The Gifted Child

The Gifted Child

The challenges and joys of raising a smart kid.

All parents like to think their child is gifted, and I do honestly believe all children do possess talents that help elevate them above their peers. But if you are the parent of a truly gifted child, you realize it's a curse just as much as a blessing. Anyone outside of the range of average, whether above or below, has a more difficult road ahead of them.

I knew my children were smart and assumed they were at the upper end of average. Recently the clues have finally revealed that my youngest son falls squarely into the gifted camp. I was a gifted a child and I am both elated and scared for him. I know the challenges that await.

Logic is one of his strong suits, and I should have realized this earlier. At three he was genuinely puzzled over bad words. “Mommy, why can't I say that word? Words are only bad if I think they are bad. I can use my brain so they are okay for kids.” Cute, yes, but not generally how a three-year-old thinks.

Gifted children are not gifted in everything, and this leads to frustration and in extreme cases, depression. My son has difficulty reading (oddly enough, I did too at his age). My now seven-year-old can easily do an algebra problem or calculate the distance of a star from Earth but he cannot get through a first level reader without help. He listens to college level astrophysics podcasts, and understands them, but he cannot write his own name very well. He logically assumes this means he is stupid, which affects his confidence. He knows he smart, so why is this so hard? Since perfectionism often walks hand-in-hand with giftedness, he is prone to over-analyzing and negatively judging his performance.

He is funny and has a quick wit, but he is also serious. Recently he came to me. “Mom, I have to give up on my dream.” He looked upset. “I'm not going to own a candy store. It would be awkward for an astrophysicist to just sell candy.” I asked him why give up the dream if it made him upset. His answer was revealing, “Oh, I'm not upset about not selling candy. I just hate giving up even if I don't want it anymore.”

We must work doubly hard with him to help him overcome his fear of failure, otherwise he won't attempt to try. We must nurture his emotional side, not just his academic prowess. We must allow him to be a child, when his intellect fools us into thinking of him as a little adult. Like many gifts we receive in life, having a gifted child is both a wonderful and terrible thing.