A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, by James Webb and Others

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children

Parenting and leadership are closely connected, which is reason enough for us to be interested in the topic.

Being a parent makes you confront some of your weaknesses and shadows in an unavoidable way. Our kids need our best versions at all times and they act as mirrors for us to identify whether we are doing our job well. Moreover, they create a sense of urgency like perhaps no other stimulus can. A five-year old child cannot wait until he turns seven for his parents to improve their parenting skills. He would have changed forever and missed a significant phase in his development. Our children need our best possible version NOW.

The topic of gifted children is an interesting one. It may not be always obvious, but most of the prominent leaders in our society are gifted adults and in many instances, they raise gifted children.

Gifted children have special demands, which sometimes add to the challenge and raises the bar for us as parents.

In A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, James Webb and other coauthors introduce us to the world of gifted children in a way that makes it easier for us to better understand our kids and, perhaps more importantly, better understand ourselves.

Giftedness and IQ

The authors speak about different levels of giftedness, and how more is not necessarily better.

A child´s level of giftedness also affects the challenges she experiences, and exceptionally high intelligence or ability is not necessarily better. Some have suggested that there is an “optimum intelligence.” For example, a person with an IQ score between 125 and 145 is bright enough to easily master most school or job tasks, but not so bright as to be noticeably different from others around her. It is easier for her to feel that she belongs than it is for a person with an IQ of 150 or more. Most leaders in our culture probably come from the “optimum intelligence” range of 125-145. People who are higher than 145 IQ are most likely to feel different and even alienated from most other people; as adults, they usually have only a small group of friends with whom they feel comfortable, understood, accepted, and valued.

Highly or profoundly gifted children show different developmental patterns and dramatically different behaviors than individuals who are mildly or moderately gifted.

Characteristics of Gifted People

Some of the characteristics of gifted children (and adults) include impatience, perfectionism, and high self-demand.

For children who are in higher intellectual levels, learning patience is an important and often difficult task. Gifted children describe the frustration of waiting for others to understand things that are so obvious to them. It is not easy for them to enjoy and tolerate others who are unable to move at a similar rapid, intense pace. In addition, these children are often impatient with themselves. They set very high standards, are perfectionistic, and become profoundly disappointed, stressed, or upset if they fail to measure up to their own expectations.

The authors list some of the typical characteristics of gifted children.

Despite the heterogeneity of the gifted population, gifted children do have common characteristics (…)

  • Unusual alertness as early as infancy
  • Rapid learner; able to put thoughts together quickly
  • Retains much information; very good memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors, and abstract ideas
  • Enjoys solving problems that involve numbers and puzzles
  • Largely self-taught reading and writing skills as a preschooler
  • Unusual emotional depth; intense feelings and reactions; highly sensitive
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealism and sense of justice appear at an early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Longer attention span, persistence, and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts; daydreaming
  • Impatient with self or others´ inabilities or slowness
  • Ability to learn basic skills more quickly with less practice
  • Asks probing questions; goes beyond what is being taught
  • Wide range of interests (though sometimes extreme interest in only one area)
  • Highly developed curiosity; limitless questions
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Tendency to put ideas or things together in ways that are unusual or not obvious (divergent thinking)
  • Desire to organize things and people through complex games or other schemas
  • Imaginary playmates (preschool age children); vivid imagination

As parents, we need to be alert and observant towards our kids’ behavior, as we often tend to underestimate their abilities.

Parents should carefully consider the behaviors listed (…), because many parents, particularly with a first child, underestimate their child´s abilities. In fact, many parents – most often fathers- tend to resist considering that their child might fall into the category of gifted.

Another distinguishing trait of gifted children is intensity.

Gifted children view the world in different ways than other children, and their thoughts, actions, and feelings are more intense. It has been said that an exceptionally gifted child seems to see the world not only as an adult might, but also as if he is looking “through an electron microscope, as compared with normal vision. This child sees what others do not see, and what others cannot even imagine.

Parenting (And Leadership) Tips

It is empirically demonstrated that the ability of being fully present is a differential parenting skill (as it is a leadership one). Presence becomes particularly relevant with gifted children.

Special time could be taking a bike ride or a walk. Perhaps you would like to take one child at a time on a special outing -to a movie, the library, a museum, or on a fishing trip, camping, hiking, shopping, or even on simple errands. The important thing is that you are giving your child a segment of time when she has your full, undivided attention. Just being with your child sends the message.

It is particularly important to help a gifted child develop and maintain somewhere in his life an “island of excellence”- a place where he is continually growing and stretching with enthusiasm. He might be enthusiastic at a museum, learning about cars, studying astronomy, or reading gruesome mystery novels. Even if the special interest is outside the school experience, there will eventually be some transfer.

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children is an interesting introduction to the world of giftedness, but more importantly, it may be a powerful initial path to self-discovery.

If you are interesting in parenting and its connection with leadership, you can read our other article Leadership Is Like Parenting.

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