Guilt and Parenting the Gifted Child - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 05:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is nearly two, and if not gifted then at the very least extremely advanced. He has always had above-average development pretty much across the board, but where he really excels is communication and memory. He has been speaking in full small since about 18 months and now uses full, often grammatically correct sentences, and has thousands of words that he can draw from in daily conversation.

I believe that his communication and advanced development play a large part in how easy he is to get along with, and how few problems we have to deal with in the course of the day.

This all leads to the conundrum I have been mulling over the past few months - at what point do I need to inform people I am talking to about him or their kids that he is gifted/advanced? He is very shy around strangers, especially babies (he opens up to adults but is just starting to come out of his shell a little bit around kids his own age) so for the most part it is easy to view him, in public settings, as just another nearly 2 year old. But when they are asking questions about him I feel conflicted. I don't want to sound like a blowhard, but I hate feeling guilty or feeling like I have to hide his intelligence. When I do let something slip that is unusual, for some reason it makes me feel like a huge jerk - I don't want us to be judged on his abilities.

Has anyone here found a non-threatening way to inform people that their child is gifted, but without sounding pompous or like it is a judgment of their abilities as parents? Or is this a foolish worry that I shouldn't have to think about - the etiquette involved in having a gifted child? Or should I just not say anything at all until such a point as it is obvious to all parties, if they have any interest in the matter at all?

Thanks for any advice or discussion in the matter.

Amanda + Steven SAHM to James (Feb 19, 2008) and Alexander (Jan 7, 2011). Lost little ones always in my heart (07/11/2009) (04/2010)
 
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#2 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 06:21 PM
 
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Personally, it's no one's business. Educators and parents are the only ones who need to be in the loop, and barring that, I don't know what good will come of talking about your child's intelligence to others.

People are almost always able to spot bright kids on their own. Your response, again IMO, should be something like, "Yes, we think he's pretty sharp, too!"

At this age, he's done nothing on his own to enrich his abilities, so hyperfocusing on it can be very detrimental. His giftedness wasn't earned, just as a person doesn't earn being born beautiful or tall- it just is there, innately. Championing a child, even early, or maybe, especially early on, for something they had nothing to do with, can only harm them in the long run.

Answer people honestly, but there's no need (for any parent) to go into tremendous depth or detail outside of talking with educators and close, understanding family. "Is he talking a lot?" "Yes, he talks up a storm!" That's an honest answer that doesn't alienate the other person and doesn't set your child up as a parlor trick (not saying you do, but it can easily be perceived that way by others) as it would if you answered, "Yes, he's been talking since he was 6 months old, knows x words and speaks in x-number word sentences. He's also really getting into the lesser works of Bach."

You can be proud of your child, talk about him honestly, and not set him up as The Boy Genius. His intelligence is only one part of him, and one that ideally should not be the only thing he's known for. I'm sure he's very bright, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with people thinking he's just another 2 year old, because that's what he is.

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#3 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 06:35 PM
 
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In most cases, it's not necessary at all. If another parent is concerned about their child's development because they're comparing to one of mine, then I might say something like, "My son/daughter is very advanced in this area, it's not reasonable to compare your child to mine" but usually it doesn't even come to that. More often others will notice for themselves, comment, I acknowledge and we all move on.

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#4 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 06:45 PM
 
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I agree with the PP. I've only had a few conversations with close friends about it because I needed some perspective and advice about a few things.

Honestly, I find it easier if folks don't notice. DD is fairly introverted so most people who come into semi-regular contact won't (don't) have a clue. I'm quite happy with that. She's getting more outgoing, though, and we have had some funny experiences as a result.

To those who know her well, it's apparently quite obvious. I honestly hadn't even realized that her unique-ness was obvious to our good friends until recently. I'm glad to have it "open" with them only so I have people to talk to about these things. I should also admit that I'm pretty self-selecting with my close friends...they're all bright/gifted adults so their kids are too.

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#5 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 07:59 PM
 
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I've been there. After a lot of agonizing, I decided that I'd just say it whenever it seemed relevant. And I'd stop trying to hide or downplay her abilities (something that did make me feel guilty, especially when I realized she'd picked up on it). What happened is that I spent a few weeks waiting for it to come up in conversation. And it didn't. Then, finally, it came out with a friend of mine, and we ended up having a great conversation about it. Since then, it's only come up a few times, mostly with family members. Every time I've said it it's felt good. Now, I'm at the point where I'm totally relaxed about it. I don't care if she reads aloud in the library or does addition in front of my friends. If I have a great story that inadvertently discloses precocious ability, I tell it anyway. (Though the best stories usually don't.) I just don't care, and I often don't even notice.

So, my advice would be that you should do whatever it takes to get to a place where you aren't embarrassed. For me that meant telling people (but fewer people than I'd thought). You might find another way of dealing with it. But do deal with it, because kids can tell when something bothers us.
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#6 of 16 Old 02-01-2010, 08:06 PM
 
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I only talk about DD's abilities with my parents, a couple friends with apparently gifted kids, and the ped. I haven't even really had a conversation with her teacher about it, though her head teacher did finally use the "g" word about her in our last conference. If people comment on her speaking or reading or numerical abilities, I usually just smile and say, "Oh, yes, she's really into (whatever), it's just her thing."

Erin, mom to DD (1/06) and DS (10/09)
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#7 of 16 Old 02-02-2010, 04:09 AM
 
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It gets easier.

The differences become less obvious in day to day interactions. When my 3 3/4 yo is playing at the train table now, most of the other 3-4 yo are playing in a pretty similar way. Only occasionally does he do something, such as reading the name off the bottom of train, that makes people notice something different about him. Even the reading should start to blend in more in another year or 2 as his peers start to pick it up.

I don't go around talking about the stuff that other parents don't see in public, like the books he reads, his fascination with anatomy or his need to understand what elements are (yes, I've explained the basics, we have the book, he's seen diagrams of atoms, but he needs something more ) his solid determination that he will be an astronaut. Those things are just for family, a few close friends who understand, and of course you guys who really understand .

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#8 of 16 Old 02-02-2010, 02:22 PM
 
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If people were actually comparing their kid to mine, I would shrug and say something like, "She's always been hyper-verbal, so you might not want to use her as a yardstick," and would then admire some skill that the other person's kid was displaying. Dd#1 had extremely precocious language skills but average/slightly behind motor skills, so especially in environments like a playground it was rarely hard to point out some cool trick the other kid had mastered that dd wasn't doing yet.

If I just THOUGHT people were comparing their kid to mine I would skip straight to admiring their kid for whatever their kid was doing. You really can't go wrong with that strategy. First of all, no matter how gifted your kid is, their kid is probably doing something yours isn't; second, even if your kid mastered saying hello / exchanging high-fives / playing chess six months ago, if their kid just started doing it, this is new and exciting and it's always fun to see a little kid show off a new skill.

Comparisons get a lot less overt the older your kid gets.
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#9 of 16 Old 02-02-2010, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you to ALL of you for your thoughtful replies. I really appreciate some insight into this matter. We have never brought it up with anyone except my mom who works in the child development field and so has a little more in-depth insight than most. We haven't even brought it up with people in our family who are gifted (except DH) so we certainly aren't telling friends and playgroup acquaintances. But last week we were at the library and people were asking about basic stuff - what were the kids doing, do they watch tv, do they nap, and so on and I was trying to downplay the things that we do at home - and then on thinking about it wondering if it was because I was embarrassed to tell them, or because it's not appropriate in case it made them feel bad.

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Originally Posted by ErinYay View Post
Personally, it's no one's business. Educators and parents are the only ones who need to be in the loop, and barring that, I don't know what good will come of talking about your child's intelligence to others.
A good standard to stick to, I think. I agree about not being a parlour trick - I just cringe when people make their kids "preform" in public. DS is very introverted though, so wouldn't do that even if I wanted him to haha.

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Originally Posted by no5no5 View Post
I've been there. After a lot of agonizing, I decided that I'd just say it whenever it seemed relevant. And I'd stop trying to hide or downplay her abilities (something that did make me feel guilty, especially when I realized she'd picked up on it). What happened is that I spent a few weeks waiting for it to come up in conversation. And it didn't. Then, finally, it came out with a friend of mine, and we ended up having a great conversation about it. Since then, it's only come up a few times, mostly with family members. Every time I've said it it's felt good. Now, I'm at the point where I'm totally relaxed about it. I don't care if she reads aloud in the library or does addition in front of my friends. If I have a great story that inadvertently discloses precocious ability, I tell it anyway. (Though the best stories usually don't.) I just don't care, and I often don't even notice.

So, my advice would be that you should do whatever it takes to get to a place where you aren't embarrassed. For me that meant telling people (but fewer people than I'd thought). You might find another way of dealing with it. But do deal with it, because kids can tell when something bothers us.
Thanks for this advice. I don't want my DS growing up thinking he has to "dumb himself down" or something because I let my feelings affect his relationship with himself. He is who he is, and that is a dazzling, funny, wonderful kid - completely. "Giftedness" may prove to be a part of that, but it's not the only part.

Thanks again for everyone's thoughts! I love hearing stories of experience.

Amanda + Steven SAHM to James (Feb 19, 2008) and Alexander (Jan 7, 2011). Lost little ones always in my heart (07/11/2009) (04/2010)
 
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#10 of 16 Old 02-02-2010, 10:13 PM
 
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You don't have to tell people that your two year old is verbally gifted. People will pick that up while they're talking to him. If he is that obviously advanced, then it's not something that you will need to point out. People have always commented how verbally advanced my daughter is; she simply never sounded like children her age. I never needed to tell people that---they notice it right away and adjust their conversations with her accordingly.

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#11 of 16 Old 02-05-2010, 09:19 PM
 
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I think it really depends on the situation. In casual conversation with people I won't likely see again, I wouldn't go into any depth of explanation, but if they said things to ds4 for instance (he is the only one who's been nearly silent around people outside our immediate family) that assumed a lack of skill or comprehension that he has mastered, then I would say something on his behalf in a friendly way. This has happened frequently, actually.

A specific example would be when other parents or rec centre employees think they are helping us by telling ds4 (27 months) not to climb to the top of the equipment 'because he'll hurt himself.' In these very frequent instances, dh and I politely inform them that he's been climbing up there for a year and climbs down safely on his own.

Other times people say things to him assuming he won't understand for their own (and presumably our reciprocal) amusement and dh and I will inform them that he understands and can be spoken to as an adult. Usually they come to see that after a short time, but only after we've said this. When we used to let it go, most parents were completely blind to his understanding because they expected him to be oblivious. Even people who spend more time with him are just finally expressing their surprise that he is so competent, even though his competence has been visible since infancy. He just has a very quiet way about him and is easily overlooked and bull-dozed. Dh and I speak up because his typical response is to distrust adults who don't see him and assume that he is less capable than he is, which is also something most adults don't seem to pick up on because ds4 is so gentle-mannered.

When we speak up, we give others the opportunity to see ds4 for who he is and it allows the potential for a relationship to develop and in some cases, to not be eroded. We haven't needed to do this with our other dc except in a few circumstances, so I think whether it is necessary to speak up can be as variable as the circumstances and the temperaments of the children and adults involved, inclusively.

I imagine that this will not be necessary for much longer as he matures and gains confidence to speak up for himself (his brothers do this well, and very politely too), so he'll likely follow their example, but maybe not. As he grows, it may be that he develops other strategies for dealing with this that are more effective for him.

As a child, it would have benefitted me greatly to have had parents who would defend my abilities rather than pretend like they were typical to save face with others. It built shame for me as a child, even when their intention was just to fit in. I think it is possible and necessary to speak up for oneself and in this case, sometimes for others too, without being pompous or rude, but in a way that dignifies everyone with greater understanding and potential for relation.

There is no moral high-ground in, and nothing enlightened about, hiding oneself or one's child under a basket in order to feed some idea that we're all the same; we're not, and it is healthy to recognise that with compassion and tact, imo.

When they are very young and if they are also quiet beings like my ds4, it may have the same result to hide their abilities as to simply not make any mention when they are obviously being misunderstood. I am not fine with that, so I speak up. I have not received any negative response from doing so to date (lots of positive feedback though!), and feel confident that my perspective as regards my particular child is beneficial for him, my family, and others, so I'll continue to do it as long as necessary.

Well, I've been absent for 8 months, and during that time, it turns out that I have completely transformed. You are all precious. Thank you for being here and sharing your lives. You are truly a gift. namaste.gif Jan. 23, 2012

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#12 of 16 Old 02-06-2010, 02:56 PM
 
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i'm maybe more in closet about my girls than average, i dunno. i don't tell stories about them that involve really advanced things, and i don't do things like post facebook status updates about them (but i try to keep facebook about me, because pretty much nothing else in my life is!). but more than that, i'll stay silent if i can when milestones come up. like one time at the library, the moms were talking about whether their kids were writing their names yet or not. none of the kids were, but my DD was (i can't remember how old the kids were... little. under 3, maybe 2.75. so not an age where anyone would expect kids to be writing their names, but DD had been for a while). but no one asked me directly, so i just didn't say anything. it was kind of a lie by omission since i was right there and otherwise participating in the conversation.

i'm not saying though that i think this is the best way to be. i am really sensitive about advanced/gifted things just as my own issue. i was a very advanced kid and i just got into the habit of pretending i worked harder than i did, or that i didn't score as well on something, or whatever, because i felt like other kids would feel bad about themselves if i told the truth. even now, i still do it! it's kind of silly. like, a friend and i were reading twilight books at the same time, and she commented about how sucky her 7 hour train ride was, but at least she half-finished the book. and i automatically reverted back to being the kid who was afraid her friend would feel bad about herself if she knew that i finished the book in a couple of hours. so i pretended i was still reading it too. i mean, that's ridiculous!

anyway, i'm not being helpful. i don't want DDs to ever feel like i'm ashamed of them or hiding things about them, but i don't think it's terrible that i worry about other people's feelings.

still, some things people just notice, like the early talking. when that happens, i just say something like 'yeah, she speaks well.'
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#13 of 16 Old 02-06-2010, 05:27 PM
 
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like one time at the library, the moms were talking about whether their kids were writing their names yet or not. none of the kids were, but my DD was (i can't remember how old the kids were... little. under 3, maybe 2.75. so not an age where anyone would expect kids to be writing their names, but DD had been for a while). but no one asked me directly, so i just didn't say anything. it was kind of a lie by omission since i was right there and otherwise participating in the conversation.
I wouldn't think of redirecting the conversation as a lie of omission. Personally, I'd vastly prefer to talk more about the child in question, or about the culture of parenthood in which worrying about milestones is the norm, or about whether writing or reading typically comes first, or about whether parents should enforce correct pencil grip, etc., etc. These days, I am totally willing to tell stories about DD and I don't even bother thinking about whether they include evidence of her giftedness. But I'm not going to get involved in a milestone comparison chat with the parents of ND kids, even if it's an area in which DD is pretty typical (e.g., gross motor skills).
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#14 of 16 Old 02-06-2010, 08:55 PM
 
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Haven't read the responses, but personally I have never felt a need to mention it. It often speaks for itself.
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#15 of 16 Old 02-06-2010, 11:59 PM
 
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The only time I've ever mentioned it (and I have kids who are similarly verbally reticent) is in educational situations. For instance, when the summer music school administrator suggested my 6-year-old piano student was on the young side for the junior piano class and would probably do best in the music appreciation class for pre-K and KG kids, I mentioned that she was well ahead of her age group academically and playing concertos on the violin, so the "introduction to music for young children" class was not going to be appropriate learning for her. When the snooty librarian said to my petite 6-year-old, who was cruising the children's novel shelves, "Sweetie, your books are over here," pointing her to the picture books, I said "Actually, she reads fluently. She's looking for The Hobbit, I think."

So I've mentioned stuff on a "need to know" basis. Other than that, I've just let people figure it out for themselves. And it's fine if they don't. I've found it easy to stay in the background during those milestone show-and-tells that seem to erupt amongst mothers from time to time. It doesn't feel dishonest to me to hang back. I don't feel the need to share and it would stand a good chance of creating awkwardness and insecurities amongst other parents if I did. So why bother?

Miranda

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#16 of 16 Old 02-07-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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When ds1 was younger, and his advanced language skills and ability to spout facts that are not normally of interest to a two year old, I would feel aukward and try to downplay his abilities. I did feel like I was making other parents feel bad just by having my highly verbal son present. Unfortunately, he picked up on my feelings, but didn't know where it stemmed from, so for a while he became very socially uncomfortable, especially with adults.

I've since realized that this is a hold over from my own tendency to try to avoid notice as a gifted kid that got teased a lot and a gifted adult that has tended to get randomly attacked by insecure people who feel threatened by me just doing my job or living my life. But that is my problem, and noy one i particularly want to pass on to my children.

So now if someone is commenting on one of my kids to be friendly, i just agree. If someone is trying to compare their kid to mine I use the same techniques mentioned by pp's. And if they are trying to tell them they shouldn't be doing something that they are perfectly capable of doing, I just calmly let the person know that my son will be okay, and thank them for pointing out whatever they felt the need to mention.

My ds1 is now 5, and has requested that I not talk to people about him, so I either let him answer himself or turn the question over to him, or change the topic or give a one or two word, vague answer when people ask about him.

Jill , mom to Andrew (09/04), Aaron(01/07), and Emma (11/09)
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