Tips for Parents: Parenting the Gifted Child
Amend, E.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Dr. Edward Amend, who provides a number of ideas on how to foster relationships, improve discipline and increase motivation for your gifted child.

On parenting a special needs child

  • First, remember that a special needs child, of whatever variety, takes more time. One problem for parents of gifted children, which is different from parents of other types of special needs children, is that other parents do not understand that a gifted child is a special needs child. Their needs arise from strengths, making them less visible than the needs of other special needs children.
  • Parents need to take time and take care of themselves. Cultivate adult relationships and get AWAY to gain both perspective and peace of mind for a while. Make some "special time" for yourself or for you and your significant other.

On parent-child relationships

  • Each parent should spend time with each kid (one-on-one) to foster those relationships—“special time” as described in Guiding the Gifted Child. There is no substitute for this undivided attention, even for brief periods of time.
  • Develop a healthy relationship based upon respect and trust to help guide you in determining when to “push” your child and when to support or nurture her. Balance between pushing the necessities of work in school and fostering the interests he shows.
  • Value the child for who she is—encourage and support her. Find outlets to let her “show off.” Children’s theater, music lessons and recitals, chess tournaments, anywhere! Perhaps it is simply a family talent show—the venue is less important than the outlet.

On peers

  • Remember that peers may always be difficult for gifted kids of any level, primarily because of their “different-ness” and asynchrony. They may just not fit well with age peers.
  • Help your child choose peers carefully and work to foster relationships with gifted age peers when you can find them.
  • Use technology to help kids stay better connected, and don’t forget that your child may have different peers for different activities.

On siblings

  • To improve sibling relationships, foster cooperation on tasks of mutual benefit (either naturally-occurring or set-ups) and help each see how achieving or behaving affects other sibling(s) and the family in positive ways.

On Discipline

  • One of the biggest problems parents of gifted kids face is their own impatience—just as our kids can be impatient, so can we as we want things to change NOW. Seek progress, not perfection, and keep trying a strategy (preferably one both parents can agree upon and implement consistently) for 4-6 weeks before reconsidering.
  • Try to find positive ways to reinforce appropriate behavior. Too many parents jump right to “What can I do to him when” he doesn’t do something, before looking at how to improve what he does do.
  • Watch how you phrase your statements. Using questions like “Will you make you bed?” could be literally interpreted and answered, “No, thank you.” If there isn’t a choice, make sure you don’t give one accidentally by phrasing your command as a question.
  • Set as few limits as possible, enforce the set limits, and develop relationships with your child. Be consistent and follow through. Respectful communication and logical or natural consequences often help, while negative behavior, sarcastic comments and harsh punishments don’t.

On homework motivation

  • Work with schools to make homework both relevant and appropriate. Meaningless repetition of material already mastered helps no one.
  • Try to develop good work habits early and build on those—early on, don’t worry as much about the grades as long as the child is learning and developing good work habits.
  • Be sure to reinforce effort, not only outcome.
  • Use a mix of advance (also called anticipatory) praise, unexpected reinforcement, set consequences, and natural consequences to motivate.

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