an emotional battle of the wills over homework, computer time, or bedtime.  While some “schoolhouse” gifted children are content to read and study what interests them, most gifted children start negotiating with their parents about how little they can or will do. An argument can easily begin over compliance to the rules of the house.

If your child never can stop questioning you, most likely he or she is gifted.

Challenge #2

The next challenge to understand for sure is what type of gifted child you are raising. There is no one- size-fits-all definition. There is no one test that will give you the answer. There is no one set of behavior characteristics that define giftedness. Parents call me all of the time wanting to know why their supposedly gifted child is not reading. Or moms and dads want to know why their bright child is so shy or won’t listen at home and at school. My response is always the same. Bright and gifted children come in all varieties. There is no one stereotype of giftedness that can be used to categorize and identify the unique strength and struggles of these precocious kids.

Absolutely, there is a wide range of children who can be considered gifted. The scientific bug collector, the bookworm, the day-dreamer and planner, the artist, composer, athlete, math wizard, and the piano and dance prodigy are just a few examples of ways to visualize giftedness. There is also a great deal of diversity in the personality profiles of gifted kids. Some are dramatic; others are extroverts who want to be leaders; and some are introverted, shy and prefer being alone. Some spirited children are defiant and seek out attention without shame.

Here are some strategies that may help you get your spirited child to listen to you.
1.  Be prepared for their opposition to the rules you want them to follow.
2.  Listen carefully to their strong feelings and reactions. Validate their unhappiness, but do not give in to their demands. Calm and firmly stick to your child-centered rules for their well-being.
3.  Help your son or daughter make progress by telling them about the progress they are making. Reward good behavior. Give consequences for behavior that you have told them is unacceptable.