Every gifted child is unique and unrepeatable. Chances are, your parenting will be, too. From busting the myths and misconceptions surrounding gifted children to reveling in the unimaginable joys, here’s my not so formulaic guide to raising, teaching, and loving the differently-wired.
When my oldest daughter was about a year old, I decided I needed a hobby. Writing would have been the most logical course of action but I was too tired, too strung out, too lost in the throes of loving an unusual child to distraction to put my heart down on a page.
But the kitchen – that was a different matter entirely. I liked buying food. I liked eating it even better. The idea of throwing myself into a cookbook and studying ratios, flavor combinations, the matching of tastes and textures filled my weary heart with a satisfaction I expected motherhood would provide. I could learn the skills, adapt the formulas, and create what I’d imagined all along.
I loved cooking. It was predictable. It was rational. It allowed for creativity within a set of guidelines you could follow in order to get the desired result.
My motherhood was not like cooking – at all. I was raising an unidentified Twice-Exceptional – the kind of parenting situation where formulas don’t apply. She got older, siblings arrived, and the recommendations well-meaning experts became ever-more useless. Nothing they said ever worked for her or her siblings. We carried on, grappling as best we could with overexcitabilities and exceptionalities, all the while watching them accomplish the improbable:
- Identifying, evaluating, and synthesizing adult emotions at 18 months
- Creating detailed, representative art at two
- Teaching themselves to read at three and four
- Going into kindergarten with a seventh-grade knowledge base at five
For a long time our family just kind of wandered in the desert, longing for the Promised Land. I had long ago thrown out the cookbooks and was pretty much just winging it when the eldest failed out of kindergarten.
If we’d had a camel that straw wouldn’t have broken it. But we didn’t, so it broke me instead.
Well, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. But it did awaken something within me, a fire that had smoldered for too long. It became clear to me that our life with these kids wasn’t miserable or weary – it was unique and unrepeatable.
Our approach to parenting them needed to be, too.
And so I researched. And I reached out. And I started this blog as a way to let other mothers know they aren’t alone. I don’t have one single best tip for raising the differently-wired precisely because I don’t think there is one. What I do have is knowledge I’ve amassed over the past decade that I’m thrilled to pass on to you:
Gifted Parenting 101: A Not So Formulaic Guide to Raising the Differently-Wired
Giftedness Doesn’t Fit Social Stereotypes
If you mention the word gifted, most people picture one of two things: either a nerdy social outcast who prefers books to people or the valedictorian of the graduating class. Giftedness doesn’t look like either of things. It is a biological construct in which certain areas of the brain are wired to take in and process information at an incredible rate of speed. This manifests differently in every person, both in terms of the type of support needed and the type of talent presented.
- 6 Outrageous Myths About Giftedness, and How They Harm our Kids
- We Don’t Need to Rethink Giftedness. We Need to Rethink School
- Gifted Kids Need Advocates. Here are 5 Ways to Do That Now
- That Kid You Think is Annoying? Try Taking a Second Look (Why Perception and Reality Matter When You’re Dealing with Gifted Kids)
- Want to Have Your Heart Broken? Take a Close Look at an Angry Gifted Kid
- Mama, Put Down the Flashcards. That Gifted Toddler Just Needs You
Gifted Children Can Have Special Needs
Just because a child’s intellectual ability is higher than average doesn’t mean there won’t be other things going on. Differently-wired kids can have comorbid diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, depression, anxiety, and more. Any child who is gifted but has difficulty accessing the academic curriculum is a Twice-Exceptional. You can learn more about it here:
- Is Your Child Twice-Exceptional? Here are 4 Ways to See It, And Why You Absolutely Need to Know
- Why I homeschool my Gifted, Sensory Processing Disorder Child, and How
- Why Gifted Kids are Anxious, Plus 4 Ways to Help Them Cope
- Misunderstood and Gifted: How to Parent When a Label Doesn’t Fit
- How to Survive the Holidays with a Twice-Exceptional Child
- When Picky Eating is More than a Phase: The Truth About Problem Feeding
- Perfectly Pretty Fidget Jewelry for Sensory Tweens and Teens
- Twice-Exceptional Parenting is Life Changing. Buckle Up for a Fantastic Ride
Giftedness isn’t the Same as High Achieving
I am gifted. I had a 2.4 GPA the first semester of ninth grade. I’d been a straight A student all through elementary and middle school. When I got to high school I actually had to do my homework. I didn’t want to do my homework. My grades reflected that.
Gifted kids are people, and just like any other person they are going to struggle with things like motivation and reluctance in the classroom. We do these children a disservice when we automatically expect stellar grades across the board.
- 5 Reasons Gifted Kids Aren’t Motivated, Plus 5 Ways to Help Them Cope
- Derailing Impostor Syndrome in Your Gifted Child
- Put an end to Perfection Paralysis: 3 Unexpected Ways to Help Your Kid Out
- Got a Reluctant Gifted Learner? Gifted and High Achieving Aren’t the Same Thing
Gifted Children Might do Better in Alternative Educational Environments
Some gifted kids don’t do well in school, and it’s not just a matter of not being high achieving. There’s boredom, overexcitabilities, and asynchronous development, not to mention Twice-Exceptionalities that make a classroom environment almost impossible to navigate.
This was the case with my oldest. I never would have imagined that she would fail out of kindergarten, but she did. Homeschooling her has been the best decision I could have made for her and her development. You can find out more about our decision here:
- What Schools Get Wrong About Socialization, According to a Homeschool Mom
- Gifted Homeschooling 101: How to Thrive When the Classroom Fails
- Embracing the Art of Us: 10 Ways Homeschooling Healed Our Family
- 10 Practical Tips for Homeschooling a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
Gifted Children Have Big Questions – about Faith, the World, and their Existence
Growing up gifted isn’t easy. What seems like universally accepted ideas or theories are actually opportunities for deep introspection and questioning. They will question everything.
And they should. I’m a firm believer that children should know not just what they believe but why they believe it. They are going to need a lot of encouragement from us on that. They are going to need our unconditional love and good resources at their fingertips to help them find the answers they are seeking. Here’s how I handle that in my home:
- Catechism of the Seven Sacraments: Lego Catechesis for Exceptional Catholic Kids
- Growing up Gifted: Navigating the Real World with a Gifted Child
- I Wanted My Daughter to Be Normal. Here’s What I Learned Instead
- Choose How to Find the Right Activity for Your Gifted, Sensitive Child (And Guard Her Heart, Too)
Raising Gifted Kids Can be Overwhelming
If you talk about it, you’re bragging. If it keep quiet, you’re sheltering them. You have to find the right balance between advocating and being a helicopter parent. And you probably aren’t sleeping much at night.
Parenting gifted kids is hard. We need just as much encouragement, self-care, and community as our children do:
- I Can’t Tell You My Child is Gifted: Why a Gifted Mind is More than a Growth Mindset
- I’m Not Bragging When I Say My Child is Gifted
- What to Say (And What Not to Say) When You Meet the Parents of a Gifted Kid
- It’s Not Just in Your Head: Self-care for Moms of Gifted Children
- Do You Have a Gifted Child? Here’s What I Wish I Had Known
- How To Talk To Your Child’s Teacher (or Coach, or Mentor) Without Setting the School on Fire
- There are No Boring Days
- How to Raise a Gifted Child Without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind
Raising Gifted Kids is an Adventure
As parents of differently-wired children, we are always on the move. Because be honest – you know your kid will either be the president or a criminal mastermind, and the former is highly preferable:
- 100 Resources for Gifted Kids
- 8 Budget-Friendly Ways to Support Your Child’s Passion (And Follow Every Single Rabbit Hole, Too
- No Rest for the Gifted (or Anxious, or Sensitive): 5 Simple Tips for Achieving Restful Sleep
- I will Treasure You: Parenting Resolutions for a Gifted Child
- Grief and the Gifted, Highly Sensitive Child
- Looking for Adventure? Try Parenting a Gifted Child
- Gifted Parenting is Educational – And I Don’t Mean for the Kids
Gifted Kids Need Social and Emotional Support
It can be really hard to watch our kids flounder, struggling to make friends or to believe in themselves. But there are plenty of ways we can support our kids without hovering. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
- Finding Her Pack: Intellectual Peers and Community in a Gifted Child’s Life
- Be Gifted But Don’t Be Rude: Balancing Needs and Social Skills in the Gifted Child
- How to Find the Right Mentor: A Child-Centric, Worry-Free Approach
- Mama, I’m not Gifted: 4 Ways to Support Your Emotionally Gifted Child
Gifted Kids are a Joy
They are thoughtful. Considerate. They have a heart for the underdog and a devotion to truth and justice. They are also creative and imaginative, quick-witted and fun. Too often, we focus on the struggles we experience while raising them. It’s a stellar idea to take a break from that and focus on the good:
- She Brought Me Peanut Butter and Banana: The Joy of Twice-Exceptional Kids
- 4 Incredible Joys of Raising Gifted Children
- 3 Amazing Benefits of Imaginary Friends
- 3 Simple Ways to Ignite imagination
After 12 years of parenting three gifted and 2E kids, I’ve discovered there is no one right way to do this.
Differently-wired kids are unique and unrepeatable. Raising them is pretty much the same. You can’t apply a formula to a situation that doesn’t want or need one. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with information and love the kiddo you were given to raise.