It’s a common thing to worry about children when they are just being children, not listening to instructions, not doing homework or throwing a tantrum about a toy or a piece of candy.
But what if you are raising a precocious child, they do well at school, academics come easy to them. Not that they don’t fail to do homework, not that they always follow instructions –but these are not a norm. Most of the times gifted and talented children would do their tasks well and without much prodding.
Some true stories and conversations.
Maria started kindergarten this year. As predicted while the whole class was struggling with reading four-lettered words, here was Maria making rhymes and reading books, which second grade students can barely read. While all this looks awesome, here comes the challenge. A friend of Maria’s teased her at recess – “Oh you are so smart” while the statement may look harmless but Maria feels hurt that she was teased.
Research says that gifted kids are too sensitive: Most gifted children are very sensitive about small things. If a friend teased them about an inane thing, they take things to heart. They don’t know how to laugh it off. They are often teased about being smart. They have no clue how to deal with this.
Joe was in grade 3. Every single day, when he walked in the corridor to go the gifted class at 11:30 AM, he was pushed by a fellow classmate. He would fall down, adjust his glasses, then pick up all his books and proceed to the class that he was going. After several weeks of going through this ordeal, he came and told his mother. His mother told him to push the kid back or tell the teacher. But Joe didn’t want to be mean, so he never did the things, which his mother advised him to do. Finally, the mom spoke to the teacher and got the problem fixed.
Research says, when other kids are acting mean with them, they are happy being not mean. They feel troubled but will not take the step of being nasty. As parents, we could feel helpless and advise them to be callous but the advice would never be adhered to.
Akhi is in grade 1 and worries about the world becoming a dump. He saw a neighbor throw the milk can in the dumpster and not the recycling bin. His mother later saw him explain to his friend how the world will become a big dumpster. He was not able to sleep well that night; he made his mother promise that she will speak to her neighbor about recycling.
Again research says that gifted kids worry about things which philosophers have worried about and expect a definite solution. When parents or teachers don’t have a definite answer they seem confused.
Lavanya is in grade 2. In the class today, her friend talked about space, Neil Armstrong, and everything related with the Milky Way. Lavanya comes home and is very unhappy. She tells her mother that today was the unhappiest day in her life. When asked for the reason, she tells her mother that her friend knew so much about space and she felt unhappy that she did not know anything.
The problem is their self-image. If there’s a subject they don’t have an extensive knowledge about and turns out their friend does, that leads to a lot of discomfort. It’s a challenge to make them understand that it is all right not to know about everything and is totally okay if their friend knows about it.
Dawn is in grade 7. In a social gathering last week his somewhat athletic friend asked him why he was such a nerd. Not knowing the answer to the question, Dawn kept quiet. His non-answer didn’t stop the friend. His friend started making fun of the books he reads and went on to say further that it is not okay just to be nerd but that he should be playing soccer too. Dawn just kept quiet, because he told his parents that he did not have a “right response” to the accusation.
Research validates the fact that emotionally mature kids don’t see humor in things other kids of their age may find funny. Often, gifted kids feel alone. They are not able to make a lot of friends, perhaps can relate to one or two kids of their age. As parents we have to let them know that it’s acceptable to just have one good friend.
It’s not always that the emotionally mature, academically advanced children think faster than the other kids but it’s just that they think differently and as parents and educators we should understand that. Just being in the gifted program of school is not enough, maybe their academic needs are met there, but the challenge is to help them emotionally with patience, love and care.
Names have been changed upon request.