All Parents Want Gifted Children - Or Do They?

Or Do They?

Is this true? Do all parents really want their children to be gifted? The answer to that question is an unequivocal "yes"... and "no." All parents certainly want their children to do well in school and have successful lives. Who hopes for a child who fails in school and in life? But is wanting a child who does well in school and in life the same as wanting a gifted child? No, it is not.

The reason parents or soon-to-be parents hope for a gifted child is that they believe the myth that all gifted children excel in school and succeed in life.

They believe that gifted children are the ones who get all A's, attend Ivy League colleges, and land prestigious jobs with six-figure salaries. And they do it with little or no help from anyone including their parents. While there may be some gifted children who fit that description, that is far from what most gifted children are like.

What Is a Gifted Child?

This is the $64,000 question. It's as difficult to answer as the question "What is a poem?" And the answer to both often boils down to "I know one when I see one." That does not mean, of course, that we don't have ways to define poetry and giftedness. We do. But those definitions are not always helpful, as noted in Gifted Kids Are Like Poems. Just as people with some understanding of what makes a piece of writing poetry are better able to recognize a poem, those with some understanding of what makes a child gifted are better able to recognize a gifted child.

People unfamiliar with the traits and characteristics of gifted children are most likely to believe the myth that all gifted children excel in school. Many gifted children do, but many do not. Giftedness does not guarantee straight A work. Gifted children can become bored in school, which can lead to behavioral problems.

And these behavioral problems can lead to a gifted child being misdiagnosed with ADHD, ODD, or some other disorder. Even those gifted children who are well-behaved and get straight A's are not free from potential problems. Straight A's can actually be a sign of a problem!

There is more than one definition of gifted children, but one thing we can say for sure is that gifted children are more than their intellectual ability.

What Do Parents Really Want?

When parents or soon-to-be parents say they're hoping for a gifted child, they're hoping for the myth - a well-behaved child who excels in school. But who doesn't want that? They want a highly motivated child who enjoys school and loves to learn. What people unfamiliar with gifted children don't know is that gifted kids can be just as unmotivated as some of their non-gifted peers. In fact, underachievement among the gifted is a serious problem that can be quite difficult to solve. That is not what they're hoping for, nor are they hoping to be able to spend countless hours advocating for a child whose academic needs are not being met in school.

Parents are also hoping for a happy child who has many friends. Again, who doesn't want that? They most likely are not hoping to have an emotionally intense child with asynchronous development, a child who often feels like a misfit and may have trouble making friends, especially at school. This is not to say, of course, that every gifted child has such issues. Many of them find ways to fit in and have plenty of friends. However, the point is that wishing for a gifted child does not mean you are going to have the perfect child, a child who is going to make your life easier.

What Parents of Gifted Children Want

Perhaps the real irony in this is that many parents of gifted children have the opposite wish: they wish they had an average child. What they mean, of course, is that they wish they didn't have to work so hard to get their child's needs met, that their child didn't get so deeply upset over the most minor setback or slight from a playmate, that their child could easily blend in with the other kids and enjoy his childhood.

They also want other people - parents, teachers, and others - to understand gifted children and understand that parenting a gifted child is no easier than parenting most other children. In some ways, it can actually be more difficult since not only do parents have to deal with many of the same parenting issues other parents deal with, but they also often have to work hard to get appropriate academic services for their child. As if that weren't frustrating enough, they also often have to listen to other parents who tell them that they should be glad they have a smart child.

Being the parent of a gifted child is the proverbial roller coaster ride - and not a kiddie coaster either. It's more like the Diamondback in Ohio. Whether we wished for a gifted child or not, we got one, and in spite of the wild and crazy ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and challenges, parenting a gifted child is an adventure most of us wouldn't trade for anything.

Continue Reading