How to Talk to Other Parents About Your Gifted Child

Two Moms Talking
Dougal Waters/ Digital Vision/ Getty Images

One of the things I never knew before I became the parent of a gifted child is that it would not be easy to talk to other parents about my child. Becoming a parent was like joining a club. Even though every child is different, all the members of this club share many parenting experiences and they have many of the same questions. How do you get your child to do his chores? How do you get your child to eat vegetables?

How do you get your child to do his homework?

The question I never expected to have to ask is "how do you talk to other parents?" I assumed that I would be able to express my concerns over problems and excitement over successes just as any other parent does. But I was wrong. Many of my problems simply weren't the same as the problems other parents have. One problem I had was getting sufficiently challenging work for my son at school. That is a problem most parents don't have. If I tried to talk about it with other parents, I was told to stop pushing, to let my child be a child. When I tried to express my excitement over my son's accomplishments, I got "the look." Parents of gifted kids know the look I mean -- it's the one that tells you the listener thinks you are one of "those" parents, one who thinks her child is gifted and likes to brag about it.

What I learned is that becoming a parent doesn't grant you immediate access to the parenting club.

You could try to be a member in the gifted parents club, but that doesn't always work either. Parents are as likely to hold misconceptions of gifted children as anyone, including those unfamiliar with gifted children. Many people believe that if a child isn't performing, then he isn't gifted. That means that a child who doesn't get straight A's and B's can't possibly be gifted.

To them, there is no such thing as a gifted underachiever. If you have a gifted underachiever, you could have a hard time in the gifted parenting club as well, making you feel even more isolated and alone than other parents of gifted kids. So what can you do? What is the best way to talk with other parents about your child?

Talking About Academic Problems

Just as you want to do when talking with your child's teacher, avoid the words "gifted" and "bored" when talking with other parents. Talk instead about your child's individual needs. Few parents don't want what is best for their child, so other parents will understand when you talk about getting your child's needs met. That can be tricky since quite often the reason you need to talk about getting your child's needs met is that he is bored and he needs more challenging work. It is still possible, though. Every child should be challenged at school and few parents would disagree with that.

Why do children need to be challenged? Because they need to learn how to work hard.

They need to learn the value of effort and that is as true for gifted children as it is for every other child. You don't need to use words like "easy" or "bored" either to get that point across. All you need to say is that you worry because your child isn't learning the value of putting forth effort. If your child is one of those gifted kids who is getting straight A's, but is still not being challenged, it might be a little more difficult to make that case.

However, you can still express concern that you are concerned because you don't see your child working very hard. Again, avoid the word "easy." Other parents are not going to be sympathetic when they know your child is getting all A's and B's and you tell them the work is too easy. There is no reason for the other parents to know your child's grades. If they ask, you can mention it, but don't volunteer the information. And again, stress the issue of effort. Show your concern about the lack of effort. Don't focus on the grades. Ever.

Talking About Achievements

Finding a way to talk about your child's accomplishments is more difficult since nearly everything you say can be perceived as bragging. This is odd because all parents "brag" about what their child has achieved. Parents are rightfully proud when their child has received an award or accomplished some goal. What parent doesn't want to share their pride in their child's achievements?

Before you share, however, ask yourself exactly why you want to share that information with the person you want to share it with. The most important person to share your pride with is your child. Why do other parents need to know what your child has achieved? If you are sitting with a group of parents at a PTA/PTO meeting and all the other parents are talking about what their children are doing, it might seem like an appropriate setting for sharing what your child is doing. Unfortunately, if what your child is doing is more advanced, chances are the other parents will consider what you say as bragging.

When you do share with other parents, stress that you are proud of what your child was able to do. Stress the work that went into what she has accomplished and how proud you are of the effort. It's true that sometimes a gifted child does exceptionally well and doesn't put in a lot of effort, but that's not what you want to say. No other parent is going to want to hear how easy it was for your child to accomplish something.

The bottom line is to put yourself in the shoes of the other parents. Would you want to hear about how easy something was for another child when your child is struggling with it? Few parents would.

Continue Reading