Should you tell your child s/he is gifted?

Earlier I’d posted a few resources for parents of gifted children.  When your child is about to be enrolled in a “gifted” / “accelerated” / “honors” / “academically talented” program, should you tell your child s/he is gifted?  The Chicago Tribune had an article today about this subject.  They interviewed Liz Perelstein, founder and president of School Choice International:

“I don’t see any need for labeling them,” she says. “Let them know all kids have strengths and weaknesses… This is an opportunity for them to stretch their minds and be with other kids who have the same interests — the school’s way of catering to their needs and curiosity, just like schools do for athletes or musicians.”

Perelstein continues, noting that “gifted” may be too strong a term to use for many kids.

“There’s gifted and there’s gifted,” says Liz… Children who score well on a standardized test, therefore gaining entry into an accelerated program at school, are no doubt bright, Perelstein says. But they are not, most likely, gifted…
Truly gifted children… “tend to feel different from their peers,” she says. “They don’t have the same interests, they have little to talk about with their peers, they often have difficulty in social relationships. I think it’s a good thing for parents to tell kids like that the reason they feel different is because they’re gifted, not because something is wrong with them…”

“Gifted children ask questions, where smart children are often more focused on answering questions. Gifted children have an insatiable quest for knowledge. They have passions for things really early and want to know everything about them. Sometimes parents don’t recognize the signs of giftedness, but they do emerge quite early.”

What you can do.

Perelstein suggested a few things you can do for your kid (she focuses on the truly “gifted” case)

1. Give your smart child books about Einstein and other famous intellectuals.  This would help the child understand how s/he is different while providing role models for your child, to alleviate the confusion of peer pressure.

2. If you do tell your child s/he is gifted, make sure the child knows all kids have strengths and weaknesses, and some of them are different from academic strengths.

3. Realize that this could be an opportunity to help your child understand why s/he is different from other students, and look at the conversation as easing your child’s pain.   As Perelstein says, “it’s not so much about giving them a label, because what are they going to do with that?” she says. “It’s about easing their pain, because kids measure themselves so much against their peers. School is often very hard for them because they have nothing to talk to other kids about and teachers often treat them like they’re annoying.”

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