Raising Gifted Children? Let It Go
No…really…Just let it go!
As parents, we are often so focused on guiding the lives of our children because we want our children to be successful. We schedule, remind, direct, advise and steer them in the right direction, and sometimes we may over-parent our child to the point that we are blind to the fact that they can often be successful on their own. Without our help. Yes, sometimes it is better to let it go.
Nah, I don’t mean to completely let it all go, but many times, just trusting them do it on their own, without any direction or help, can be the best approach to raising a confident, successful and independent child.
As the parent of a gifted child, it can be a little more challenging to know exactly when it is okay to let it go. Asynchronous development can be a bugger when you have to determine when it is time to just let go. Say you are deciding if your 10 year old, who has the intelligence of an 18 year old, the social presence of a 15 year old, but the emotional maturity of an 8 year old, is ready for a sleepover. See what I mean? Making a decision can be pretty tricky here.
My first encounter with this “let it go” notion was when my youngest gifted child was just 3 years old. He had gotten a bicycle with training wheels for his birthday, and he was clocking the miles on it the very first day. Our then 15 year old came inside to ask if he could take the training wheels off of our 3 year old’s bike. “Um, no, he just learned to ride it; do I need to explain why this would not be a good idea?” Oh but our 15 year old insisted and us parents decided to let it go – but not without a cocky “you’ll see that we are right” attitude. About an hour later, us parents were summoned out to the driveway to watch our 3 year old ride his new bike without training wheels! You see? Just let it go!
It is not easy to let it go, though. When faced with a situation in which you feel your child is not yet ready to take part in, your judgement and subsequent decision is based on what is normal for your child’s age. Gifted children most often are much ahead of their same-age peers in their particular areas of giftedness, but behind in other areas – there isn’t much “normal” to use for decision-making.
It took a few parenting faux pas to convince me that letting go and letting him do it on his own was okay, even if I had misgivings. When my youngest son was 9 years old, we stepped out the door to hop in the car to get to a scheduled activity. We were met with a flat tire and no help in sight. I whipped out the car’s owner’s manual and was flipping to the section on how to change a flat tire – you guessed it, I had never changed one before. The entire time I was shuffling for the manual and flipping through the pages, my 9 year old was arguing with me that he knew how to change the tire and that the owner’s manual was probably going to tell me stuff I didn’t need to know. Not my best parenting moment ‘cause I argued that the owner’s manual had to be right, and he, of course, had never changed a flat tire before! Why would they print an owner’s manual if the information was wrong? Huh?
He INSISTED that I let him change the tire because as he said, “it is easy.” Okay, I let it go, but not without a back-up plan. I figured while he struggled to *try* to change the tire, I would continue to read the manual and then *know* how to change it when my 9 year old inevitably gave up his futile attempt….um…. wait…..what?
All the while that my head was buried in the owner’s manual, memorizing the steps to changing a flat tire, my 9 year old had actually gone and changed the tire. Note to self: learn to trust your gifted child and understand that they often can do things seemingly too difficult for them.
Most recently, I unwaveringly let it go – full out, no cocky “you’ll see that we are right” attitude or back-up plan. My now 14 year old has an invention he has decided he wants to get to market. He sent out emails to some local and state small business development centers and angel fund representatives. He received replies from three people who wanted to meet with him. I was all in for letting him do this all on his own. For sure, letting him do it all was less stress for me. I let go of the need to remind him about manners, the need to remind him to say “yes” and not “yeah”, the need to remind him to not interrupt when others are speaking and the need to be prepared with all of the invention pictures, documents, mock-ups and information he needed to pitch his invention.
No skin off my teeth! Happily, I drove him to his first meeting, waited until his business contact arrived, and then chose a seat out of earshot of HIS meeting. I realized that not only did letting go relieve me of any related stress, it proved to me that letting go was the best parenting decision I could have made for my son. Trusting my son to handle this all on his own was a valuable learning tool for him – if he did a good job, he could be proud, if he didn’t do a good job, he learned a valuable lesson. Also, just him knowing that I trusted him to do this without any help gave him a boost of self-confidence (I had my doubts, but he didn’t know that). If it took losing out on getting his invention to market, so be it. It would be an important lesson for him in being prepared and polite.
Well, I was all for letting go and letting him. I believed this could be a huge learning experience for him on many levels – whether he succeeded or failed.
After the hour-long meeting, his business contact, a director for a small business development center, turned to me and said, “I’ve never met a young man like your son”. In my shock, I vaguely remember him saying things like, “not your typical 14 year old” and “he knows what he is talking about!” He even thanked me for “producing” a child like my son! This man even said he evaluates college students’ projects, and that my son did better than most college students!
Then the realization hit me – he probably did so well because I didn’t help, because he felt I trusted him to do well on his own! By letting go, I lifted a barrier off of his potential and ability to be successful. Easy, stress-free, no skin off my teeth!
Hey, I could get use to this letting it go!