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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.