Helping Your Gifted Child Fit in Socially

Do you feel like your gifted child is like this baby puppy, needing to be cuddled and sheltered, protected from the world? Well, it is a baby, and yes, it should be protected. But time will pass and it will someday, before you know it, be old enough for playdates, school, and joining other children in social settings such as team sports or Scouts. Will your child be accepted by the other children? Will they like him or her? Will your child be bullied or be the bully? Will your child be the center of attention or be ostracized? No pressure, Mom, but it is really is how you parent the child that can make the difference.

I have learned that every child has his or her own personality. If you have two or more children, you know that siblings can be as different as night and day, even though they are raised by the same parents or go to the same school. A lot of it has to do with the way their brains develop and process information. There are skills that you can teach children to improve the way they interact with other people.

There are a number of good picture books that can help your child learn to get along with others and not react as strongly to emotional triggers. Here is one I like:

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Have you ever written a book yourself? Wouldn’t it be cool to see that your book had a 5 star review by over 2400 readers? Does your gifted child pout when things don’t go his or her way? Train them not to do that. Read this book to them and refer to it regularly:

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As your gift child grows into a semi-adult teenager, navigating the social waters will become even more important, but more difficult, too. Help them fit in. Otherwise, they will stay in their baby social brain state. Here is a picture of the same dog, grown up physically, but acting like a baby. Cute in a dog, embarrassing behavior for an adult.

Zach and Sarah

 

Best Father’s Day Gifts a Gifted Child Mom Can Give

It is highly unlikely that your gifted child is the one going to the store and buying their father a gift. It is you, Mom, who feels like it is your duty to make the gifted child’s Dad feel special. Now get real…He is not YOUR father. Still, you do want to acknowledge the gifted child dad.

Depending on his personality or expectations, he may want to be left alone to play golf, go to a baseball game, or sit in front of the TV watching a movie. But how is that different from any other Sunday afternoon? How does that recognize his Dad-ness? As a mom, you may have appreciated the handmade cards your children gave you or the flowers Dad bought for them to give you. But I think the commercial celebration of Mother and Father’s day, like Valentines, is more about profit than it is real sentiment. Think back two years, or even one. Do you even remember what the Mother or Dad gift from last year was?

This Father’s Day, recognize the day with a family experience that will be remembered and that matters. Make a memory with your kids. It doesn’t have to cost anything, but it should be pleasant, stress free for you and for the kids, and something that will help Dad bond with the kids in their brains. When I was a child, I have distinct memories of holding hands with my father and crossing the street to an ice cream vendor in Washington D.C., near the Jefferson Memorial. As we crossed the street, my dad sang, “You scream, I scream, We all scream for ice cream!” Of course, that phrase was reinforced by buying the ice cream and tasting it. Using the senses of hearing the phrase, tasting the ice cream, and seeing my father smile took that experience from short-term into long-term memory in my brain. The memory has lasted for decades.

Help your gifted kid make a memory with their Dad that will be memorable. Go for a nature walk on the beach and look for shells. Go to the zoo. Go in the backyard and throw horseshoes or corn bags. Laugh. Sing. If it is too hot to go outside, build a fort together in the house.

If you haven’t seen this supersized building set, it is awesome. It isn’t cheap, but it is really good quality and your kids will play with it for years.You can make a boat, spaceship, or a house that is big enough for Dad and kids to get inside. It also builds spatial reasoning skills, so that is cool, too.

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Celebrate a Happy Father’s Day the way it should be, as a family sharing experience. Make a memory that will be remembered by you, Dad, and the gifted child for years to come.

Does Unstructured Free Time Make You Anxious?

Are you taking Tylenol or reaching for a Xanax because your kids are driving you nuts when they have unstructured playtime? Does it make you want to sign them up for summer programs, just to get them out of your house?

The younger your children are, the more you have to supervise their play. Don’t expect a four year old to play alone for more than 10-15 minutes. It is not going to happen. And if your child does play alone for even 15 minutes, he or she still need to be supervised so he or she doesn’t get hurt. That is called being the parent. It is hard, but the years will go quickly and when they are older, you will be sad they don’t need you as much.

Here is a book you might read about this subject- unstructured play and what it does for your child’s brain. Seriously, this book is the best, and the audiobook is free!:

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What kind of things can a child play if they are not good at playing make believe alone? Some kids need something kinesthetic to stimulate their mind (something to touch and manipulate with their hands.) Although a little screen time (ipad, Xbox, TV, whatever) is fun, no child under 10 should spend extended time staring at a screen. They want it, they crave it, because it is addictive! But it is a one way process of stimulation. It is not as interactive as a conversation or handling a toy.

Here are a couple of games a child can play by themselves that can make them curious and stay engaged:

For children over 7:

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For younger children, shape sorting, matching games, lacing cards, and colorful non-toxic clay help them organize and classify things.  Using their hands to improve their fine motor skills, their eyes to tell the difference between different colors and shapes, and their brains to decide what to do with these things helps them grow and develop their thinking. Good old blocks and Legos are popular for a reason. There is more than one way to use them! Making a tower that doesn’t fall over after trying and failing is teaching persistence as well as balance. Here is a good set for little hands:

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So give your child something to create or problem solve. Then sit back, have a glass or wine, and read this blog, or one of the others for moms of bright kids. You are doing a great job, Mom. Then sit on the floor and help your child build a fort. You will find some unstructured play is therapeutic for yourself, too!

Play games that teach your child’s brain to solve problems.

You cannot start playing too soon with your children. When you play “peekaboo” with an infant, you are doing it to see their surprised expression and smile when it sees your face again. But what is going on in your child’s brain when you play peekaboo? The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is totally true with a baby. If it can’t see your face, you might as well have left the building. The baby’s brain is trying to make sense of the napkin or towel you put over your face. The baby wonders, “What is that?” “Where did Mommy go?” “Is this thing going to feed me now?” It is less scary if they hear your voice, saying, “Where is Mommy?” or “Where’s Daddy?” while you are hiding, but it is still really surprising to a baby when it can see the face it recognizes again.

It will only be a few months until your baby will start repeating your actions and playing peekaboo back with you. Ita brains learned how to do something that makes you smile. The arms and muscles learned how to hold a napkin and put it over its eyes. Its brain grew the connections to be able to do that. The child’s brain learned how to solve the problem of not being able to see you by moving the thing that covered its eyes.

Copying what you do is a primary teaching tool that parents have with them all the time. That is why you have to watch your language and watch the TV shows you think they are not watching (but subconsciously, they are). You also need to monitor your attitude in the way you interact with children. Sarcasm and impatience are both responses that children can learn from you, but so is patience and empathy. Think about it. What are you teaching your child’s brain to do?

Here is a really good baby toy that helps your toddler repeat a 2D image in three dimensions. It isn’t always easy to find, but it is worth it if you get it.
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The older your child gets, the different kids of games they can play to improve their memory, their math skills, their eye hand coordination, and their ability to make decisions and follow directions. Unlike the others, making decisions is a prefrontal cortex thing. It has to be developed and organized for children to understand consequences, and learn how to make decisions. Chess is that kind of game. Here is a couple of chess games for different ages:

5-8 year olds

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Older kids can pick from many different theme chess games, like this Star Wars set:

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Playing games helps your child’s brain organize itself so that it can problem solve, plan, and make decisions. Why is that important? Because brain science proves that if the prefrontal cortex is not well developed to plan and problem-solve, it is unlikely to be able to understand consequences or be able to predict. Reuven Feuerstein believed that intelligence could be modified. Google that name, or you can read about his work in cognitive psychology here:

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He would tell you I am right. Play games. Change your child’s brain.

Developing an organized brain

Why in the world would I show a featured picture of a cow in a field with the moon rising above the hill? A couple of reasons. One, I took this picture myself, and I like the colors. Second, it is a calm picture. If you are becoming offended, thinking that I am going to make a metaphor about the cow representing a gifted child and the fence is the boundaries you should impose on him or her, well GET OVER IT! Instead, it is a beautiful, peaceful animal eating its dinner and it represents YOU, mom. Wouldn’t you love to be this peaceful, all alone on a cool spring day with no worries, outside with all the beauty of nature around you will an unlimited supply of your favorite food to eat?

This kind of peace, free from stress and the noise in your head, can happen if you can overcome the fear that you are somehow going to mess up at being a mom for a precocious child. Instead, I want you to replace that worry with an inner peace that comes from knowing how to help your child be confident, self-sufficient, and best of all, mentally organized. If they are mentally organized, they will depend less on you to entertain them.  The constant whine of “Mom, he hit me!” or “Mom, I’m bored!” become a quieter hum in your house. The hum is the sound of self-sufficient children busy playing.

Have you heard the saying, “Happy wife, happy life?” Want to become a happy mom? Happy, self-sufficient, confident children can make a mom happier than she has been since that first baby shower. And it will free up your time to spend more of it “relaxing in the pasture” (like reading this blog)  instead of refereeing a fight between two strong-willed children with light sabers.

When I taught school, I thought I taught kids. Now I know that  what I really did was develop brains. When children play, their brains are organizing everything around them, naming it, giving it value, deciding how it fits into the schema of the environment. How do I know that? Because Neuroscience told me.

(Warning: scientific study stuff is coming. If you like that stuff like I do, click on each hyperlink to read the science that backs up what I am saying.) If you don’t like scientific proof and just want me to tell you what to do, then skip the links and do what I tell you to do. Seriously, it won’t hurt you or your bright child.

Developing a child’s brain to be able to organize things is the first step needed to be able to apply, analyze, and create new knowledge. Teachers call that “higher level thinking.” Educational Theorists call it Bloom’s Taxonomy. Lower level thinking is recognizing a color or knowing that a cat is one animal, but a dog is a different animal. Higher level thinking involves different parts of the brain, including the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain does not fully develop until the early 20’s, but amazingly, gifted children display the ability to use this part of the brain at an early age. It is what makes parents say, “How did he/she know that?” Want to read more about how teaching a child is really changing their brain? Then read this book: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=giftedchildmo-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=1475825358&asins=1475825358&linkId=259fef7a38f3c4f2ccbafaad89c4c2d4&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF

Too much for a mom with no time to read? At least read the preview of it in Google Books. You will be amazed at how a child’s mind changes when you talk to them and ask them questions.

How can you help your child’s brain become more organized? One way is to play games with them. Here is the science behind how playing games motivates children, develops problem solving skills, and uses their prefrontal cortex to make decisions.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED575955.pdf .

How does this help you as a mom? Once they learn to play the game, they can play it with a sibling or by themselves (depending on the game). They are becoming self-sufficient, and you will have earned some time to read your own material, like this blog.

All children benefit from the right mix of freedom and structure. Highly intelligent children can become anxious if routines change unexpectedly or if consequences are inconsistent. It is easy for a book or blog to tell you that your life as a mom would be better if you were organized, but I am not talking about rearranging the pantry or your sock drawer. I am talking about helping you child actually develop the parts of the brain that sort and classify things in ways that they can interact with their environment in a more organized manner.

As a career educator, I find that I trust educational research much more than I do colorful Pinterest pages (even though I love Pinterest!) or a Facebook post (and I really love Facebook) that isn’t backed up by hard science. That may be boring to you, but to me, if someone makes a claim that something works, I want the study cited that proves it. Here are a couple of studies that can help you learn how to help your child’s brain develop and organize itself. And guess what?  They are free! Feel smarter. Read these studies. Write down something you can do when you play with your smart child to make them even smarter.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1068833.pdf

This is a great article about how play develops the brain. It is an easy read. Best takeaway, (and a way to decrease your own stress) – limit the amount of organized play you sign your kid up for this summer. Rather than hauling him to art classes or golf lessons, give them something to play with at home- like a big cardboard box, some markers, and a pair of scissors to make themselves a race car, or let them use a blanket and a table to make a fort. Unstructured play allows your child’s creativity to take over and it really will change their brain.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1069227.pdf

The third thing I hope you will do with your gifted children to help them develop their already advanced brain is to read aloud to them if they are under ten, or read WITH them even if they are an adolescent. If your child is reading a book for school, you read it too (or a synopsis)- again, Google Books previews are a time saver. They discuss it with your child. Studies show that it is the interactive discussion between parent and child (not a child and an iPad), that makes language stick in the brain, and most kids enjoy it. Reading aloud to (or with) a child also helps you bond emotionally with your kids. Read this free article on how it works:

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1174201.pdf

When children play games, free play creatively, listen to you read to them, and talk about books you read, you are helping them organize their brain. The brain grows, makes new synapsis, becomes more complex, and with your support, your smart kid will also be a happy kid, because they have a parent/caregiver to which they are emotionally attached.

Put in the up-front time and work to help your child organize their brain and your reward will be some time to develop your own, because brain plasticity keeps developing throughout your life. Don’t believe me? Well, then you asked for it! Here is another study to prove it. Keep learning. Keep developing your brain.

https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/28/5/1857/4911502

 

Welcome parents of gifted children!

Hey there! If you found this blog, it is probably because you were searching for answers to parenting questions that most blogs or websites don’t address. If you have a child that has a surprisingly creative streak, an above average vocabulary, and prefers adults or older acquaintances to playing with his or her own peers, than this is the right place for you.

I am writing this blog in an attempt to provide some answers to parenting questions related to raising a gifted child. Maybe they are in public school, but complain that school is too boring or easy. Perhaps you are trying to homeschool, but are frustrated by the demands and responsibility of teaching your child yourself. Regardless of how they are being educated, are you worried that you as a parent are either too lenient, too strict, too pushy, or too accommodating to satisfy your child’s insatiable curiosity and love of learning? I hope I can provide some guidance and resources that you will find useful.

I am not concerned with formal labels. After 15 years as a GT (gifted and talented) coordinator, I know that there are children who qualified for gifted programs in schools that looked at their standardized test scores and saw giftedness that was nurtured by a privileged home environment. I also know that there are children who had equal potential, but were overlooked because the system could not “see” that their potential was being masked by cultural, racial, or economic bias. What I care about is that every child, including your child, reaches their own true potential according to their individual ability.

This is the right blog if you stayed up last night worrying about how to help your brilliant child:

  • Get organized
  • Fit in socially
  • Learn to listen to others
  • Be a good leader, but not a dictator
  • Be persistent
  • Set goals and plan how to reach them
  • Appropriately express and handle their emotions
  • Understand and value themselves
  • Respect others around them
  • Be a socially responsible global citizen

You can sign up to get an email each time I post, or follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

On Pinterest, I have a board called “Gifted Kid Stuff” with lots of resources for K-12 students. https://www.pinterest.com/mew11016/gifted-school-stuff/
I share many posts for teachers and parents on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilliamsEducationalConsulting

On Twitter I tweet and retweet many articles related to GT education, and my book, Removing the Mask, Identifying and Developing Giftedness in students from Poverty, 3rd edition. : https://twitter.com/ellen3610
If you are interested in the book, you can buy it here! https://www.ahaprocess.com/store/removing-the-mask/

Check back soon for my next post on Bullet #1- Getting Organized

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Ellen Williams, Ed.D.