Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Time to Agree: Gifted Kids Exist

50 Comments

 

photo courtesy of Zachary Nelson, Unsplash

• I think it’s time we acknowledged that super smart kids do exist.

The eight year old who wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. The five year old reading The Chronicles of Narnia. The four year old who cries listening to Mozart. The ten year old whose favorite pastime is watching BBC documentaries. The six year old who refuses to eat meat for ethical reasons. The nine year old who rescues the grasshoppers on the playground. The ten year old whose poetry breaks your heart. The fourteen year old who’d rather read David Foster Wallace than hang out on social media.

Gifted kids exist. We don’t love them any more than any other kids. All children are precious. But, we have to agree. Most eight years olds don’t aspire to be Richard Feynman.

• I think it’s time that we no longer felt threatened by our super smart kids.

What if we let them correct our spelling errors and appreciated their desire for accuracy? What if we were supportive of their intellectual needs and let them read, research, question and dive as much as they wanted?  What if we didn’t have to know everything that they know about narwhals? What if we don’t need to share their passion for reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy eleven times but we do need to love their intensity and get out of the way? What if we recognize how darned lonely they are as they yearn to meet even just one person who truly gets them?

Gifted kids exist. Sure, a six year old who knows more than you do about the origin of the universe might be a bit unsettling, threatening even, especially if you’re the science teacher. But, we have to agree. It’s OK that I don’t know what narwhals are and that you probably don’t either.

• I think it’s time that we made school a vibrant, nourishing place for our super smart kids.

What if they didn’t have to hide their capacity to get A’s without studying because the work was so challenging that they had to study? What if they didn’t have to underachieve so the other kids wouldn’t feel bad? What if we didn’t put them under pressure because they’re so smart, by over-emphasizing their achievements and their potential?  What if we didn’t ridicule and bully them because we feared their supposed arrogance or were jealous of their abilities? What if we redesigned our school systems so each child’s needs could be met and teachers would be paid the same as George Clooney for his next movie.

Gifted kids exist. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Let’s all agree. Shall we?

__________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Please share your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and questions. What were you like when you were a child? If you’re a parent, how do your issues overlap with those of your child? For more on gifted children, here’s a great article from Gail Post, psychologist in eastern Pennsylvania, USA. Her article actually inspired mine. Thanks, Gail!

And for those of you looking for a fun outing on June 2, 2018, Linda Silverman and I will be presenting at our very own one day Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, CO. (Apologies, fellas!) I’d love to meet you. Registration is open now.

And one more thing, a documentary about giftedness, called The G Word, will be coming out sometime in 2019. You won’t want to miss it. Here’s a taste.

 

 

Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

50 thoughts on “Time to Agree: Gifted Kids Exist

  1. Oh Paula! What timing. Am packing my briefcase (not) to head to the University to deliver my first presentation there: Yes, Gifted Adults DO exist. To the Psychology Department in a country that prides itself on egalitariansim (really?) and ‘humility’. May the force be with us!!! Thanks for inspiration from across the Pacific.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for this post, Paula. This one particularly resonated with me, because I was one of those kids whose parents–and occasionally teachers–acted threatened by my intelligence and sensitivity. I was deeply lonely growing up and had a hard time finding people who shared my interests among the general student population. My parents would routinely dismiss and pathologise my interests, ethical stances and enthusiasm. I was identified early as being twice-exceptional and my family would routinely treat my interests as an autism symptom, regardless of whether or not the particular interest or behaviour in question could be attributed to autism. I’m much more comfortable with my weird self now, but that’s been a long way coming and I’m still working on it.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. And, as you’ve said, the kid who wants to be Feynman doesn’t feel she needs to be adept at studio art or basketball or cello. Or the ordinary kid or parent isn’t intimidated by the gifted kid and feel he can never be good at his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful topic! I would be considered a loner as a child; I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I felt different, even now as an adult…

    Do you know some of the television shows or programs that I’ve watched as a teenaged boy? Masterpiece Theater, some high brow British comedies, and Book of Virtues on PBS.

    The last two dvds that I bought and watched before I turned 20 years old?

    The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, and Camille Claudel; a French movie that was directed by Bruno Nuytten portraying the tragic life of brilliant French sculptor of the same name (she was Auguste Rodin’s lover, and probably even his muse!).

    How about some of the music I listened to?

    Handel’s Sarabande, Bach’s Suscepit Israel, Mozart’s Requiem, Christian hymns, etc…

    What were some of my favourite hobbies? Sculpting, debating people online, drawing, writing down philosophical thoughts and ideas on different pieces of paper (which remained scattered and undeveloped up to the present day!)

    Am I a gifted adult? Maybe…

    Does it sound or appear as though I would be considered gifted individual based on these things? Definitely!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Like Finn, my parents never truly understood me. It’s like our perception and the way we think is like on a completely different level—I simply didn’t fit in my own family! I asked my parents to provide me a better environment so that I would be able to thrived as an individual. I thirsts for their understanding, support, and encouragement. Did I get those things? No!

    It made me bitter…resentful towards them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry that you didn’t receive support from your family, Robert.

      Like

    • It’s painful to be resentful isn’t it, Robert. I’ve always felt too I’m from one planet and the rest of the family is from another. I think what we need to do is to get angry about that we didn’t get the support we needed, and to find the assertive kind of anger, because in assertiveness there’s energy, the standing up for yourself energy. Resentfulness consumes us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It makes sense to differentiate between anger and resentment, K. If we grow up with any kind of abuse, there is a time to acknowledge and express the anger about it in safe ways and release it. And to then to use it to be assertive. Yes! Thanks for sharing your insight, K.

        Like

  6. But, yes, I have another question for you, Paula. Do you believe that environment has a tremendous impact on the development of a gifted child or adult’s potential?

    Many people seem to disregard the power of environment or contexts over the individual.

    “Genius will out!”, “It’s all genetics!” they say. To be honest with you, I find that rather insulting…

    Liked by 2 people

    • What I would say, Robert, is that in my experience, people are born with some or many of the rainforest-minded traits. That said, the environment they grow up in, can have a powerful influence on their self-esteem, achievements, opportunities, etc. There are complicated factors that are at play for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve also mentioned C.S. Lewis’ The Narnia Series, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Don’t you know that the author of those wonderful books were members of a group called Inklings during their student years at Oxford University in Great Britain?

    I think both men would be considered gifted, weren’t they?

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Paula, thank you for this post! Childhood was studying little and achieving more for me. Though it’s only today I realise that I didn’t enjoy learning as much as I do today. I wouldn’t have called myself ‘curious’ ever, but today I might consider it. I finally feel I found what moves me and when I have, I am discovering numerous things that move me beyond words, viscerally. I didn’t know that about me.
    Your description about how the world sometimes views passion, intensity resonated in me. I can sense, sometimes see people stepping back when I delve deeper into the subjects that I am passionate about. You are right, they don’t need to know about this. It may not be as interesting to them. What I have been thinking about, musing is that rarely do I see someone ‘delight in those aspects of me’ that I miss deeply. That I believe is what makes this a lonely journey at times.

    Thank you, this affirmation makes it much much less lonely.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s so good to have you here, Antarmukhi. I hope you allow yourself to have many of your passions and intensities!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I really related to your comment, Antarmukhi. I’m so much more interested in the things I learn about now. I think this started around 25 (I’m now 35)…sadly AFTER college! Though I wanted to take every course in the catalog even back then, it’s only now that I really feel like the material I’m learning is immediately applicable, a tool to doing something real and meaningful, as opposed to acing a test which was what i now realize the goal was when I was in school. Because if you do that, you’ll end up doing something meaningful later, right? NOPE! At least, not necessarily, and in my case, only after I really became truly curious about something.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you Jessie!
        I think I know what you mean. It’s only after we are curious, that insatiable urge to know everything that there is to know about something and let it change the way we think, may be see things. It’s only then something meaningful comes out of it. I really like that now.
        Plus, this kind of learning rarely fades..

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I was “gifted” and I (we all) decided by the time I was in college that I wasn’t really gifted because I wasn’t as high of an achiever as I “should” have been. It’s been wonderful to realize, as a parent, what being gifted really means . . . it explains a lot.

    We homeschool, which makes everything so much easier, I think.

    Funny, but I usually don’t think of one of my kids as gifted . . . the one who often cried at “pretty music” (i.e. classical) from the ages of two to five. She still loves classical music — she and I just got home from attending the symphony (she’s eight now). My other kid is so odd, asynchronous, sensitive, etc. that he’s obviously gifted; I wonder if my daughter is gifted, too, but we just don’t notice it, because she’s extroverted, relatively normal, and not bookish like the rest of us. Thank you, Paula, for helping me see that I need to give this some thought!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. we went round this early with the maths, and I tried to say as clearly as i could that I support his enthusiasm, but also that i don’t feel the same enthusiasm for the same things. we’ve both learned to be ok with that. If we can put down the idea that as parents we should know everything, it’s a lot more fun. By the time my son was 8, he had the scope to outstrip me in many subjects, and I told him so, and i also told him where he’d have a hard time doing that. I don’t feel this has cost me his respect – probably the opposite, because now he’s a teen we’re not hitting the anger caused by finding your parent was faking it….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think it would help both teachers and parents to know that they don’t have to keep up with their gifted kids’ intellectual pursuits because it would probably be impossible! It’s trickier for teachers, of course, because they might imagine that they have to know it all. But if they can enjoy and support their gifted students’ curiosity and guide them in their research and discoveries, that’s what the kids need. One researcher in the field, I think it was George Betts, talked about teachers being “the guide on the side” rather than “the sage on the stage.” Thanks, Nimue.

      Like

  11. No grades!!! A school like that he no need of grades. Only peer and teacher review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m guessing a lot of folks would agree, Lila. What would our schools be like if we didn’t have grades but had a different way to evaluate progress? I’ve heard of schools where kids create portfolios of their work and do self-evaluation and have a more personal review with their teachers. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  12. Paula, Great article – so beautifully written. It captures the tone and sensitivity of these kids with your poetic words. It gets so tiring debating people who deny that giftedness exists, or claim than anyone can be gifted with just enough effort (10,000 hour rule), or that it is the product of hothousing, or that it is elitist, or that they don’t want their child to be gifted, so they will just pretend otherwise. Thanks for adding another voice to this important message. And thanks for the shout out to my blog post – so appreciate it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oooh, that taste of the documentary looks relevant to my interests! I will listen to it here in a bit.

    There wasn’t a whole lot of controversy about giftedness in the schools I went to. My classmates in my 8th grade communication skills class gave me a standing ovation when I read an essay I wrote about beauty out loud. They called me a genius in English and creative writing. They signed my yearbook “To the only person I know who’s smarter than me.” They always wanted me to check their homework for them and be in their group for group projects or for review games or group tests. None of my teachers gave me a hard time or resented me.

    It wasn’t until I got on the internet and tried to talk about giftedness that I learned that most of the people who read my words online were mainstream middle class, and they came from a very different culture and had very different experiences with the concept of giftedness than I did.

    By the way, my spellchecker doesn’t recognize giftedness but I don’t want to add it to the dictionary because the word the spellchecker suggests instead is “edginess”, and that amuses me. 🙂

    From what I’ve observed, the main difference between my culture and online middle class culture is the idea of hierarchies of value based on external markers of status that are particular to that culture, and a ton of insecurity about where people fall on that hierarchy of value.

    The people I grew up with were just a couple of generations removed from subsistence farmers who had to rely on each other to survive. My grandmother would tell stories about going dancing after a barn-raising or a corn-shucking, and my mother would tell me about the family who used to live in a hollow we were driving by, and how the mother buried the babies who didn’t make it right there. When you have to struggle and work together to survive, and I think also when you’re in a remote isolated rural area where you’re all struggling, the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” doesn’t really have much relevance. You helped the Joneses build their barn, and they’re going to help you shuck your corn, and if one of them is really good at playing music, that means that you’ll enjoy dancing while they play afterwards. No need to get all weird and statusy and competitive and envious and insecure about their ability to play.

    This goes back to the previous post too. Along with realizing that it takes time to get people to listen, I’ve also been realizing that what I see as evil and as choosing to allow suffering is actually a really really deep insecurity. I think that growing up in mainstream middle class culture inculcates an incredibly deep insecurity in people. It’s a culture based in competition and status instead of empathy and togetherness. It’s a culture of harsh rules and narrow roles and extreme punishments and a complete lack of compassion.

    So people grow up in that culture, and they are insecure and injured and locked in a conceptual straitjacket and they never had empathy or compassion or valuing people for who they are modeled for them. They see a kid being good at something, being happy about something, breaking out of the straitjacket, and they lash out. They’re really lashing out at their pain and anger and deeply buried sense of injustice, but they hit the kid in front of them, and the kid feels the pain, not the internalized ghosts that the blow was meant for.

    If you feel that being a human means a constant competition for limited resources and you feel insecure about your worthiness and your ability to win the competition and obtain resources, and then some kid shows up and is better at things that your culture deems worthy of obtaining resources than you are, you’re going to resent them and sabotage them and invalidate them and cheat them out of their fair share of resources so that you can have more.

    In other words, the only way to really get people to accept gifted kids is to dismantle capitalism.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ha! Edginess! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, medleymisty. I’m wary of “the *only way* to get people to accept gifted kids…” part but appreciate your sharing your opinion. It would be good, though, to not get into a debate about capitalism here.

    Like

  15. My daughter and I both have the ADHD stuff going on – I’m very easily able to relate to my daughter’s struggles, and we brainstorm strategies that assist her. Perhaps if I did not understand, I would have gone down the medication route for her; but as things stand, medication is not necessary in my daughter’s case.
    Mostly, any overlap of issues has proven to be a useful thing. I have not at all forgotten what it was like to be a child – which comes in handy as a parent. That said, I’m careful to listen to my daughter’s descriptions of her own experiences rather than just projecting my narrative onto her.
    My daughter is much more savvy than I was at her age, because everything I’ve had to learn in my 30’s in order to grow myself up, I have been teaching her. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. If only we could get others to agree….thank you for another great post here. I don’t know how it is that your post always seems to be on the topic I most need to hear when it comes through, or maybe I just always see connections, but I don’t think that’s it. You are eeirily in tune.

    Right now, my two nahrwal-obsessed kids (actually, for them it’s nerpas, but same difference, right?) are in a public school district which is about to change. In the name of equity, it appears that our school board wants to “cut the top off” our disctrict by instituting cuts that disproportionately affect our most high performing public schools, redistributiing funding to our failing schools. This sounds like a lov ely, caring thing to do, and I very much believe that we need to save our failing schools and that all children have the human right to a good education, but the solution to how to go about it seems to elude us at every turn. It’s much more complicated than I have the time to get into this morning, but I fear for the fate of gifted kids in our district , particularly for those who cannot afford private school.

    Thank you for this beautiful, positive post about a group of kids who are often inconvenient for those who define equity as equal outcomes. I’m not sure where we are headed, but I fear for this kids, right now more than ever.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Love me some Narwhals, My oldest attended a school for one year where that was the mascot. Unfortunately she didn’t fit in there either.. she is making her own path now. This is the same child when she was three, we were crossing the parking lot to our apartment and there were dozens of caterpillars crossing the road, some were squished. 😦 So, her anguish led us to spend the next at least thirty minutes picking up all the caterpillars and carrying them to the safe grassy area across the road. I always knew she was gifted. I am always trying to find ways to support her on her journey, it is harder now that she is on her own, but she knows I’m here for her.

    My other children all have gifts of different kinds, helping them grow those gifts is what I hope to do. No gifted programs around here so we homeschool, except for one who has decided to come home next year. She is bored at school and is now hearing her sister tell her, “I learn so much more at home”.

    So yes, I wholeheartedly agree!!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. There’s no doubt that gifted children exists. However, I still feel very uncertain about myself. I kept telling myself, “You’re not gifted, you’re merely a pretender! Therefore, stop associating yourself with those highly capable individuals (I have a great admiration for historical figures who would be considered gifted or talented [i.e. John Calvin, John Wycliffe, Leonardo da Vinci, Jose Rizal,etc.].)—an idiot like you don’t deserve that!”

    It is very persistent…this feeling that something is wrong with me; which makes me feel different or out of place, and not easily satisfied with the “way things are”—a life that would easily satisfy many, if not most people!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I would like to share another blog or website with you guys, especially those gifted individuals that had traumatic brain (head) injury during their earlier years.

    https://www.dancingupsidedown.com/the-high-iq-tbi/

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I have something to add:
    As a gifted student, I never had to study in elementary or middle school. It was great! I had lots of free time to be involved in my hobbies. The problem with this is that now, in High School, the work is harder, and I DO have to study, but because I never had to before, I’ve found it difficult to study without getting distracted because I just don’t know how to study effectively. I have tried studying techniques, and they work to some extent, but I still find myself distracted and discouraged.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for this! I am currently deep in the process of searching for the best high school option for my 2 gifted kids. I homeschooled them until they chose to enter public school (older is half time in school in 6th grade, plans full public school next year, younger is full time 4th grade). We have loved these years of nerd-house but it’s time for them to explore. It is distressing how difficult it is to find a list of high schools for gifted kids. We have the ability to relocate, thankfully. I don’t want a pressure cooker. I don’t want everything pointing towards college. I want cultivated inquiry and creativity. I visited the Roeper School in Michigan and it seems fantastic. Where are the other options? And how can we as a culture not nurture these kids enough to make it easy to find the resources?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roeper School has a great reputation. Annemarie Roeper was a leader in the field. You might go to Facebook and join one of the parenting gifted kids groups and ask there who knows of high schools for gifted kids. Parents in these groups are good resources. If you search on HoagiesGifted.org, they might give you some guidance.

      Like

  22. Thank you for your post. .My son has just been identified as extremely gifted. I am excited and worried for him about his new journey.

    Liked by 1 person

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