how do you handle "giftedness" in your family? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 08-08-2007, 03:06 AM - Thread Starter
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i didn't mean to challenge any concept of "giftedness" and though the word has ruffled my feathers my entire life i've come to accept it as the standard vocabulary. i'm polite enough to use a groups chosen vocabulary when participating in said groups activities and be damn glad of the good conversation. that's not what i'm debating.

i guess i was just going on about how rough it can be for kids on both ends of the issue when they share parents. my son deserves no credit for being smart he was born that way. i see how hard it can be for a sibling to work his/her butt off at something and the outside world gives all this reinforcement to the other sibling for doing nothing more than existing as he/she was born.

my son, who i believe to be quite bright (problem solves, makes jokes, exhibits complex understanding of emotions most 3yo can't even identify) has a severe psych condition (PTSD) and doesn't exhibit all he knows on command or in public like a normal child. We had to beg him to tell his teachers he at least knew his colors he's very guarded and talks to only a few people. he has a 1/2 sister by his father who is younger and has a larger vocabulary and generally looks "smarter" (who knows she may be) but my heart goes out to ex every time he thinks of dealing w/ family members who go on and on about his daughter and then get quiet and talk about how cute our son is.

it is important for parents to be able to dissect the concept of "giftedness" in the context of a family where not everyone falls under the conventional umbrella of that label. not to question (here) what giftedness means or who qualifies but how to explain whatever concept of it your family uses to children or well meaning neighbors who seem to think that one child might be worth more to the world than the other. gifties have special needs, get into special trouble, have special ideas, are especially challenging to raise. Those are good reasons to have a support group. i don't see why it's threatening to examine the application of that label or other people's perception of it in terms of parenting children who don't often get called gifted alongside those who do. how do we walk that line? how do we affirm each child and his/her worth? how do we avoid guilt and resentment amongst children?

what do you do when you kids try to compare who's smarter?

what about when other people do it in front of your kids?

what do you tell a child when she says "i'll never be smart as sister why try"

what do you tell a kid who just heard "wow sister is a genius and you're so pretty" translation "wow sister can be an astronaut and you can be arm candy"
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#2 of 4 Old 08-08-2007, 10:00 AM
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I think this is a very worthwhile question, especially since I come from a family where 2 kids were "gifted" and one was "not." My brother ("not") still has a lot of issues surrounding this and carries a lot of resentment towards my other brother and me. He thinks we've "had it easy" in life. BTW, I think differences in IQ are present but minimal, so he is really a casualty of labeling and family dynamics.

I have only one child right now, but she is very verbal and extroverted and very openly displays her gifts. People also remark on her a LOT. I sometimes think she is being taken as smarter than she is because she is naturally something of a "performing bear." A second child could easily be just as bright, but in less obvious ways. I want to be careful not to judge #2 (I am pregnant) by #1.

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#3 of 4 Old 08-08-2007, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by thebarkingbird View Post

what do you do when you kids try to compare who's smarter?

what about when other people do it in front of your kids?

what do you tell a child when she says "i'll never be smart as sister why try"

what do you tell a kid who just heard "wow sister is a genius and you're so pretty" translation "wow sister can be an astronaut and you can be arm candy"
What I would do, whether I had a gifted kid or not, is to talk about people having different interests and abilities and about the value of hardwork.

"Grandma is so amazing with her knitting and I admire the lovely things she makes. I haven't had much aptitude in this area. She seems to have a natural gift, but I notice she works hard too"
"Thanks for helping me solve that problem, I always appreciate the unique way you have at looking at things"
"Uncle Sid loves math too - you guys should talk about math together because it isn't a big interest for me"
"I'm really pleased that I figured out how to set up that hard drive. The more I work on computers the more I know"

I would talk about how people in public are well intentioned and make comments about appearance or intelligence, but they aren't really qualified to evaluate either. It is meant as social chit chat and nothing more, but it can hurt feelings. I'd share a story from childhood about how the smartest kid I ever met was really quiet in public and people may not have realized his intelligence but that didn't change it. There are many aspects to intelligence and it is a lot more complicated than what strangers can figure out in the grocery store. Mostly like any other problem I'd acknowledge the child's feelings, let them know they are normal and try to provide another way to think about the same set of conditions.
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#4 of 4 Old 08-08-2007, 12:42 PM
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BeanBean is one of those kids who puts on a show-- he's beautiful, outgoing, and charismatic. I have the impression that even if he wasn't actually "gifted" people would perceive him that way because he's so entirely confident in himself. He's also a boy, which sadly makes a difference in some circles; I have noticed that the ILs expect things of him and offer opportunities to him because he's a boy. They even remember things differently: MIL has said, "Oh, Bean sat up so early!" but the fact of the matter is that BooBah sat unassisted nearly three months earlier than Bean did. :

BooBah is less flashy-- ironicly she's more like her father in this respect. She's very quiet and self-contained, and while I wasn't quite certain about her abilities, I wasn't entirely certain about Bean at this age, either. That makes it easier, too, when it comes to Bella. Thus far she's hit every milestone but *one* looooooong after her siblings; still, I recognize that while BeanBean is clearly extrordinary today at 4.5, I wasn't quite so sure when he was 16 months old (despite his loquacity).

I haven't had to deal with too many people comparing the kids, except for Bella-- I get a lot of "She's SO beautiful!!" from people, whereas BeanBean and BooBah were "smart" or "strong" or "fast." All of my kids are beautiful, but Bella seems to get a lot more of it than the other two, probably because she doesn't talk the way that they do/did.

In our own family, it's just cause for exhaustion. We try to encourage all of them... but it's hard when I can only be in one place at a time. We also work very hard to keep our minds open about what the kids can/will do, because there's no way of knowing. BeanBean is very good with maps now, and he can read a fair number of words... but BooBah is catching up very quickly, and who knows? Next year she may be a better reader, and she may be more interested in maps and geography than he is. We don't tell BooBah that she can't play with the maps because "that's her brother's thing;" in fact, we encourage BeanBean and BooBah to share and work together.

Sometimes I worry about Bella-- but most of the time, I remember that she's very small, and that she could turn out to be just as gifted as the other two. There's really no way of knowing. While it's fair to say that a child who teaches himself to read at two is probably gifted, it's not at all logical to assume the converse-- that a child who *doesn't* teach herself to read at two *isn't* gifted. Kwim?

Rynna, Mama to Bean (8), Boobah (6), Bella (4) and Bear (2)
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