What do you do when your little darlings think fast, feel deeply, and ask questions you can’t answer. What do you do when they correct your mistakes, ruminate about the meaning of infinity, and prefer Beethoven to baseball?
Do you tell them that they’re gifted?
Do they need to know why the other four year olds ignore their lectures on the life cycle of the butterfly? Do they need to know why no one else is crying when the trees are cut down? Do they need to know that other first graders don’t really want to read the dictionary every day?
But it’s tricky.
What do you say? How do you say it?
I know what you’re thinking: How do I explain this without implying that they’re superior in some way? How do I explain this without putting pressure on them to achieve greatness or get straight A’s all of the time? How do I explain this without using a label that I dislike? How do I explain this and not sound like a pushy parent?
Didn’t I tell you that it’s tricky?
Here’s what might happen if you don’t tell them: They’ll find other labels. Weirdo. Freak. Dork. Nerd. Loser. Crazy. And they’ll believe that something is wrong with them because they can’t communicate with their same-aged peers and they’re crying when everyone else is laughing and they’re overwhelmed at birthday parties.
Here’s what not to tell them: You’re so smart! If you’re so smart, why did you get that B? You’re so much smarter than Bobbie. This should be easy for you, why are you struggling? Smart kids don’t make mistakes. I expect you to always do your best. You don’t have to listen to your teacher. Stop asking so many questions. Don’t be a show-off. Don’t think you’re so smart.
So what do you do? Here are some tips:
- Explain the rainforest mind analogy and ask them to draw a picture of their rainforest mind and tell you how it works.
- Talk about the word “gifted” and how you feel about it. Explain that it describes people who are advanced in certain areas (sports, arts, intelligence) and, yet, people are uncomfortable with it when it applies to mental/cognitive abilities. Tell them they are gifted intellectually.Talk about how to talk about it, including using the analogy. Make a list of areas in which they’re gifted and areas where they aren’t, so they understand that they don’t have to be advanced in everything.
- Discuss how all people have strengths and weaknesses. What are yours? What are theirs? Do they feel pressure to be smart all of the time? Are they afraid to disappoint you? Show them how you try activities that aren’t easy for you and encourage them to do the same.
- Explain that because rainforest-minded people think a lot and quickly, ask many questions, love learning, are emotional, empathetic, and highly sensitive, they may have trouble in friendships and at school. Listen carefully to their experiences and help them find solutions.
Your little sweeties need to know why the other seven year olds aren’t in love with the library and why they don’t care to save the spiders. They need to embrace who they are. And they need to learn how to thrive — in a world that doesn’t always understand or appreciate its rain forests.
To my blogEEs: It’s taken me forever to write this post. Thanks for waiting. And thanks to the mom who shared her ideas with me. Let us know how you talk to your kids about giftedness and if these ideas worked for you. What I wrote is just the beginning of the story. Your comments will add the depth.