To Whom It May Concern: Being Gifted Sucks Sometimes
To the parents who wish for their child to be gifted. To the teachers who think gifted children should easily excel in school. Or for that matter, to every person who believes being gifted is one of the most awesomest things anyone can hope to be:
Sorry, giftedness is not quite what you think it is.
Being gifted is hard. Growing up gifted can be a sad, lonely and adversity-ridden time. Being gifted sucks sometimes, maybe most of the time.
Hold on a minute. I know what you are thinking because I used to think that way, but hear me out. It’s not like I’m saying being successful sucks or being healthy sucks.
Look, you know that saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Yeah, that one. Well, you may or may not have the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of a parent with a gifted child, so to help you understand a bit about giftedness, here are five things which can make the life of a gifted child suck. And cause stress, grief and heartache for their parents.
1. BULLYING—Gifted children are different, often very different.
Yeah, yeah, every human is different and yada yada, but we all cling close to the normal range, right? Gifted children are often a bit further away from what society views as normal, typical or average. Gifted children’s thinking and reasoning is quite different from typical kids their age. Their emotional and social development can be at a different level than what is typical for their age. And you know what happens to kids who are different, maybe a bit too different?
One of the fundamental reasons victims of bullying are targeted by the bully is because of their differences. Differences can make one stand out and therefore more likely to become a victim. Gifted children are often the victims of bullying by peers, by adults, and often experience bullying from their teachers.
2. VERY SENSITIVE WITH DEEP EMOTIONS—Gifted children experience the world in unexpected, intense ways.
Many of us when we first hear the term gifted, we immediately think smart. Yes, above-average intelligence is associated with giftedness, but our intellect also incorporates emotional and social intelligence as well as thinking and reasoning skills. What does this have to do with how a gifted child experiences the world?
Well, gifted children can be super sensitive and exceptionally emotional. When a gifted 2nd grader has a major meltdown because she misspelled a word during the school’s spelling bee, many of us immediately think she is being a sore loser, but in reality, this gifted little girl is beating herself up for not being the perfect speller she believes others expect her to be. This spelling mistake seems benign enough to us—hey, it happens to all of us, but to her, she feels she is a complete failure and will never meet the expectations others have for her because she’s gifted. This little gifted 2nd-grade girl is unable to view this mistake as no big deal; to her, it truly feels like a clear indication she will be a failure for her entire life.
3. FEEL LIKE A FAILURE—Gifted children do not always excel in school.
Wait, what? Doesn’t gifted mean smart? No, giftedness is not the same thing as consistently making good grades, being a high-achiever and receiving high scores in school. Giftedness is not the same as school-smart. A student who makes straight A’s across the board, is part of the gifted program, and then goes on to achieve perfect scores in both the ACT and SAT may not be gifted. Conversely, a profoundly gifted child may not make it into the gifted program at his school because his grades are not up to snuff.
Imagine being the parent of a gifted child who hears from his teachers, “well, if you are gifted, why aren’t you making all A’s?” Personally, I’ve walked in those shoes.
Gifted children don’t always excel in school because traditional schools are geared to educate to the middle, the normal, the average range. Too often, teachers don’t understand the traits of giftedness and therefore don’t address the learning needs of gifted students. Also, gifted students can and do have learning disabilities such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and others. All in all, the typical, traditional school classroom is not really a good fit for gifted students, and with many of their educational needs not being met, it becomes difficult for them to excel.
4. FEW FRIENDS—Gifted children often have social struggles, finding it difficult to find like-minded peers.
I once took over recess duty for my then 1st grader’s teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week. I enjoyed watching all these 6- and 7-year olds playing and interacting with each other. I probably had a smile on my face as I watched my then 6-year old enthusiastically elucidating the bathroom habits of astronauts in space to his classmates. As he proceeded to explain the effects of gravity on waste expulsion and removal in space, his classmates quickly lost interest and danced off to play more interesting activities. My smile faded into tears as my son stood there, puzzled as to why his classmates were not as fascinated with this topic as he was and then left him standing there alone. This was the first of many times my gifted kids came to realize their classmates and peers weren’t interested in the same things they were.
From my experience, and as the parent of adult gifted kids, this difficulty in finding like-minded peers can be a continuous, heart-breaking issue throughout their childhood. Some gifted children never find a true friend until they reach college.
5. PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET YOU—Gifted children are very often misunderstood.
This is when giftedness really, really sucks for the child and their parents. The multitude of stories I could share about this—and, many of those stories are in my book.
The time a neighbor, a father himself, yelled at my son for not sharing. My son was just 8-years old at the time, but because of his advanced verbal skills, he was thought of as being much older. My son didn’t want to share his skateboard because it was broken and he was afraid the other child would get hurt.
The time my son’s math teacher pulled him out in the hall, angrily raising his voice and telling my son he was tired of his crap. My son honestly believed he was put into remedial math at his new school and figured he might as well help the teacher teach since he knew all that was being taught. My son wasn’t being arrogant; he genuinely wanted to help and thought this was a better use of his time to relieve his boredom than just doodling or talking.
The time, at a conference with my son’s teachers to discuss his growing anxiety and disengagement from school, a teacher angrily snapped back at me, “Thirty percent of our students are gifted”, which was her very stern warning to me that being gifted was no excuse for anything but excelling in school.
The time my gifted child was not allowed into a high school gifted program because his writing scores were not high enough. The director told me that although they were specifically there to serve high-achieving and gifted students, they were not a gifted school per se.
Bullying. Very sensitive with deep emotions. Feel like a failure. Few friends. People just don’t get you. Yup, way too often, it truly sucks to be gifted.
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