Friday, March 30, 2012

Pride and the gifted child

An exchange the other day: A mother was told by a teacher that her child would likely be identified as gifted if they had him tested. Quote from another person: "You must be so proud."

I've been pondering this choice of word. I think "proud" is not the right one. It's like saying "aren't you proud your child has brown eyes?" In the realm of intellectual giftedness, having a certain IQ is probably not something that shows great parenting, or hard work on the part of the child, at least not in the way that getting an A on a tough assignment would. That you could be proud of. IQ, like many human characteristics, has a very strong genetic component. There are probably some things that lower it (like malnutrition), and perhaps things that raise it on the margins. I just read an article about a study in the European Journal of Public Health finding that babies who are fed on demand (as opposed to on a schedule) have a slightly higher IQ than other babies, controlling for parent education and income and "parenting styles." Though really, with that last one, it's hard to know how one controls such things. One can imagine that there are other variables that correlate with demand-feeding that a study would just miss.

So if giftedness isn't really a result of something you or your kid have done, how do you deal with the "proud" comment? Obviously, parents are usually proud of their kids but that language seems to hint at one of the major misconceptions of gifted education, namely, that it's a reward. Ideally, gifted education is an educational intervention for children who need it. How have you responded to people saying you must be "proud" for your children to be in a gifted program, or to have been identified as such?


Anonymous said...

It has never come up in exactly that form. His elementary school did not have a gifted program until 4th grade, and by then we'd moved him to private school for a better fit.

When people say "you must be proud of your son", I generally agree. "Yes, I'm proud of how much work he put into that science fair project." "I'm very proud of my son—I'm a parent, I'm supposed to be proud of my son."

Sorry about being "anonymous".
This is but Blogger is still refusing comments from wordpress users.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's not really something I can be proud of; that's just the way my kiddo is. I cannot be proud when no effort was put forth to get the result. I am proud of a lot of things that he does, especially when he has really had to work at things, but I have never felt proud that my son has gotten into programs or schools because he is gifted. Relieved, definitely. Excited and happy, yes. But I can't be proud that my child has special educational needs due to his learning differences.

Karen Giesler NBCT said...

As a teacher in a gifted program I overheard this comment. "Oh, hi (Mom of gifted kid). I didn't realize your child got in. Congratulations! My immediate thought was about the physically handicapped kids my mom taught. Would one parent when seeing another congratulate them for being identified to attend that school or program? It is all about meeting the individual needs of each student.

Farmersdaughter said...

I would definitely say I was relieved when my child's 1st grade teacher suggested my daughter be tested. After reading several books on how gifted children had certain personality traits (several ones I had been frustrated by for years), it was like a huge light bulb going on! Thank goodness that teacher got her the testing she needed and into a group with others she could relate to. I am proud of all her accomplishments, not just the fact that she is gifted. Her teacher is the one that she feel pride in helping this mom!

Miss Trayers said...

I think many parents believe it's an elite status to be identified and somehow if their child is tested and doesn't qualify, they are somehow less worthy. I had friends who bought their child a new bike because she got in *sigh*.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the pride comes from the hard work my child does and the fact that I love my children. I find people are so misinformed about giftedness. People I think say, "aren't you proud?" because they don't understand that the children aren't at home every night studying the dictionary, atlas, and force-fed facts. They also do not understand how differing the needs of gifted children are and how important their educational needs are met for the most part. I can't imagine any parent stating the same for speech class or a dyslexia workshop. However, the knowledge your child will get the assistance and instruction needed is always emotionally gratifying in my opinion.

sharonassis said...

Here in Florida, there are a lot of kids in "gifted" programs who aren't gifted. Some schools here have over 30% of the student body in a gifted class. These children do get in because of higher test scores, or because their parents found a psychologist who will sell them a high IQ. It's so unfortunate. I am a teacher here and probably 80% of my students are in gifted program, but I would say that only 10% of the 80% are truly gifted. I have had some parents tell me their kids have 164 IQ but don’t seem to have any of the characteristics and seem a lot slower at learning things than my other students. Where I'm from, gifted classes are considered elite. And the wealthy families all have their kids in them. It is so sad that the children who aren't gifted be placed in a program that is not really designed for them. And again, it is not fair for the children who are truly gifted who aren’t receiving the education and attention that they need. Here, being in a gifted class does not reflect natural intellectual gifts, but rather that the child 1. Is smart 2. gets good grades 3. comes from a higher socioeconomic class.

I homeschool my daughter and she is very advance. I too get "you must be so proud" or the opposite "stop pushing her" Both seem to imply that I have done something. True, I teach and help her, but she is who she is. Once someone said, "you don't want her to be too different" My response, "she already is"

Most people understand giftedness as something that a person has achieved, not something they are born with. Forgive those people, they probably aren't gifted or know what it means to be such.

Suzanne said...

I am of two minds on this. Yes, of course I am proud of my children. They are wonderful and their intelligence is a part of that wonderful package. Then again, there is nothing I did to make them gifted.
I usually just say something like, "Thanks s/he is a great little kid!"
Sometimes people are coming at the "You must be so proud" from the wrong angle but I think for the most part they are just reacting to some good news and that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

When they started talking about my daughter going to the gifted center, I thought, oh no. When I was a child the gifted program in my elementary school consisted of pulling the kids out of class and making us do stupid crossword puzzles. Waste of time, so I was reluctant with my daughter. Eventually figured we'd give it the first 9 weeks of 3rd grade. It was a great program with a great teacher and I felt fortunate and lucky, maybe. Proud of the great work she did, proud of the teacher's work. It doesn't matter anymore, as the center is closed and poor son, also identified, is in a heterogeneous classroom bored out of his elitist little gourd.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not totally buying it! Yes, of course parents can't be proud that they did some wonderful parenting to make their children gifted. But a lot of people feel twinges of something at least closely resembling pride when they think their child look gorgeous, or some other inborn characteristics are on display!

The definition of pride is, "a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired."

Maybe one shouldn't feel PRIDE about being PROUD, but I don't really believe that parents are proud of the inherent, natural-born intelligence that they recognize in their children. Sure, you ought to be prouder when they act kindly, work hard, etc. But that doesn't mean people don't feel pride. But please try not to show it!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oops, forgive the typos. I meant when your child "lookS gorgeous". Also, "I don't believe that parent's AREN'T proud when....."

Bostonian said...

Of course my children's intelligence reflects something I have done. I married a smart woman to increase the chances I would have smart children, and I am proud of the results.

Anonymous said...

When someone says this to me, I attempt to try to share with them that ALL children, regardless of capabilities/IQs/talents/etc., have been created as individuals. I really believe this. And ALL children (including the "fortunate" ones as defined by culture, i.e. "the gifted") have varying needs that we should strive to meet. I tell them it is akin to having a child considered to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. It can be difficult and challenging to have a profoundly gifted child, and do not all children deserve the opportunity to meet their individual potentials? I try to use it as an opportunity to change the perceptions that gifted children do not deserve funding or support.

I have five children, ages 11 and under. All of my children, even my identical twins, are so different from one another in their personalities, needs, strengths and weaknesses. I am proud and hopeful for all of my children. . . My children do not have to be geniuses for me to be proud of them OR for me to help them to each meet their personal potentials. One of my children has suffered, physically and mentally, from Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. I am no less proud of him (what a struggle it was for him to even survive in utero!) than I am of his siblings gifted intellectually and creatively. And the other twin: I confess, he's a gifted athlete. Ah, I believe if we look closely at each person walking this planet, we shall find something extraordinary in each one.

Another response this sort of comment elicits from me: Yes, my child may be intellectually gifted, but he's at great risk of being quite complacent and malcontent. Being too proud may prevent me from seeing his weaknesses. It's those weaknesses that will prevent him from reaching his potential.

Meg said...

The use of "proud" in this context bugs me as well. When my son did well on the SATs and it was announced in the paper, many told me I must be so prouse. I was certainly happy and impressed with his scores, but not proud. I am proud that he worked hard in a class he had some problem with and I am proud that he pushed outside his comfort zone to try something new, but not when he does well on a test (IQ or SAT type) that required pretty much no effort on this part. I usually don't say anything, because it is hard to explain what I mean or it seems to be complaining about a compliment.

Equally annoying was the assumption that just because he was in the highly gifted program or did well on tests, he was automatically destined for the tip top colleges, without knowing anything about him.

Really, this is not a big deal, but I agree that "proud" is not the word I would use.

Cara said...

My son is six and was just tested for the gifted program at his school. I was honored that they ask to test him. I was honored because they saw an academic potential in him I had missed. I'm not a 'compare mom' and I only have one child so to me what he knows is normal for a six year old. I was surprised and excited that he got in. I have yet to tell him that he got in (he didn't know he was being tested) and I was also thrown off by the 'proud parent' thing. I receieved a call from one of the nosier moms asking if my son got in, I casually said yes and she went on to say how her son got in (who they had told was being tested) and they got him presents and are throwing him a party. I told her how we haven't told our son and that I'm not sure how I feel about celebrating an accident of intelligence. I'm excited for him but I'm not yet prepared to shoot the pig over it. At six he hasn't been studying hard or working towards the goal of getting into the gifted program. He's a great kid, he sweet, sensitive, kind and for all that he is I'm proud of him but not exclusively for passing a IQ exam he didn't know he was even taking.