Children who are bright and talented in their own ways can be a challenge to raise. They often need different parenting approaches than some of their siblings or peers.
Here are some tips that I have found helpful in my own life and in working with parents and teachers of gifted children.
Recognize that each gifted child is a unique individual rooted in a certain family, community, and culture. Gifted children cannot be stereotyped. Certain general principles apply, but gifted children all differ from each other.
Realize that gifted children are, first of all, children. They need:
- Love, but also controls.
- Attention, but also discipline.
- Parent involvement, but also self-dependence and responsibility.
Respect your child and his or her knowledge, which at times may be greater than your own. Gifted children are sometimes impatient with authority.
- Assume that the child means to do right.
- Allow as much liberty as you can on unimportant issues.
- Try to give general instructions that the child can carry out in his or her own creative way.
- Provide clear expectations for behavior.
Talk with your child about the importance of conventions such as politeness, manners, courtesy, and regard for others. A gifted child’s impatience with conventions may cause problems.
Discuss disciplinary actions. Gifted children understand rational arguments and have a well-developed sense of duty.
Try to set as few limits as possible, but when you set them, be sure to follow through. Gifted children are particularly curious to see if you will be consistent. They may also need fewer constraints than others.
Encourage your child to participate in developing limits for him- or herself. As gifted children are generally highly verbal, they tend to logically argue to defend their reasoning and viewpoint. Try to see this as a strength to use in establishing limits rather than as a threat to enforcement.
Allow your child to choose in as many situations as possible. Gifted children need and thrive on choices. Make sure, however, that the choices are agreeable to you.
Respond to your child’s needs rather than to his or her negative behavior. This does not mean, however, that you must accept or even tolerate his or her behavior.
Convey trust that your child will act wisely.
Take time to be with your child, listen to what he or she has to say, and discuss it. Set a good example.
Emphasize early verbal expression, such as reading, discussing ideas, poetry, and music.
Read to your child. Provide good books, magazines, and other media.
Emphasize the importance of success in school.
Encourage your child’s questions, but discourage him or her from asking them at inappropriate times.
- When needed, have the child clarify his or her questions.
- Occasionally reply to a questions with another question that will send the child searching in larger directions.
- When you cannot answer a question, direct the child to a source who can.
Stimulate and open your child’s mind with books, recreation, travel, and the arts.
Encourage the child to follow through with projects, striving for real mastery, rather than going through many hobbies and collections in a short time. Gifted children usually have a wide, versatile range of interests but many have problems concentrating in one area for long.
Avoid over-structuring the child’s life and remember to allow free time. A child cannot be expected to perform at top capacity at all times.
Provide lessons in a special skill, an able companion with whom to spend time, and special experiences outside the home.
Laugh with your child. Seek to develop his or her sense of humor.
And most of all, have fun with your child, and enjoy their delight in discovering the world!
Adapted from Counseling Parents of Exceptional Children by J. C. Stewart (Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1978).