As a mom and grandmother of gifted children, I understand if you feel overwhelmed by parenting a child with high potential. Bright children seem to also be emotionally extreme, either timid and introverted, or explosive with bouts of great anger or great joy. How you react to their emotional state can determine whether or not they can learn to self-regulate their moods.
Children learn to regulate their feelings as well as their actions as they mature. The more self-reliant and confident they are, the more likely it is that children will develop the traits that will help them be successful. Many moms of children with high potential worry that their children are too “different” from other children. They may be intellectually advanced, but emotionally immature. When children are emotional and intense, moms may try to intervene when they struggle to avoid a tearful breakdown. In trying to rescue the child for emotional reasons, you may actually be keeping them from developing certain traits that can only come from working hard at something that requires practice and intense focus.
One of the unintended traits your bright children may develop, regardless of their personality, is called Learned Helplessness. It is where they give up easily and don’t finish something, saying it is too hard or takes too long. If you give them assistance too often or let them stop before they finish something, they are not developing persistence.
Persistence is the key quality that helps gifted children successful. Several experts, including Dr. Joyce Juntune at Texas A&M, and Dr. Joseph Renzulli at the University of Connecticut see a triad of traits that successful gifted kids possess. Intelligence (ability), creativity, and task commitment (persistence) make up the triad. Someone who is not as smart, but has persistence, may be more successful in school and life in general that a highly gifted child that cannot stick to something and complete it.
Ever know an absent-minded professor kind of kid? Children may be super smart, but if they are thinking about many different things, all at the same time, you may notice them in the middle of doing one thing and wander off to do something else. Most children do this, especially a two or three-year old. If he or she pays attention to anything for ten minutes, they are super focused. But school-aged children who never finish tasks or cannot start them (because they can’t decide among several different choices of what to do) may be misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder. Misdiagnosis is a common problem for gifted children who do not have persistence. The leading expert in this field is Dr. James Webb. Read this book to get more information about misdiagnosis.
If your child doesn’t know what you mean about persistence, or grit, there are a few good books you can use to set an example. Read these with or to your child:
My grandkids love this book:
You also can use your WORDS to encourage persistence. Instead of letting your children say the can’t or don’t know how to do something, encourage them to add the word “yet” to their sentence. They “don’t know how to do it YET.” It works on their mental image of the task as something that can be achieved instead of something that is impossible.
I love this book. Persistence is a necessary tool of inventive minds and this biography is a true story that will inspire children to become inventors themselves.
So what does persistence have to do with you being exhausted? A LOT! If your bright children learns to persist on homework, sports, and on projects, there is less time available for them to bug you whining that “they can’t do it” or saying, “MOM! I’m bored!”
Seriously. All those questions are exhausting. So spend some time teaching your child to work on something for two minutes, three minutes, eventually ten minutes before they ask for help. Eventually, they will only ask for help when they truly are stumped and need you. Get some rest, mom. Your bright child is on his or her way to becoming an independent, confident young adult. Model persistence in things you do. The gifted child will be aware of your example and will more likely want to make you proud of them by being persistent and completing the things they are doing, too.