Monday, May 19, 2008

Maybe Your Child Is Not Gifted (And maybe that’s not a bad thing)

As a parent of 8 very different children, and as the oldest of seven siblings, I find the mix of abilities among my children, brothers and sisters to be fascinating. Some of us are smarter in areas of reading and writing. Some are smarter in the fields of science. Some are just better athletes. I am a fair athlete and voracious reader, but I have to call my oldest son and daughter-in-law for mechanical help. I love music but had to call another son-in-law for help hooking up the stereo.

What’s my point? In my business, with its focus on the physical, emotional and social development ofchildren, I meet parents all the time who are stressing about their three year old child’s performance in play group, swim lessons, reading or music. I am also periodically informed that there is a problem with one of “our” staff members, structure or curriculum, when a child is not progressing as fast as another child or as fast as the parent would like. Occasionally, I have been informed that a certain child is “gifted,” and therefore the parent wants to know what we are going to change in our system to better meet the needs of this child.

Newsweek carried a great commentary from Kathleen Deveney in their January 14, 2008 issue titled "They’re No Baby Einsteins." She eloquently portrays the travails of the parent who feels they must compete for entry in private schools starting at the age of 2. Additionally, she highlights the increased expectations placed on children by parents who have bought into the hype “that gifted kids could be created through intelligence-enhancing parenting techniques.”

My opinion? Each of our children is as different as are we. That is what makes the world fascinating. So sit back and let your child fail occasionally. Pick a sport or activity where you know they will not excel. Let them learn through adversity. Do not protect them from struggling by making excuses. Maybe they are not meant to read "Grapes of Wrath" as a five year old. Maybe they are not meant to be at the top of their pre-school class. Maybe they will not be the team captain. As Kathleen Deveny says: “And while it would be nice if my child turns out to be gifted, it would be even better if she turned out to be kind, confident and happy.”

I am thinking the world would be a much better place if more adults were kind, confident and happy.

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