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Ever accused of "pushing" your gifted kid?

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 
Hey, I was wondering if anyone here could give me some insight. I'm sorry if this sounds as if I'm bragging, but we have a daughter we're pretty sure is gifted. She's 2.5 and is already capable of some skills that are generally mastered years ahead of where she happens to be. (Sorry about the vagueness, but I really don't want this to sound like a brag thread).

Well and good, right? Not quite...

What do you do about people who tacitly or openly accuse you of "pushing"? We were at a family support center that we've gone to since dd was five months old when the director observed her doing an advanced activity. I was doing volunteer work and saw the director looking at dd, but didn't say anything. The director was silent, and I think she was simply evaluating whether or not my dd was really doing what she appeared to be.

"Well," she said rather crisply, "It's a miracle that you have any free time at all."

"I'm sorry?" I asked, genuinely mystified.

"You obviously," she said, "spend a lot of time with her."

The problem was, this comment (which I normally would have taken as a compliment) was said with an undertone that communicated something very different: "You must drill the crap out of her to get her to do that activity and therefore have no free time."

I thought at first that I was being hypersensitive, so I just explained that dd had taught herself the activity and that it was something she genuinely enjoyed doing. Her eyebrows were raised so high in this skeptical expression that it's a wonder they didn't go all the way around the back of her head.

Throughout, the message was very clear: "I think you're pushing her."

My own mother, when we told her about some of dd's activities, asked, "What are your goals here?" (Wow...didn't know they were my goals...I thought they were dd's...) and "You do realize, don't you, what a monster you're creating."

My question to anyone out there is this: Have you ever experienced this reaction? If so, what were your responses? I love hearing some of the witty, pithy, and above all, funny responses that the moms have offered here in response to criticism for breastfeeding, AP parenting, gentle discipline, et al., and now I'd love to hear how you ladies deal with this situation.
post #2 of 68
Don't have any advice, but I can commiserate. To make matters worse, my 2 1/2 yo has sensory integration dysfuntion so she's really ackward and fearful around climbing stuff and can barely run or climb stairs. So people assume I never let her out all day and just drill academics....so far from the truth!!!!!

I usually write such comments off to jealousy or mean spiritedness or guilt (if their child is in daycare and they think if they were home their child would be doing better). Sometimes I say something like, "Everyone is on their own timeline, there's nothing wrong with that..."
post #3 of 68
My son will turn three at the end of the month. He is verbally gifted and first displayed this talent when he began speaking at 7 months of age. Initially, when I shared some of his early words with others (especially my child care provider), I was met with disbelief. Gradually, people would come back to me and say, "You know, I think you're right. He is starting to talk." But this was weeks after I had heard him say his first few words. Annoying, yes, but mostly harmless. It got worse as his vocabulary increased. By the time he was a year old and knew all the names for colors (not just purple, but lilac and lavendar too) I was blatantly accused (oh, in a "friendly" way) of training him with flashcards. Or, get this--sitting with a box of Crayolas and deliberately instructing him on color names! And forget about when he learned to count to 15 really early, sing the ABCs, and name the shapes. I unfortunately came up with nothing witty to say, short of the sarcastic, "Yeah, that's what my 15 month old and I do in our free time" kind of response. The thing is that I am a grade school teacher, so I was super self- conscious for a really long time that others felt I was trying to create some brainy kid or something. Truth is, my son absorbs words like nothing I've ever seen in any of my 2nd grade students over the course of 6 years of teaching! I'm not a gifted teacher, I guess, because I can't get these results in 7 year olds, try as I might...but my son is clearly a gifted learner. I know what you're saying, and I look forward to others' responses here.
post #4 of 68
I guess the first thing that comes to my mind when presented with these sorts of comments is to turn it around to the other person so that they might see how silly they sound. For example:

ignorant person (IP): "you obviously spend alot of time with her"
supermama (you): <polite but confused look on your face> "why do you say that?"
IP: "well, I mean look at what she's doing. it must have taken alot of drilling to get that skill"
supermama: "uh, no....why do think that?"
IP: "well, it's just not normal for a kid her age to be able to do that"
supermama: "so what you are saying is that the only way she could be doing that is if i'm some pushy parent who drills her child night and day to satisfy some deep unmet need within myself?"

...okay, so that last line was a bit sarcastic, lol.

But seriously, I find that if you reflect back the person's comments/questions to them, mirror what they are saying (in a supposed effort to understand them; acting innocent to the fact that the comment is delivered with negative connotations) that they may just see how stupid their comment is, and it requires no rudeness or attitude from you, just a "genuine" attempt to grasp what they are saying.
post #5 of 68
Oh, yes, I can relate.

A few years ago, my eldest daughter started preschool. She turned 4 the first day. All the kids in her class had cutoff birthdays -- two weeks before Sept. 1 to two weeks after -- so they were all essentially the same age.

On orientation day, while the teachers talked to the parents about policies and such, all the kids could play with toys or color. The teachers had taken huge rolls of paper and taped them to the tables and provided crayons.

By the end of the hour, most of the kids had scribbled on the paper. My daughter had written her name, the names of all her neighborhood friends, the name of the grocery store, a list of some things she wanted to buy there, pictures of our cats with their names underneath, and pictures of our house, family, car, etc.

One of the teachers made a point of remarking, in front of all the other parents, "You must work with her a lot." I had to honestly reply, "Um, no. She asks me how to spell things all the time, and likes to send letters to her friends on our street." She also liked to make our grocery list, and that's how she knew how to spell cat food, bread, apples, things like that.

All year I got a weird vibe from that one teacher and from some of the parents.

At the end of the year, when I didn't sign dd up for another year, the director asked me why not, and I was honest. I told her that dd was bored with gluing popcorn to a big paper P when at home, she was reading second-grade level books. The director gave me a look of pity and a lecture on how she'd observed my daughter, she couldn't possibly be bored, and that I really shouldn't push her.

I've never pushed -- all three of my kids have pulled! And now we homeschool for that reason.

I've also had one neighbor, who has children roughly the same ages as mine, who used to comment all the time that my kids "just aren't normal." Grr.

post #6 of 68
How about a simple "Yes, she's a delightful child. I enjoy spending time with her.", smile, and walk away. And most importantly, don't let what other's say/do bother you!!
post #7 of 68
Interesting, girlsaplenty. I'd be upset if someone said my kid "wasn't normal" but I find myself saying that about him to justify his unusual abilities- and to calm the friends whose kids are not doing what he's able to do at similar ages. I don't think I should make remarks like that about him (and I would never so it in his presence) but I find myself doing it anyway.
post #8 of 68
I agree that most people who make these kinds of comments are insecure in some way.

My dd is "gifted" (I don't love that word, actually) in her language abilities - speaking, reading, writing, ability to understand complex situations, etc. Yet she is also just about where she should be socially. Every child is different, and I wish more people could accept their children for who they are, rather than compare and always find themselves dissatisfied! Poor kids...

I think that simply "playing dumb" works wonders to make people realize how inappropriate their comments are! Just respond with an innocent, "Why do you say that?" to the comments, and once they are forced to explain what they mean, they start to realize that they should have kept their mouths shut. Stinging comments are cowardly; once the person is asked to expand on them, they usually retreat!

As far as preschools go (for those who mentioned their child being bored), well, that's why my dd goes to a preschool that does not teach academics. She would also be bored with learning the alphabet. Pick a school where the kids do lots of art, science experiments (like planting seeds, hatching butterflies, etc.), cooking - that way kids of all levels of ability can participate and they will all get whatever they are ready for out of the activities.
post #9 of 68
Let me first say that your kids all sound amazing! My 1 yo dd is moderately advanced in some skills and right on track on others. My friend's daughter, who is about 19 or 20 months old is gifted similarly to lunamom's dd (in verbal skills, etc., but right on socially). I have to admit to having a passing thought or two similar to what you feel others are thinking (she MUST be drilling her for her to know so many words), but it's only a passing thought. I've spent time with this little girl and she's been picking up words others use around her since she was under a year. I agree with whoever said that my feelings WERE probably related to the fact that I do work FT out of the home (DH is with DD while I'm at work) and feel like I'm not doing enough for DD. In other words, I AM a little jealous of the time she gets to spend with her dd (not of the fact her dd is so gifted bc I know my dd is just fine, but there's still that little bit of worry there - if only I were home with her, maybe she'd be ahead, too). But I would NEVER voice those fleeting thoughts to my friend. I don't understand why people have to be so hurtful.
post #10 of 68
I'm glad you posted this because I'm looking for a good response too.
My ds is 3 and rides his bike without training wheels. He's the one that asked us to take them off because he was frustrated with them. Anyway, I've gotten some wierd comments along the same lines as you.

In a way I am kindof proud of him and I think I have a right to be. It doesn't mean that I pushed him to do it! Those comments really annoy me.
post #11 of 68
I just tell people that I can't make her do something she's not capable of doing yet, and reassure them that she takes the initiative.

When she started asking the names of letters at 15 mos. it was all her, I just answered her. I guess in that way, yeah, I did spend a lot of time with her instead of putting her in front of TV all day or something.

My aunt totally thinks I'm pushing her but know what? I could care less. She doesn't know me or my dd and I just hold my head high.

post #12 of 68
Are these suspicions from parents more than non-parents?

Kind of heartbreaking if that is the case because it is based in insecurity. The parents saying these things are probably looking at these activities as predictors of success and ultimately happiness and feeling that thier child, who can't read at 21/2, isn't going to be a super sucessfull and thus happy adult. The truth is that gifted children are just as likely (and unlikely) not to do well in life as ungifted.

My DH was reading at 2 years; he finally (finally!) graduated from a state college with a B- average at 30. Lots of "average" kids surpassed him long ago in terms of academics and career.

Then there is the problem with tying success to happiness, but that is another thread.

I know it is hard when you are being accused of being the academic version of stage mother, but I'd try to have sympathy for these people who comment, especially mothers. I like the poster's suggestion of saying that "oh kids do these things on thier own timeline " (afterall, like potty training, it will mostly even out - we all reach adulthood using the toilet and knowing what lavender means, whether we learned tehse things at 2 or 4 or . . .).

Now you Mom thsough. No sympathy there; she is just being rude (unless she feel guilfy for not spending more time with you when you were a todler and thus feels like your dd's acomplishments are accusation of her mothering?)

Good luck!
post #13 of 68
Thread Starter 
Man, I'm glad that I'm not alone.

It was a very rude awakening with dd, because I (naturally??) assumed that any rude comments (e.g., "They're not normal" -- ooh, that would've made me steamed!) would have come from strangers or passing acquaintances.

Instead, the most negative reactions have come from people who know us fairly well, particularly my mom.

Darshani, I can't agree with you more -- you can't make a kid learn something they're not capable of learning. It's like me and algebra, to my shame.

I do like the "playing dumb" idea, reflecting back their comment at them. One of my faults is that I keep feeling the need to justify or over-explain. I'd make a horrible criminal. Anyway, I suppose I feel a need to cover up or assuage their suspicion (or outright belief) that we're pushing dd by reassuring them that no, we are not, but honestly, I think it's a waste of breath.

So what are you all going to do with your kids when they get to school, provided the "evening out" idea is a myth?
post #14 of 68
I deal with this a fair bit too, and that's saying something because Eli will be 9 months old tomorrow. It usually comes in the form of "What are you doing with him?" *shudder* Like I must be sitting around with flashcards or something because he's talking a lot more than most kids. I try to be honest "Well, I talk to him, so he talks back to me." People who don't know me very well tend to assume that he's not really talking (grrr!), and people who *do* know me don't know what to say. (I was a very "gifted" child who grew up into what most people would call an "unsuccessful" adult.)

Eli is *definately* getting homeschooled; I won the argument with dh by pointing out some of my nieces experiences in Kindergarten.

When he's a bit older, I'll teach him how not to scare the muggles. . It took me a long time, but that was because I was so insecure. Eli already has a better childhood than I did, and dh and I are both working hard to improve upon it even more.

My mother used to deal with this problem by pointing out my faults. "Oh, you must have worked so hard to get her to read at two! Aren't you proud of her?" "Well, her brother tied his shoelaces earlier. She's very uncoordinated." : Very depressing. *sigh*
post #15 of 68
Often when it's other mothers I think they're trying to compare, or figure out if their child is not doing something they're supposed to be doing, or or or ...

Their own insecurities about their own kids.

And from other folks, I just smile and say, "Thanks for the parenting advice." And change the subject very bluntly.

: Is that rude? :LOL
post #16 of 68
My dd just turned 6 and reads at least on a 5th-grade level. And she reads FAST, too--she can read a 200 page book (on a 5th grade level) in about a day.

I sometimes get disbelief--like I'm making up the fact that she can read that well. I'm lucky, though, that most of the people close to us are proud of her and find her "amazing."

I think the one with the jealousy, though, is her 7 year-old cousin who can't read as well. (We certainly have never tried to point out the differences between them, of course, but the cousin just picks up on the fact that she (the cousin) can't read as well, and she treats my dd badly because of it.

Kindergarten was a COMPLETE waste of a year. The teacher sat them in front of the TV most of the time, when he wasn't "teaching" them colors and letters. : (Yes, I complained to the principal, to no avail.)

This year we're sticking her in a Waldorf-type private school. Hopefully she'll at least have more fun.
post #17 of 68
Thread Starter 

Oh, this is a nightmare. We're intending to HS DD mostly because I have heard an earful from the parents of other kids whose experiences in school have been...less than ideal.

Why is it that schools apparently are unwilling to accomodate kids whose learning is as qualitatively and quantitatively different from the norm as is the learning of special needs kids? THEY deserve a differentiated curriculum, so why don't the children on the other end of the spectrum?

I have a feeling, Mamajulie, that your dd is not going to "even out" by third grade...and I have a feeling no one else's kid will either. They'll camouflage, sure, or be bored and get labeled as underachievers, but "even out"?

I don't think so...
post #18 of 68
So what are you all going to do with your kids when they get to school
We plan to homeschool. Dd is a very sweet and loving, but spirited child. She takes a while to warm up to strangers and I know that putting her into school with a bunch of kids and adults she doesn't know would be traumatic to her.

Not to mention what I think of most kids these days being raised by parents who are too busy to teach them good manners and kindness. I would hate to spoil that in dd with a class bully or something. I can't shelter her forever from the hardships of life, but just throwing her into school and expecting her to cope isn't my idea of teaching her anything.

In our school district they absolutely won't let a child into kindergarten until age 5, no exceptions. Which I agree with to a point because many parents are pushing their kids to learn what they are not ready to. At the same time, my dd's bday is in December which means she won't be able to start kindergarten until age 5 years 9 mos. old. She already knows a lot of stuff that they learn in kindergarten and I feel it would be a waste of time and she'd be bored.

I'm starting her in a preschool homeschooling program next fall at age 3 years 9 mos. I think she's ready for some of it now but I have seen the cirriculum from a friend and there are still things that are way beyond her like reading longer stories and retelling what happened, and her coodination is not there yet to, for example, draw a line from one object to another, connect dots, or write letters (although she's starting to write crude letters).

Homeschooling is cool because *I* can decide what she's ready to learn and when.

post #19 of 68
Ditto what Darshani said.

All three of my girls just barely missed the kindergarten cutoff -- one by six days. I was really annoyed over that back in the days when I thought I'd put my kids in school. But the missed cutoff turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced me to look at other alternatives, and it gave my lukewarm-on-homeschooling dh a reason to consider it.

Now we're happily in our third year of homeschooling. And every year people ask, so, when are you sending them to school? All I have to say is FCAT and they shut right up. LOL! (FCAT is the horrible Florida public school system's horrible standardized test.)

post #20 of 68
I seriously think that most of the negative (or back-handed compliments) are pure jealousy. My 19mo doesn't talk yet, and it is really hard to see a child half his age jabbering away sometimes. I have to remind myself that my child would probably blow them away with other things...like his drawing abilities and musical ability, but it is so hard to remember that each child has his own timeline, especially when there is so much pressure to "be the best".

I also have to remember that giftedness comes with it's own challenges. My brother was gifted (143 IQ I think) and it took him 7 years of college to get his engineering degree. He really floundered at first because he had never had to study to do well. All of a sudden he had to learn how to study. He is now moderatly successful, but nowhere near what he dreamed of being (wanted to design race cars & be part of a pit crew. He designs combines...which he is happy about, but not quite his "dream"). I was borderline gifted (137 IQ) and have yet to graduate college. My dh is a genius (160 or 165...he can't remember exactly) and hasn't yet graduated college and has found very little success career wise & has difficulty in social situation. He gets bored VERY easily and has really struggled with school because of this. He also has problems at work because once he learns the job, if he isn't challenged any further (which is unlikely without a degree) he gets bored and restless. There is also a lot more pressure on gifted kids to succeed and they are much more likely to experience burn-out. This isn't an issue when they are young and excited about learning, but when they get older and interact with their peers, out come the labels & the expectations of others.

Because of my background, I have a lot of sympathy for mamas of gifted kids, because the challenges they face are so overwhelming at times. My parents had to deal with me being compared to my younger brother by my classmates and teachers ("why aren't you smart like him") and the resulting hurt feelings. (really small school so everyone knew everyone, even though he was 3 grades younger) Plus, with giftedness, there is also an expectation to get them involved in more groups & clubs to keep them challenged, which comes with more expenses and more busyness. It is really a difficult road because you also lack a lot of the other social support because people think you are bragging, even when you sincerly need help. Plus, sometimes you WANT to brag, after all, you are proud of them, and you don't want others to feel bad.

There is a part of me that was really hoping for a gifted kid, but there is another part of me that is scared of having one. I guess we will see what happens. I just have to remind myself that he is his own person and has his own gifts, whatever they may be.
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