The Burdens of Gifted Children
Gifted children have an unusual cross to bear; most of society sees giftedness as …… well, as a gift, but gifted children most often see it is a curse. As most who do not understand giftedness, people assume gifted children are smarter and have it made in life. For those of us who understand, teach and parent gifted children, we know otherwise. Here are 7 burdens most gifted children bear in their lives.
Bullying: Bullying could stem from jealousy of a gifted child’s intelligence, but insight into why kids bully also shows that children who become victims of bullying usually are those who stand out from the norm in some way. Sooo, you-know-who stands out among their same-age peers – Sarah Smarty-pants and Nathan the Nerd. Delivering an in-depth monologue at recess about the loss of Ancient Greek knowledge and technology when the Romans conquered the Greeks, and the resulting affect it had on the historical timing of the Industrial Revolution does call attention to oneself. Correcting a teacher in front of the class when she mispronounced a word could also lead to some retaliation. Yes, gifted children are often the victim of bullying when their intelligence shines a little too brightly.
The Race to the Middle: In the last few decades, our educational system has focused on making sure no child gets left behind and teachers having to teach to the middle. This works well for the students who struggle and those who are performing in the average range. Excellent, right? No? Oh wait! Where does this leave our gifted learners whose voracious appetite for knowledge puts them ahead of the pack? Let me tell you – it leaves them bored, disenchanted and disengaged. While everyone in education is racing to the middle, gifted children’s love of learning is racing out the classroom door. The parents of gifted children do not escape this educational burden either, as they find themselves fighting the schools to get the education their gifted child needs and deserves.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together: Unless of course you are gifted and you are a rare bird. Gifted people make up approximately the top 1% of the population. So, if a gifted child in 6th grade attends a school with say, 200 other sixth graders, statistically there is only going to be ONE other gifted 6th grader to flock with. We know as humans, we tend to make friends with those who share our interests. The same goes for school-age kids. For gifted children, the likelihood of finding like-minded peers to make friends with are slim. Having trouble finding friends who share your interests is a significant hardship for gifted children!
Bionic Senses: Gifted children are most often born with emotional and physical intensities, sensitivities and overexcitabilities. These are known as Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities; named for the Polish psychiatrist who first noted them. An itchy tag on the back of a shirt, an odd odor no one else seems to smell or the unavoidable death of a dragonfly hitting a car’s windshield – all of these could send a gifted child into a uncontrollable spiral of emotional turmoil. These super-sensitivities easily become an unwanted burden for a gifted child, and it leads to exhausting levels of damage control for parents.
Not In Sync: Asynchronous development. While other children develop emotionally, physically, socially and intellectually in a synchronous manner, gifted children usually do not. Their intellectual and social intelligence may be light years ahead of their same-age peers, but emotionally, they could lag behind significantly. How difficult it must be for a child who has the intellectual reasoning of an adult, but not have the equivalent emotional maturity needed to handle the adult concepts he understands! As a parent of a gifted child, asynchronous development makes parenting difficult when trying to reason with the man-child who is also falling out on the floor crying like a toddler.
The Green-Eyed Monster: Some say that money is the root of all evil, but if you want my opinion, the root of all evil is JEALOUSY! Gifted children are not spared from the envious actions and words of mean-spirited, resentful people. Both same-age peers and adults deliver envy-laden insults and actions just to make sure the gifted child is knocked down a few notches. Jealousy is also a major road block to advocacy efforts for gifted children – why would a child who has it made need more? I read recently this one particularly greenish blog post written by a mom proclaiming in her title how she hates it when parents brag about their gifted child. Another blog post seen by many on the net claimed people are not born gifted, they work and create good habits in order to become gifted. Ummm … jealous much?
It’s a Mis – Misunderstood, Misdiagnosed, Mislabeled, Mistreated and Mistaught: The “mis” plight of our gifted children causes their lives to be unnecessarily painful. The many unique and misunderstood characteristics of our gifted children often lead to psychological misdiagnoses. The gifted child who is bored in class begins to misbehave and his teacher recommends that he be tested for ADHD. A gifted child’s underachievement in school can be misinterpreted as laziness. Teachers who misunderstand giftedness do not see the need for acceleration or differentiation when teaching gifted children. In the classroom, on the playground, at the park and in their own neighborhoods, gifted children are misunderstood and are being mistreated.
Saddled with these burdens, our gifted children struggle with self-esteem issues, feel like they don’t fit in in our world, they learn to hide or dumb down their intelligence, they may underachieve, and many end up with anxiety and depression.
Isn’t it time we alleviate these burdens? Through advocacy, all of us who love, parent, educate and work with gifted children can make positive changes in the lives of gifted children.
Advocate for gifted children and lessen the burden.