Friday, November 20, 2015

How to talk about your gifted kid

In the 10th anniversary post, I wrote that we'd be re-visiting some of the topics that sparked the most discussion over the years. One of those questions was how to talk about your gifted child.

Parents want and need to talk about their kids. I'm sure this is somewhat annoying for people who don't have kids, but parenting consumes a lot of time, and most of us want to do a good job at it. Consequently, kids becomes a frequent topic of conversation. Likewise, kids want to hear you talk about them. My 8-year-old was in a play last night (he delivered his one line with great enthusiasm). In the car on the way home, he said things like "Tell me more about my performance." I guess it's good to ask for what you need!

I was happy to tell him that I was proud of him, and that he'd done a good job remembering his line, and I was proud that he was not nervous in front of the crowd.

But that's a different matter from public conversations. For many parents of gifted children, I've heard from readers of this blog, conversations with other parents can become fraught. Parenting conversations on the playground or birthday parties or school pick-ups require some portion of shared issues. A parent whose kid is really struggling with math doesn't necessarily want to hear about how many grade levels ahead your kid is working. I never like the "misery Olympics" of some parenting conversations (over who has it worse) but even if everyone's talking about the wonderful things their kids did, a parent whose kid got his first B+ on a math test may not want to hear about another child's proof he dreamed up in his bedroom at night for fun.

So what do you do? Obviously, other people's comfort is not the only important consideration in life, but when you're in a community for the long haul, it helps to nurture connections. This is one reason that forums for parents of gifted kids are so important (I'll put a plug in for the Davidson Institute's programs here!) Such discussion groups can be safe spaces for parents to chat with other parents who understand. It lessens the weight of having only the people who are there in person.

Some parents go ahead and talk about their kids and figure if it's said from the perspective that you're proud of your kid -- because you are! -- and not implying that this is because you are better at this parenting thing than other people, then it's all good. Let the chips fall where they may. If other people have a problem, they have a problem. Other parents elect to talk more about extra-curricular activities, where everyone's into different things, and there's less straightforward academic competition. I'm curious what strategies Gifted Exchange readers use.


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

We often talked about theater, as that was something my son was good at, but which many other kids were also good at.

Sometimes we talked about his struggles with writing (around 9th grade).

Lately, I've been talking about how good a fit the College of Creative Studies is at UCSB, and about his startup company.

ARC said...

This is a tough one in the context of schooling - we live in an area with great public schools but no gifted program until 2nd grade, so we are constantly asked why we're evaluating private schools for our child. (Our testing psychologist told us she would never get what she needs in a regular public school classroom.) It's hard to know how to respond to that, especially with parents whose kids DO attend those schools. In addition, many are great advocates of public schooling in general, so there's another argument I don't really want to get into, especially with people who we don't know well.