When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. It’s such a common saying and it’s an easy fix. It’s a cool summer drink that everyone is familiar with, but what do you do when your lemon is really a grapefruit? Have you ever tried a substitution in a recipe that just didn’t work? That’s what happens when you try a familiar recipe on a gifted kid. Often, those “recipes” you use with typical kids just don’t work with the gifted.
Gifted children and adults tend to kick the formulaic approaches to the curb. It’s not intentional, it’s just a part of brain wiring. Try bribing an 18 month old gifted child with ice cream if he’ll just take a bath and you may have an easier time of wrestling an elephant into it. Seriously. Two adults of large size will buckle under pressure. Stubbornness seems to be a pretty common quality inherent in a gifted brain. Luckily, when supported, it manifests as tenacity as one ages.
I’m sorry schoolteachers, but the odds are that those cutesy stickers, erasers, and everything else in that treasure box will go to waste if a gifted child has put his foot down. Bribery won’t work with a gifted child who has made his mind up; whether we’re speaking about baths or finishing that too easy worksheet that is not meant to inspire higher learning. Giftedness tends to come with a mind of its own which buffers out extraneous influences. Some learn to play the game, but rest assured, they know it’s a game and they’re playing to win.
Another common tactic employed by those for whom bribery has failed is a threat of some kind. Whether it’s the threat of withdrawing a beloved toy or facial intimidation, yelling or even hitting, they all have the possibility of being met with resistance and more often, confusion. Yes, adults can intimidate a small child into compliance eventually, but I’ve seen, heard of, and been that child who demanded to know why she was being punished for something that made no sense. Try hitting a gifted child for hitting someone else and be prepared to be questioned about your illogical choice of demanding subservience. Yes, even very young gifted kids often retort with the attitude of a typical teenager. Does this sound like a unique reaction coming from a 4 year old? Maybe; if you’re not gifted. Toss out the discipline books because this ain’t happenin’.
If you’ve always wondered why that child is ‘backtalking’ an adult or is whining while your child understands ‘no’ means no, you may not have a gifted child. Giftedness is accompanied by curiosity, a judicial mind, and even a gifted 7 year old is committed to his personal definition of integrity. Yes, it’s HARD. Yes, some gifted children are more compliant than others and no, high intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is a pain in the butt. On the other hand….
How about trying that ‘new agey’ thing where you attempt to reason with a child about what’s going on and your expectations? Amazingly, they often do respond to common sense, structures that work for him, and an adult with a calm disposition. But, doesn’t everyone?
Before you can formulate a list of reasons why a gifted child should follow your directions, that child has formulated a list of his own and devised counter arguments. Consider your mountains before you commit to climbing them. There’s no need to fight a battle that will leave both sides bloodied.
Think it through.
Treat this tête-à-tête like that office presentation that you worked on for weeks and be willing to find a compromise. Just don’t forget that you are the parent. Your child will lose respect for you if you let her barrel right over you. Sometimes your expectations won’t make perfect sense and your child will have a better retort, but you set the tone. Underneath all of the bravado and intellect, they don’t have the experience and knowledge that you do. Just be flexible in another area. It’s not about winning battles, but about winning a relationship with your child.
Reach up and reach down.
Reach up in intellectual reasoning. Underestimating your child’s intellectual understanding will leave you both frustrated. They can spot trickery much quicker than a typical kid. Gifted children often feel condescended to with typical approaches. And yet, overestimating your child’s knowledge and experience will leave him or her feeling vulnerable. They don’t have a handle on life. They just expect that you do.
Reach down for a hug, some love, assurance, and build the trust that will sustain your relationship with your child into the future. So much is flooding a gifted brain all at once. Often, they just need to know that someone is on their side. No matter what.
Though you may sometimes feel that life has handed you lemons, hold onto the sweet taste of your little pink grapefruit.