Tagged Gifted Kids

Great thoughts on the intensity of giftedness

Even the Dog is Intense: Giftedness, Intensity, and Collie Puppies

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Last Sunday was our 4 month old Scotch Collie puppy’s first training class. It was Tikki’s first class but I’ve been through this before with previous dogs.

Great thoughts on the intensity of giftednessI manhandled Tikki past the other puppies to a clear section along the outside of the training ring. Unlike our old lab mix, there was no frantic leash pulling to reach the other dogs. No desperate whining to let me know that his very bestest friend that he just met is 5 feet away.

Instead while I dutifully listened to the instructor, Tikki sat and watched. Watch is probably a bad verb for the intense laser-like focus of a collie. Less than 5 minutes in the instructor had to stop class. Tikki was unnerving the poor beagle puppies on our right. She wasn’t helping the overwrought German Shepherd on our left, either.

I spent the next 50 minutes feeding her a constant stream of treats to keep that laser-focus on me. Sure once I got her to turn that laser on me, she rocked out the attention exercises. She quickly understood what I asked of her on new exercises, too.

But her intensity was draining. I admit to giving the giant, immobile pile of mastiff puppy a longing glance. He wasn’t unnerving anyone. Or moving for that matter.

Later as I herded our loopy children toward bed, I told my husband about the class. “Even the dog is intense,” he replied.

And then it clicked into place.

Our gifted children are intense. Their intelligence, boundless curiosity, and endless energy is a wonder to behold. They devour books, rip through curriculum, and ask poignant questions. But just like our collie, there is no off-switch to their intensity. That same intelligence, curiosity, and energy can be off-putting to their peers.

And that intensity is exhausting for parents.

Like when your 5 year old decides at bedtime to finally learn 4 digit addition. That’s wonderful and all, but mommy has been on the clock since 5am and it’s quitting time. Can’t we just be a immobile pile of fur -uh, child for awhile? Please?

People often think of giftedness as being a universally positive thing. Parents of gifted children know that it’s a double-edged sword. Intellect can translate into academic achievement. Or it can mean learning the loopholes and underachieving. Creativity may lead to great artistic talent. Or thinking up new ways to wreck havoc.

Because, get this, my gifted children are no better than any other children. Just different. They have strengths and struggles just like all children. Or dogs for that matter.  That mastiff is an all star at ‘stay’. Assuming he wakes up to hear you say it.

Having groups like “collie” and “mastiff” doesn’t make one dog better than another. It just means you can quickly guess a particular dog’s likely strengths and weaknesses. “Gifted” is another useful designation for relaying the traits of a particular child. Their likely strengths and struggles.

I’d better quit before I run this metaphor too thin. Also, the collie is herding the golden retriever into the wall. Again.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

7 Tips to Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

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I consider myself very lucky. I had two best friends growing up, both of whom are still in my life. I no longer live in the town where I grew up, which seems to be more the norm these days than in the past. Neither of these friends live in our hometown either – we all scattered for college, got married and are now raising kids and pursuing our careers. I’m grateful that technology has allowed me to maintain connections with both of these bright, thoughtful, supportive women.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

As a parent, I want to help my kids build these kind of healthy friendships. Despite what my husband says, building healthy friendships doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.

Our kids sometimes need support and coaching, because let’s face it – friendships can be hard. You are opening yourself up to someone else, becoming vulnerable in a way you haven’t with anyone other than family before and it is quite likely that your best friends will hurt your feelings sometimes. Managing through the ups and downs of early friendships sets the stage for building healthy friendships throughout your child’s life.

All kids are different and need their own guidance and support – especially kids who are outliers due to various asynchronicities, cognitive ability or emotional regulation. As parents there are some specific skills we can encourage as our kids journey into healthy, life-long friendships.

Build Negotiation Skills

At the heart of all healthy friendships is the give-and-take that is rooted in a deep and genuine concern for the other person. That give-and-take rarely comes naturally to kids (at least it hasn’t to my kids).  As adults we have likely learned complex negotiation strategies – either through formal education and training or just through years of experience. Breaking those strategies down for kids can be daunting, so I suggest starting with the idea of teaching our kids to focus on a shared interest or outcome.

I’m going to pick on my own kids for a moment. They both really enjoying playing together – they like spending time together – but they don’t share a ton of common interests. Given their druthers, Davis would play basketball and Patrick would play Minecraft. This used to result in lots of fights and hurt feelings. We have worked hard to teach them to focus on a mutual goal – spending time together. When that is the goal, then they can both step back a bit and make a compromise – maybe it is a game of Around the World first and then a cool down with a collaborative session of Minecraft or a competitive game of Plants v Zombies. Whatever the plan, when the focus is on the goal of spending time together (and not what they are doing), the squabbles abate and they enjoy themselves immeasurably more.

Foster Empathy

Healthy friendships require that both friends are able to put their own emotions aside and respond appropriately to the other person’s emotional needs; healthy friendships require both people to practice empathy.

Empathy isn’t simple. In fact, it requires some fairly sophisticated skills like distinguishing your feelings from someone else’s, understanding another person’s perspective and regulating your own emotional response. Some kids are naturally better at these skills and other kids need lots of practice.

In our house, we focus on:

  • Naming our own feelings
  • Identifying other people’s feelings
  • Role-playing facial cues and body language that frequently accompanies specific feelings
  • Exploring how people can have different perspectives
  • Developing an internal moral compass

Teach How to Say, “I’m Sorry” (and Mean It!)

Learning how to apologize is really an art form. Many parents want to rush the process by insisting that their kids say, “I’m sorry” for transgressions. However, if your kids aren’t cognitively and emotionally ready to apologize, then the obligatory apology doesn’t do any good. It becomes a hollow way to brush past hurt feelings. The simple recitation of, “I’m sorry” doesn’t teach our kids what an apology means.

True apologies require that our kids have 1) the cognitive ability to understand that they did something wrong, 2) the emotional skills to empathize with another person, and 3) the moral compass to want to make things better. This isn’t the apology of a toddler – it is the sophisticated and meaningful apology of someone capable of and interested in developing healthy friendships.

So next time your kid makes a misstep and really should apologize to someone, stop focusing on the outcome (the apology) and focus on the process.

Role Play Through Tricky Situations

Almost all friendships hit a rocky patch every now and then. What defines healthy friendships is the ability to manage through the hurt feelings and get back on track. This takes negotiation skills, empathy, and the ability to say, “I’m sorry.” Even with all these skills, sometimes it helps to practice in a non-threatening environment – that’s where role-playing comes in handy.

When your kids hit a rough patch with their friends, there will be hurt feelings on both sides. Helping your child break-down what has happened, how (s)he is feeling and how to make amends will make the actual friendship mending process go much more smoothly.

Our kids don’t always have the right words or the emotional regulation to do this naturally, so let them practice with you. Be the coach. Provide encouragement, a safe place to process, help deciphering the situation and gentle guidance.

Encourage Hobbies (Find a Tribe)

Making friends comes naturally to some kids, but not all kids. Kids who are outliers for whatever reason (IQ, the alphabet soup of diagnoses, innate nerdiness, etc…), sometimes struggle to find their tribe. The best way to find a friend is to do things that interest you and do it with other people!

Take inventory of your kid’s favorite activities and then seek out groups who enjoy those things. Martial arts, sports teams, chess clubs, naturalist groups, church groups, etc…It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is important to your child.

When you find these groups, help your child understand that the friends may not share ALL the same interests as them and help him/her focus on their commonalities. It is unlikely that any one friend will meet all of your kid’s needs – encourage your child to appreciate the difference between friends and how they complement each other.

Make Your Home Welcoming

Yes. You want your house to be the “It House” – the house where all the kids come, where they feel welcomed and know they will have fun and be safe. It may be an inconvenience at times. It may go against your introverted nature. It may be noisy and raucous at times. You still want to do it.

When your kids friends come to your house, they will have lots of fun, but they will also have squabbles. If they are at your house, you can help model the steps of maintaining healthy friendships. You can teach kids to negotiate, model empathy and make amends.

This is hard work and takes a BIG commitment from you (and your spouse), but teaching your kids these skills is worth more than any formal education they will ever get. A PhD in microbiology won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to get along with other people.

Model Healthy Friendships

More than anything else you can do, you can model healthy friendships. Show your kids what it means to have a best friend – how you support each other and have fun together, how you work through disagreements, what it means to make room for another person in your life.

We travel with our best friends frequently (like 3 or 4 times a year). These are family affairs – two couples, each with two kids. The kids are also best friends, which makes it great for everyone. Part of why we can travel together is that we know each other so well and make allowances for each other’s quirks and needs – we accommodate each other.

I guarantee that if we are together for more than 3 days, the kids will hurt each other’s feelings. Every time it happens, we huddle with our own kids and help them process and then teach them how to make it better. It’s a hands on learning process in a very safe environment. I couldn’t ask for more.


Resources:

Can Children Learn to Negotiate?

Teaching Empathy: Evidence Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children

Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflict

How to Help Kids Make Friends: 10 Evidence Based Tips


Hoagies Blog Hop - Gifted RelationshipsThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

Check out other people’s thoughts on Gifted Relationships.

In Defense of Perfectionism

In Defense of Perfectionism

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In Defense of PerfectionismYes, you read the title right. I’m defending perfectionism. To be clear – I don’t expect perfection from my kids, myself, my husband or anyone. After all, that is a crazy standard to achieve – being 100% correct, accurate, right, 100% of the time? Nope.

Not even close. Probably not even possible.

So why would I defend perfectionism, because clearly it is indefensible? Perfection in all things is a goal that is absolutely unattainable.

The truth is, I can’t defend perfectionism, but I can defend and advocate for the kid who is labeled as a perfectionist. You know that kid:

  • the one who is frustrated by a 95 test grade
  • the one who will work on an essay until well after a normal bedtime, just to get it right
  • the one who can’t stop working on a puzzle, until it is complete
  • the one who won’t take direction/correction about schoolwork
  • the one who frequently corrects your word choice, in honor of a more fitting word
  • the one who takes jokes so literally, that the meaning is lost.

It’s easy to call these kids perfectionists. They are seeking a high standard. A goal that well surpasses the average. They like to get things right. Right doesn’t always mean perfect. Sometimes right is more closely aligned with a desire for precision than for perfection.

Perfectionism vs Precision

What’s the difference?

Perfectionism

Sets extremely high goals.

May have difficulty prioritizing tasks.

Very sensitive to criticism.

Frequently self-critical when goals are missed

May experience unproductive anxiety about reaching goals.

May experience physical discomfort if expectations are not met.

Precision

Highly values being correct.

Makes decisions quickly.

Open to reevaluating with more information.

Parses information quickly.

Details matter – sometimes to the extreme.

Large vocabulary; may frequently use secondary definitions.

At this point, you may think that I am parsing words. That’s probably because I am. It is easy to lump both categories of kids into the same bucket – the high achievement bucket. But the crucial difference between kids who are perfectionists and the kids who are precise is in their emotional attachment to the outcome. Perfectionists feel a sense of profound loss (and sometimes worthlessness) when they don’t live up to their enormous standards. Precise kids are likely to get annoyed when someone else doesn’t understand or appreciate their exacting language, but they are unlikely to feel unworthy or defeated.

So why does all this matter?

It matters, because if we see perfectionism and precision as bad or inherently defective thought processes, then we’ll work hard to help our children rid themselves of these traits. Perfectionism gets a bad rap. But let’s face it; there are lots of professions out there, where we expect precision, if not perfection.

If your child is naturally precise, learn to embrace and encourage it, while balancing against the fear of failure and unreasonable expectations.

If we parent all the precision and perfectionism out of kids when they are young, then we are precluding them from joining countless professions that require it: law, science, engineering, programming, and more. I’m not interested in limiting my child’s horizons before he even has a chance to explore them – I’m betting you aren’t interested in this, either.

I’m a huge proponent of parenting to my kids strengths. Sometimes that means embracing the precision, even if it goes well beyond my own need for accuracy. Embracing doesn’t mean that there is no teaching/parenting/coaching left to be done. Rather it means I must respect the way my kids are wired, how their brains process information. Once I can respect the precision and only after I see it’s value, then I can help my kids understand how to use it effectively – when it matters and helps versus when it interferes and hinders.

Helping our kids ignite their passions, find balance in their lives, and navigate social norms will always be part of the work of parenthood. This doesn’t change if our kids seek perfection or precision. We must respect these natural tendencies, while helping them guard against the negative self-apprasial that can accompany perfectionism.


GHF Graphic Perfectionism

 

This post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Check out other folk’s take on Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2E Quirks.

 


 

Gifted Indentificaiton

Right Fit Shoes: Why Gifted Identification Matters

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Gifted IndentificaitonDo you remember the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It was a good reminder of a simpler time – a time focused on being kind to others and sharing. I’m pretty sure that I have learned a lot since kindergarten, but when I started thinking about the idea of Why Giftedness Matters, my thoughts immediately turned to kindergarten.

Both of my boys (DM & PM) had the same kindergarten teacher. Mary Wright was everything you’d want in a kindergarten teacher. She is bright, energetic, kind, and thoughtful. More than all that, she is a skilled teacher who saw the good in kids. She carefully got to know each child and met each child where they were. Her classroom was a cross-section of abilities – kids who hadn’t learned their letters and numbers all the way to kids reading chapter books and beginning algebraic thinking. Managing that big of a gap had to be a daunting task.

Don’t worry; this isn’t another impassioned plea about one side (or the other) of the ability-tracking argument that has raged since well before I was in elementary school.

Rather, I want to focus on advice that Mary gave my kids (and us). Remember – the kids in Mary’s class had a wide variety of needs – serious learning disabilities to very intellectually gifted kids. Since Mary was awesome at differentiated instruction, she frequently dealt with the refrain of, “that’s not fair.” I’m pretty sure this was especially true on library day – Narnia and Harry Potter are a lot more appealing than the Dick and Jane books. So this was her mantra –

Choosing a book is like buying a pair of shoes. You have to find the right fit. 

It really is simple sense. If your shoes are too tight, they constrict your feet and hurt.  Pretty soon everything hurts – not just your feet. If your shoes are too big, you trip and fall and really can’t get anywhere effectively.

This is the crux of why identification matters. You can’t really meet a kid’s needs, if you don’t know what those needs are. This isn’t just about being gifted. This is true for kids with dyslexia, ADHD, OCD, social anxiety. This is true for kids with an IQ of 80 or 120 or 160. When I walk into a shoe store and tell the clerk I need a size 10, it helps narrow down the selection. (Yes, my foot is big – ask me sometime about trying to buy shoes in Tokyo.)

Labels aren’t the be-all and end-all. Labels can be wrong and shouldn’t only be taken at face value. But when you have a credible assessment, it gives you a starting point – it suggests a few paths to try.  The real value of these labels is their ability to provide order along your journey.

Figuring out that PM is profoundly gifted and that DM is 2E* was just the start of our journey with them. The really hard work is making sure they have the proper support and opportunities to really shine and that takes a village – educators, psychologists, tutors, nannies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc…

No reasonable person would expect me to wear a size 8 shoe on my size 10 foot. Neither should we expect dyslexic kids to learn to read the same way neuro-typical kids do. Nor should our brightest youngsters to do schoolwork years below their ability or only supplement with work outside of class.

Avoid the pain – find the right fit shoe.

 

*2E means twice exceptional. These kids are typically intellectually gifted in one or more areas, but also have a learning disability or mental health issue that impairs learning.

This post originally appeared on The Learning Lab.