What do your gifted children BELIEVE about themselves?

What do your children believe about themselves? Regardless of what they are told, self-image is created from within. It is a product of all the comments ever made by parents, friends, and outside “influencers”, but in some children, regardless of what the outside world tells them, their own brain tells them they are not really that smart, not really that funny, not really very capable.

Self image is the most powerful perspective anyone can have. Without a positive one, people are unable achieve their “future story,” the dream they have for themselves.

Did you know some children are unable to imagine themselves as an adult? Dr. Ruby Payne, a writer and educational consultant, says that children who live in a culture of deprivation and poverty sometimes see their adult future as one in which they will either be in prison, homeless, or dead. If all they know of the adult world is a parent who was arrested, an uncle who was on the street due to drug addiction, or a sibling dead due to gun violence, they see that scenario as their only future. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, they may not know what to say, except “Alive”.

I believe that even in the poorest neighborhoods and in the most gang infested, violent cities in America, there are many children who believe they can write their own future story and, as Oprah says, “live their best life.” That bulletproof self-image depends on their ability to visualize a life they have never seen. They can do it if they have a positive role model to follow. It might be a parent, an older sibling, or even a teacher who believes in them. The number one external influence on a child’s self-image is a relationship with someone they believe cares about them.

Mental health and emotional maturity can both alter a child’s self-image. Sometimes it is a chemical imbalance that makes a child not believe they are good enough. The right balance of the hormones serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins can greatly effect a child’s self-image and feelings of happiness. For adolescents, the impact of social media can make a child with a healthy self-image doubt their own abilities. So what can a mom do to help their gifted child feel good about themselves?

I tend to give advice in threes. First, love your child unconditionally. Whether they are good or bad, make mistakes or always have perfect grades, kids have to know your love for them is unwavering. There are times you should discipline or correct a child, but don’t let those times ever make he or she doubt your love for them. A good mom is one that says “What you did was a bad choice, and there is a consequence for that choice, but I know you can do better next time.” Believe in them.

Second, don’t let the TV or IPad be the babysitter or a major influence on their self-image. Electronics may distract children and keep them quiet, but it negatively impacts their language development compared to live two way conversation with other humans, especially nurturing adults. For self-image purposes, TV and video games may negatively imprint a child with sexualized images of women or violent stereotypes of men. You want your child to aspire to be a strong, independent thinker, but not a superhero that violently erupts like the HULK. Positive self-image is built by letting children explore their environment and find success at real world tasks.

Being independent and able to care for themselves and their surroundings builds a capable and competent self-image. If they are big enough, do they know how to vacuum the floor, take out the trash, fold their clothes and put them away? If you do everything for them, when are they going to feel “big”?

Third: Ask yourself this question: Are you raising a capable child that can do things on his or her own? If your child acts like an entitled brat and expects you to do everything for them, it is possible that instead of believing that he or she is entitled, that they actually feel unsure of what to do. If he or she has never done something on their own, they don’t know how to do it right.

Initially, instead of saying “Get your own drink of water”, you have to say “Let me show you how to fill a glass with water without spilling it.” Have cups at a height they can reach. Show your child how to turn on the faucet or pour a pitcher that is a size that he or she can lift.

Help your child be successful and then he or she will do it on their own without bugging you to do it for them. The best part is that that task becomes a part of a competent, capable self-image. Your gift child will become independent and successful when he or she BELIEVES it about themselves. Success builds a positive self-image more than words from outside influencers. Give them those experiences. so that their self-image is strong and capable.

Can you be Happy and be a Gifted Child Mom?

Do you watch Ted Talks on YouTube? If not, they are wonderful lectures on many subjects, including parenting. I watched one today I wanted to share with you: Happiness is a very high bar

Once upon a time, we expected our children to work by our side, whether in a factory or on the farm, and help the family survive. That changed at the end of the industrial revolution and we sent our children to school.  School became their job. We expected children to do well in school. Now middle class parents have put expectations on their children’s success in extra curricular activities.

Success in sports competitions has become the new job we pressure children to master. The pressure we put on them is the pressure we put on ourselves. Be sure to watch the video to hear how the speaker deals with expectations. It will make you feel better.

I never thought about the pressure Moms put on themselves when my children were young. I was too busy and too tired. Moms are usually the ones who sit with the kids to help with homework. Mom is the one that drives to soccer, baseball, scouts, and piano lessons. Many Dads do the sport things and carpooling, but I don’t know if Dads feel the same pressure. Dads can write their own blog.

On top of the usual parenting expectations set by the media and in popular baby manuals, consider that you have to multiply it by the factor of Giftedness. The expectations become both higher and heavier.

Gifted Child Moms worry that they are not enriching their children enough. They worry if their child is an emotionally immature, but intellectually brilliant child who cries when he/she has to go out to recess because he/she wants to keep reading a favorite book. The more you worry, the unhappy you feel.

How can you be a HAPPY gifted child mom? Best advice is get off social media. Your house will never look like Pinterest. Your friends’ Facebook pictures will always look happier than you feel. Quit thinking you have to be more to be a good Gifted Child Mom. Instead, do less.

Plan less. If your children are under ten, try this. When your children comes home from school, instead of rushing off to lessons or play dates, do 3 things:

1. Have them sit down with you and talk with you. Don’t be on your cell phone while they are talking. Listen. Look right in their eyes and see what they are NOT saying. Do they seem happy? Sad? Worried? Tired?

2. While they are talking, give them something to drink and eat. Did you know that children think the most clearly 10 minutes after they drink 8 ounces of water? A hydrated brain is a smarter, better functioning brain. They will talk more.

3. After at least ten full minutes of interacting with your children without any interfering technology (no TV, IPad, phone for any of you) and a snack, ask about homework. If they say “Nothing” or “I did it on the bus”, ask to see it. Reviewing homework lets you see if it correct, complete, and legible. It shows you care about homework being done and done well. If they really don’t have homework to do or do over, congratulate them and sit down WITH them and read. For little kids, read picture books together for 15-20 minutes. Grade-schoolers who can read independently should read 15-30 minutes. While they are reading, you should sit down and read silently too. No washing dishes, no talking on the phone, just sit and read. You are modeling the love of reading. They will emotionally connect the love of reading with the love of being with you.

If they are resistant to reading alone, read aloud WITH them. “I read a page, you read a page” is a great way to lessen the stress and share an experience. Trust me, reading together and talking about what you read helps build both comprehension and vocabulary. Having this two-way conversation with your gifted children, you will start to feel…happy. All together, this should only take about an hour of time.

Enjoy your children. At every age, there are magic moments that if you are busy worrying or running around, and you will miss the magic.

If you think, “Well, soccer is at 4 on Tuesday-Thursday and the other kid has brownies on Wednesday, and, and, and…take just one week off from everything extra curricular, like you would do if they were sick. For five days, do just 3 things- talk, have a snack together, read together. It is one hour. At the end of five days, see if you feel happier and less stressed. You may want to go back to lessons and practice, which is fine, but anytime you are overwhelmed, take a break and just be a mom with your child. Take an hour and interact. In a year, the few lessons you skipped won’t matter at all.

What you will remember is the hour you and your children interacted and read together, not the hour you spent in the car on the way to practice. Be happy.

Emotional Meltdowns and the Gifted Child: What is a Mom Supposed to do?

If my child is so smart, why does he/she act like such a baby?”

Part of it is called  asynchronous development. That means that one part of your child, their intelligence is not “in sync” with their physical and emotional development. An average six-year-old will look like they are six. They will be similar in height, weight, and demonstrate expected physical abilities of a six-year-old, such as kicking a ball and running . They start losing their teeth. They learn to tie their shoes.

But a gifted child may be intellectually two or three years ahead of their chronological age. They may read and understand Harry Potter at 6. Meanwhile, they may be physically clumsy or uncoordinated. They may be emotionally immature and melt-down like a three-year old. Part of it is the frustration caused by being intellectually frustrated with other six-year olds who want to play make-believe or have a tea party when they want to talk about ending world hunger or global warming. Emotional intensity is not a universal trait of all gifted children, but it is a common one. This book may give you more insight into this behavior:

Another melt-down trigger may be bullying by other children who call them a nerd, or a baby if they cry easily. Children want to be liked. They want to fit in, but gifted children sometimes are more comfortable with their intellectual peers rather than their age peers. So if your gifted child is school age, he or she may benefit from being accelerated to a higher grade to be with intellectual peers. They may be emotionally or physically out of sync, but at least they will have others around them that they can relate to intellectually.

It depends on the child. Making the decision to accelerate is a very individualized decision. Check out these books for more information on academic acceleration. Often, the emotional benefits of being with intellectual peers lessens the negative aspects of asynchronous physical or social development. They have so much information and so many reasons to consider acceleration, it is in two volumes!

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A good resource to connect to other moms to read about emotional intensity is on the “blog hop” on Hoagies Gifted Education parent web page:  http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/parents.htm . This website bugs me because it is so crowded with so much information, but if you are persistent and dig deep (did you read my previous post about this topic?), you will find some great resources.

Here is a blog I particularly like, because I know the author, the fabulous Lisa Van Germert:  http://giftedparentingsupport.blogspot.com/   Lots of good articles here for parents.

So gifted child mom, do you have any comments about emotional intensities? I would love for you contact me and share your story.