Gifted kids often face a lot of pressure to achieve and live up to people’s expectations. As a parent, if you want to nurture the emotional well-being of your gifted child, and help them reach their potential, here are ten things you should avoid saying to your gifted and talented child.
1. “If it is too hard for you, then you can quit”
A possible situation: A report they need to prepare for school causes a melt down and major frustration. This can lead to unhealthy channeling of emotions. You should never tell your child that if it is too hard and they can quit. By saying this you have just set the stage for future ‘easy outs’ and that will only set them up for greater frustration.
Encourage them and let them know that sometimes you have things that are so hard that you have felt like you want to quit, too. Tell them that you have tried several times before you got it right, that it was hard but you felt great when it was all over and done.
You can help them by making a game out of the ‘report’. Create an imaginary world or a play to let them act it out. Sometimes taking things that are the size of mountain and whittling it down to a hill will help them see over to the other side.
2. “It is not your fault, ever”
A possible situation: Your child comes home from school and is very upset. You don’t know exactly what caused them to be upset. If you tell them ‘it is not your fault’ without knowing anything, you have just told them that ‘whenever anything goes wrong it is not their fault and they are ‘perfect.”
Let your child blurt out what is wrong or going on then try to help calm them down. Maybe play a game like ‘I spy’ to distract their current train of thought. Once your child has calmed down, try and contact the ‘teacher’ to get his or her input on what may have transpired during the day.
If you do not receive any input or even cooperation you should then approach the administration for that school. Never go over the teachers head by approaching the administration directly. The teacher is with the child a good portion of the day and may have a better idea of what happened.
When you have more information, and both sides of the story, approach the child to begin a discussion of what happened. Work on problem solving together. Help teach them how to deal with situations ‘like these’ because they may come up again.
Let them know that through communication they are helping themselves to ‘heal’ from that experience. Use an analogy of a soda bottle that you shake up and then open. The soda explodes! Tell them that through communication they are taking the cap off the soda bottle so they don’t explode.
You can get creative with using stuffed animals or puppets to act out the problem and will take the edge off the feeling “that I am under the spot light”. If you do not attempt to open the lines of communication the child may shut down and continue to think that is their fault.
3. “Try doing it this way instead”
If you suggest to your child to try things “your way” you are squashing any creativity that they may have. Let them create and find their own faults. If you suggest ways of doing things they will never learn how to try things on their own and will always look to you or someone else to get tasks or projects completed.
4. “You’re so good at everything, that this should be easy”
Your gifted child may be spectacular in one area, like math; but may not be so great in another; like English. A possible situation: Your child needs to write a book report and it is due next week. He or she will begin to show anxiety because it is “not easy” for them to complete.
If you state that they are good at everything and it should be easy, you have just increased the anxiety to make them feel that they need to perform and live up to the vision of who they appear to be “in your eyes”.
When you know that a certain area is “weak” for them, have a brainstorming session together. Come up with constructive ways to help your child accomplish the task by taking baby steps so that they can see what needs to be done. They can only see “the assignment” and a finished product but will have no idea how to get there.
5. “You’re so good at everything, you can be anything you want”
Your child may be well rounded in the academic world, but what if they are not at all athletic? By saying ‘they can be anything they want to be’ will give them the feeling that they can become the next pro football player or even an Olympic ice skater.
Let’s assume that they go out and try to become part of a competitive team, but don’t make the cut. They will think about what you said and then feel that you let them down. They will remember that you said “I could do anything.” That will set up some walls in your relationship that will be hard to break down later.
6. “Why don’t you have more friends?”
Gifted and talented children may want to spend a whole lot more time with adults rather than spending time with his or her peers. They may be introverted and like spending time alone, too. If you say “Why don’t you have more friends?” they will begin to think that something is wrong, that they are different in some sort of bad way.
Don’t force your child to “make friends” or set up “play dates”. By doing this you will cause anxiety and that is exactly what you don’t want to do. If they are comfortable with being alone, then let them be alone.
If they want to hang out with you and other adults, let them. They are like sponges and will learn from your behavior. Their maturity level is much higher than their ‘age’ and most likely do not want to be around children of the same ‘age’.
7. “You are so smart, I love you!”
A possible situation: Your child studied for a test at school and came home with a 100 or an A. You may say, ‘You are so smart, I love you!’ You have just given them positive praise which is good!
Now assume your child has another test coming up and they did not study as much and they come home with that test which has a B or an 80. You probably won’t be as excited as you were for the 100/A; and you probably won’t say exactly what you said when they came home with that 100/A.
If you do not say ‘You are so smart, I love you!’ when they come home with that B, they are going to think that you no longer think they are smart and that you do not love them anymore.
8. “Why are you asking me so many questions?”
Gifted and talented children ask many more questions than the average child. Sometimes they will ask so many questions that you may say, “Why are you asking me so many questions?”
Rather than blurting out that comment try this suggestion to calm your nerves and keep that mind of their running: Give them a special pad of paper or a Journal that they were able to pick out at the store. Tell them that when they have any questions to write it down. Then, at the end of the day you can sit down and read all the questions and give them the answers.
Parents are so busy and preoccupied with their lives and their busy schedules that sometimes these questions can feel like you are being questioned by an attorney on a witness stand. It can make a parent crazy! By directing the child to write his or her questions, you are helping them with their writing skills, grammar and teaching them patience.
9. “Don’t be afraid, just do it”
A gifted and talented child may be afraid’ to try new things. They do not want to fail and they do not want to let you down. Their fear is very real and you should deal with that fear appropriately. Think about something that may scare you and think about how ‘you’ would feel if placed in that scary situation.
Those feelings are real and more than likely your child is feeling that way as well. You should approach the problem that is causing anxiety with physical contact, a distraction or suggest that you research the problem together.
10. “I liked it better the other way”
Be careful on how you critique your child’s work. If they say, “Do you like it?” you should say something positive and discuss why you like it.
The wheels are turning in those minds and sometimes the discussion will move to them saying, “Maybe I could do this instead” or “Oh I know, I can try this and will make it do that”. Compliment them on their ability to find other ways to improve on their work.
For more information on gifted and talented children please visit the National Association of Gifted Children.
© Jean Kelsey
Jean is a mom of two gifted and talented children. Please visit Cheerz 2 You! for more learning, laughing and inspiration.
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