If you have a gifted child, you’ve got a lot on your plate.
Highly intelligent children are not only extremely sensitive and curious, they can also be strong willed and “difficult” – they want to be treated as equals. They usually have strong egos, creative, original ideas, a strong sense of justice, are analytical and high on intrinsic motivation. In other words, they do now bow so easily to the will of others and refuse to conform to things that don’t make sense to them. They have a lot of ‘why’s and personal interests, and you probably have some trouble getting them to comply with your requests.
Here’s how you can make it easier on yourselves and especially on your children – by making them feel accepted, heard and understood, and by helping them understand and respect you.
There are 3 main rules of discussion with gifted children:
1. Use causal and informative phrases (if— then).
You can use these in connection with your own personal feelings: ‘If you do that when I’m tired, it makes me angry’ or ‘Mommy gets scared if you climb so high’ or ‘It makes me so happy when you help around the house’.
You can also use causal phrases to communicate information about possible consequences: ‘If you don’t stop screaming, we’ll have to go home’, ‘If you do that, you might fall and hurt yourself’, ‘If you eat that, you will get sick’, ‘If you hit him, he’ll be upset and won’t play with you anymore’. (Never threaten consequences you don’t really intend to carry through!)
2. Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages.
Instead of crushing diatribes along the lines of ‘You always do this or that’, which damage their self-esteem, address your kids in connection with your own wishes and needs. Avoid giving orders or “bossing them around”.
‘I need some quiet now to finish my work.’ ‘I would be so happy if you stopped hitting your sister’. ‘I would like to eat in peace.’ ‘This kind of behavior bothers me/makes me sad/ I don’t like it at all’.
The human brain is designed for survival. As such, it is designed to rely on information that it processes itself, not on pre-chewed, predigested instructions from others. A very intelligent brain will all the more block everything that comes in the form of rigid instructions for which there is no clear explanation. Making the requests about yourself makes them informative, in other words interesting, and the brain will let them in.
3. Try to understand and verbalize the child’s unexpressed feelings.
Gifted children often have quite tumultuous emotions. They cannot always verbalize these, so try to do it for them. ‘So what you’re feeling is…’, ‘So you need/want/feel….’, ‘Are you sad/angry/ashamed/excited… because..?’
Give your children the feeling they are being listened to, heard and understood, and try to take their feelings into consideration in your future behavior. This is not to say you should give in to the child’s whims or tantrums, or that the child must always get what he/she wants. By no means. Most of the times simply letting the child know ‘I understand what’s important to you’ will save the parent a lot of trouble. Gifted children perceive more dramatically the power grownups have over them, as they are more independent and would like to be able to decide more things for themselves.
It goes without saying that these rules also apply in adult relationships. Your partner will appreciate them for sure! 🙂