Loving and Liking Your Gifted Child

Mother and Daughter Having Fun Together
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Unconditional Love
One piece of advice parenting experts give to parents is to show their children unconditional love. Children should feel confident and secure in the knowledge that their parents will love them even when they make mistakes, when they aren't perfect. They should also not feel that parental love is tied to their achievements or abilities.

This is especially true for gifted children, many of whom are already little perfectionists and may receive constant praise for their exceptional abilities.

They can begin to link the praise for their ability with love for them. After all, they have no control over their inherent ability. What if they should no longer have that ability? It’s better for parents to praise what their children do with their abilities. As Professor Dumbledore told Harry Potter, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." That's a good lesson for gifted children to learn.

Unconditional "Like"
Sometimes, though, what we need to show our children is unconditional “like.” That means that we need to show our children that we don’t simply love them; we like them. We like who they are. If someone were to ask you why you like your best friend, how would you answer? You would probably be able to provide a list of qualities and characteristics that you enjoy and admire about your friend.

What about your child? Can you provide a list of qualities and characteristics that you enjoy about your child?

You probably tell your child that you love him. Do you also tell your child that you like him? Sometimes parents are not completely happy with who their children are. A father may wish his highly gifted, sensitive little boy were more masculine and more interested in sports. Or perhaps a mother might wish her daughter were more feminine or less strong willed.

These parents still love their children, but the children get the feeling that their parents don’t like them, and the children interpret that feeling as a lack of love -- even though their parents may tell them they are loved. Because gifted children tend to be highly sensitive, a parent’s disapproval may affect them more deeply than other children would be affected.

If you are unable to name anything you like about your child, you may want to start rethinking the way you view your child. Chances are, though, that you like your child just fine, but never really thought about why before. Sure, you may still wish your daughter liked playing the piano or your son enjoyed baseball, but that doesn't mean you can't also like your child in spite of your wishes. This is just a different way of viewing your child in a more positive light.

So what should you do? In addition to telling your child “I love you,” be sure to let your child know how much you enjoy her company. Let you child know what you like and admire about her.

Of course, in order for those words to have any meaning, you need to spend time with your child doing what she likes to do – and you want to at least try to enjoy it!

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