The words highly gifted were recently uttered to us about our sons. I know I am raising three highly sensitive boys. And I know that my sons are quick to pick things up, need little instruction and have sailed their way through the early grades academically without really excelling themselves.
They’re smart. But highly gifted? That’s a new idea. And not one without problems.
Providing Enough Challenge
If I had a dollar for every time I had heard my sons utter the words ‘school is boring’ I probably wouldn’t have an outstanding mortgage. But whose children don’t moan about school being boring some days?
I have learned that when a gifted child says this they mean it. They need little instruction and sitting through a repetitive explanation of the task in hand really is boring to them.
They need to be challenged. They need to be able to think outside the box. They need to show their creative abilities.
Gifted ability often goes hand in hand with sensitive traits. That means whilst a child may excel academically their emotional intellectual may lag behind. This is particularly true if children are younger than their peers after skipping a grade.
Boys are prone to social isolation or even bullying if they are sensitive, lack athletic agility or social skills. Sensitive boys who fail to fit with the masculine stereotype, those that show their emotions and tears, are at risk of retreating inside themselves or downplaying their intellectual abilities or curiosity in order to fit in.
This is the thorn in many a gifted child’s side. If a child strives for perfection in everything they do they will sometimes underdeliver in their own eyes. Or stage fright will hit because of the overwhelming fear of failure.
There are ways to help a child displaying signs of unhealthy perfectionism, but note that wanting to maintain high standards is not, in itself, an issue.
There is a real threat that a gifted child, particularly during middle school, will lose academic interest. This may be a result of trying to fit in with peers. It may be a consequence of never having learned ‘how to learn’, which often hits once the academic demands increase. A gifted child often discovers that they have had to put so little effort into learning in the earlier years of education that they have never developed effective study skills. Or they may simply switch off because of the lack of challenge.
Being gifted is not just about being smart. It’s much more complicated than that. It’s an intellectual, behavioral and emotional package that needs careful handling.
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