Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I would never wish giftedness on my kids...

I have to say, just recently, I've been seeing so many references to "the smartest toddler in the world" and "how to switch on your child's potential genius"... And then there is all the talk about "Early Literacy" and "getting in while kids are still in that sponge phase of develop"...

What is the obsession with early high achievement and giftedness in children?

Do people honestly think gifted children will be more succcessful or more happy in life?

The smartest toddler in the world is a two year old with an IQ of 157 who can tell you the capital cities of 35 countries and count to 20 in spanish (as well as English, I'm guessing)... Her IQ was compared to Einsteins, which was 160, even though the IQ of a two year old cannot possibly be compared to the IQ of a grownup. And, what exactly is the point of testing a two years olds IQ? Does it benefit the two year old at all? Or is it just for spectator amusement?

Does being gifted make life easier?

Mostly, I don't think it does. Gifted children are curiosities to adults, they're like new toys that adults want to "test out" or even compare themselves to. They often ridiculed or resented. They struggle to be taken seriously by most people outside their immediate family, to have their needs met - both academic AND emotional needs. They're constantly involuntarily put "on the spot"... Some parents do their bright and gifted children a MASSIVE disservice by constantly pointing out to other people who bright and gifted their child is. This has the unfortunate side effect of not allowing the children to be known for themselves, but rather for what they CAN DO.

Who a child is, is not the same as what a child can do. So many gifted children are only ever known for what their latest "amazing trick" is because it seems to be what many parents fall into the trap of focusing on - or at least what they seem to believe other people want to know...

And I can tell you, from personal experience, that not processing information the same way as "normal people" is a very isolating thing. It is very hard to get people to relate to you when you are not doing or thinking what they are doing or thinking at the same stage as everyone else. When the way you think differentiates you from other people, this massive gulf opens up and makes relating to other people very, very difficult.

Some bright and gifted children have a lot of charm that closes the gulf, but many don't have that (as with the wider population, charisma isn't something everyone is born with), and then, if you've grown up being known as "the world smartest toddler", it's very hard to overcome other people's expectations that you are going to be impressive...

Grasping concepts intuitively, easily and very early in life is great, but when that become "who you are" to other people, it can be a massive social handicap. I just don't get why anyone would wish that on their child...

1 comment:

Jen said...

I read this post a couple of days ago and keep thinking of it so thought I would come in and post.

I see giftedness the same as sexuality to some extent, in that you cannot choose to be gay or straight, but are born that way (my belief). I don't believe that anything that you do can make your child gifted, I think it is something that they are from birth. It is in their genes.

I do think that if you have a gifted child then you do have some difficult choices to make. If you do not acknowledge the giftedness and treat the child like any other then you could face a very bored child on your hands and perhaps an isolated one.

To be gifted I think is not a 'gift' . The children often are developmentally and intellectually ahead of their same aged peers, and yet emotionally they may be on the same lines as them. So they can have trouble playing with children their own ages, and yet are not mature enough to play with older children effectively either.

I have found also that there is not alot of literature out there for gifted children, so a 5 year old reading novels should not be reading novels that are geared to a tween. The content is not suitable.

I do agree with you that the trend to get children into literacy from an early age and pushing education on them before they can barely speak is scary and I feel that it can rob them of the natural course of discovery they experience at such a young age. I instead put materials out that the children can gravitate to if they want to. They might be alpahbet or words bingo, card games etc. It is not a lesson, just fun :) . I have to admit though I am sometimes tempted to 'teach' Angel and even Ashton..I love how their sponges work at this age! They just absorb everything :p . But I will refrain.

Great post Sif.

Teenagers and the failing parent...