Are you the parent of a gifted child? If so, you may feel obliged, on occasion, to push your child more academically. You may feel an extra responsibility to oversee your gifted child’s educational progress. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the common characteristics of gifted children, including the research that gifted children may have their share of emotional stresses, such as lower self-esteem than the average child. In this post, I would like to share some tips on how you can help nurture your child’s gifts.
The gifted child and low self-esteem
You and your child’s teachers can help the gifted child him with problems of self-esteem by first recognizing that the problem exists, and then help establish more realistic goals for him, as well as more appropriate behavioral responses. As a result of the pressure placed on your gifted child, by both himself and the adult community, he can become frustrated, as well as develop the compulsive behavior of perfectionism. Not only can your child establish unrealistic standards for himself, but he can all too often develop high expectations of others as well. This creates a strain in his interpersonal relationships, as he becomes un-accepting of more typical behavior. You can alleviate this situation by helping your gifted child understand the dynamics of his behavior and teach him more appropriate responses.
Parents should recognize that your gifted child may decide to copy the behavior around him that seems to be getting all the rewards. While imitating others for acceptance and approval, the gifted child often misplaces himself. As a teenager, this behavior can present itself in the realms of lower grades, showing off, and acting silly. Seeking conformity and peer acceptance, your child may try to adapt to whatever it takes to make him feel good. And, being as bright as he is, his adaptability is quite strong. In a culture that doesn’t really reward intellectual precocity, your gifted child may, in fact, lose his gift simply because he is not being nurtured and understood.
Create a nurturing, supportive, rewarding environment for the gifted child
The needs of the gifted population are very important. Your gifted child needs, first and foremost, a teacher who is trained to teach gifted children – someone who is neither intimidated, threatened, nor irritated, by the gifted child. Then this teacher needs both home and school cooperation so that he or she can hand-tailor a curriculum that is individualized for your child.
Your gifted child needs to be appreciated, respected, and rewarded appropriately for quality work and quality behavior. Furthermore, your child’s sensitivities need to be understood because, after all, he can learn negatives with the same fervor and accelerated ability that he can positives.
One of the most significant steps in educating and guiding the gifted child is an individualized curriculum created for his needs. Psychologist E. Paul Torrance suggests that educators create a curriculum that encompasses a cooperative learning environment. Several appropriate instructional techniques include individualized teaching, homogeneous grouping for certain subjects, small cluster grouping, and an environment that fosters freedom to continue learning at one’s own rate of speed. Educators must include in their curriculum the concepts of differentiating characteristics, related needs, organizational patterns, and the classroom strategies.
In the final analysis, the variable for all people is love and understanding and, with parents, teachers, and caregivers providing a nurturing environment, the gifted child will obtain his best opportunity for growth.