I often hesitate to tell people that I have “gifted” children because it sounds like I’m one of those competitive moms I hate. I’ve never liked being involved in the “mommy competition,” in which mothers try to one-up each other with stories about how talented or smart or beautiful their kids are. So, at the risk of stimulating a few eye rolls, I have to admit that my boys are gifted so you’ll know why I’d be so interested in reading a book called Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child (3rd edition), by Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D. (2007, Great Potential Press).
I always knew my two oldest boys were bright, but I never really thought of them as “gifted” until they started elementary school . . . and were bored stiff! They’d often find the assignments unchallenging or finish their work early and look around for something else to do. I had the same problem when I was a child, but unfortunately we didn’t have any “gifted programs” available back then. When my parents talked with my teacher about challenging me more in the classroom, she responded by letting me grade other kids’ papers and put up her bulletin boards. It wasn’t exactly what my parents had in mind. By fifth grade, they finally scraped up their pennies and enrolled me in a private school, which had a more challenging curriculum. Fortunately, most school districts have a better option today: gifted education. My second son was sent to a gifted classroom in the middle of third grade. (It took me that long to get up the courage to transfer him to another school away from his friends, but where they had the gifted curriculum.) It was the best thing I ever did for him. He loved his new school, and there was a complete change in attitude and motivation when he felt he was learning and being challenged.
So, how do you know if your child is really gifted? What are the signs? According to Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D., in Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child , “Gifted children exhibit talent early. They may speak in whole sentences when other similar-age children know only a few words. Some observe environmental details that aren’t even noticed by others. Their questions may reveal a depth of understanding atypical of preschoolers. They may construct complex puzzles or toys or take toys apart in a manner that indicates extraordinary spatial understanding. Unusual sensitivity may be displayed. They may learn letters, numbers, colors, and shapes with speed and interest, come to adult-like mathematical conclusions, read spontaneously, have a sense of humor, or show extraordinary musical or artistic talent far beyond that of typical children. All these characteristics indicate giftedness.”
If your child shows any of these signs, I highly recommend that you read Dr. Rimm’s book. She’ll tell you how to have your child evaluated, select a school (whether it’s preschool or elementary), encourage a love of reading, teach good homework habits, communicate with your child’s teacher, and more. She also answers questions such as: Should my child be allowed to skip a grade? Should I homeschool my child? How do I encourage my gifted child if he or she has a disability? Rimm also addresses family issues related to having a gifted child, such as parenting with a united front, sibling rivalry and single parenting. Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child is a very comprehensive guide for families with gifted kids, who often find it difficult to share their joys and concerns with others. This book helps them feel less alone and answers the questions they’re likely to have so they can “unlock the potential” of their very bright children.