Parents: What You Can Do!
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

From Genius Denied: If you are the parent of a gifted child, realize that your child is exceptional and is likely to have different needs than other students. Parenting a gifted child can be extra challenging because the child’s developmental trajectories vary from the norm. The more gifted the child is, the greater the variance from the norm, and the more the parents will have to adapt their parenting strategies.

The following were originally excerpted from Genius Denied, pp. 177-182, with updates and links added.

  • Learn about the characteristics of gifted children. If you suspect your child is gifted, have her assessed. The Davidson Gifted Database has numerous articles on identifying gifted children.  Go To: Browse by Topic - Assessment and Characteristics. See also the “Frequently Asked Questions about Giftedness." 

  • Read all you can on giftedness. The needs of gifted young people are often misunderstood. Read what the experts say about various aspects of “being gifted.” To go into greater depth, check out the Davidson Gifted Database for numerous articles on social/emotional issues such as peer relations, perfectionism, and underachievement.  

  • Adopt “gifted-friendly” parenting strategies. Parenting any exceptional child has its challenges; you’ll find useful parenting information in the Davidson Gifted Database. Go To: Parenting for High Potential.

  • Assure your child that it is okay to be different. Highly intelligent children often feel very disconnected from their classmates and other age peers. To learn about how gifted children develop friendships, see Recommended Readings on Friendship.”

  • Seek out other families with gifted kids, either through area organizations or through your school or community groups. Make sure your child has the opportunity to make friends with children who share his/her interests.

  • Take the time to develop positive relationships with your child’s teachers and school administrators. Recognize that they are often doing the best they can given the knowledge they have and the constraints within which they have to work.

  • Take your child’s complaints of being bored or under-challenged seriously. Teachers and schools are owed respect and a certain amount of leeway, but no child should be subjected to a miserable educational environment.

  • Make a point to stay informed about your child’s educational experience.  Advocate for appropriate placement and a challenging curriculum if your child’s educational needs are not being met.  See “Parenting Tips on Educational Advocacy.

  • If your child’s educational program is not a good match for his/her abilities, have solutions and ideas before approaching the school.  Explore options by brainstorming as a family, conducting research, searching the Internet, and talking with other parents of gifted children. See “Educational Options for Gifted Learners

  • Hone your advocacy skills.  Before asking for a meeting with your child’s teacher, learn how to facilitate a successful school meeting. See Recommended Readings on Educational Advocacy.”

  • Don’t rely on the classroom alone to satisfy your child’s desire to learn. Investigate after-school programs, weekend programs, summer classes, and distance learning experiences. Search for them in Davidson Gifted Database - Resource Search.

  • Many families with gifted children consider homeschooling because it allows them to individualize the curriculum to match their child’s abilities. The Davidson Gifted Database contains a number of useful resources for those who wish to homeschool their children.

  • Consider early college. Highly gifted young people are often ready for the rigor of college-level material before the age of 18. One way to explore this option is for your child to take a class at a local community college. Other students explore early college as part of summer Talent Search programs. You can also search the Davidson Gifted Database for summer programs and early college information, also to see if there are early college experiences and/or early entrance programs available near you. 

  • Collaborate with others to start a school for gifted students. Many states have provisions for charter schools for gifted students. Explore the options for new private schools, charter schools, or residential high schools in your state.

  • Become active in your local gifted support/advocacy group(s) and/or gifted home schooling group(s). If one does not exist in your area, start one.

  • Highlight learning options in your community that have benefited your child. For example, if your child has a positive experience at the local community college, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

  • Locate a mentor to support the development of your child’s talents and interests.  If your child could benefit from working with a mentor, see “Mentoring - A Guidebook (PDF)

  • Contact local newspapers or TV stations to inform them of academic contests, high-achieving students or gifted programs and ask them to do a feature.

  • Coach a Math Counts team or get involved in other academic competitions. Search the Davidson Gifted Database to find out what competitions are available.

  • Learn about the opportunities offered through the regional and national academic Talent Search programs. Go To: for a list of Talent Searches.

  • Find out if your school district provides professional development opportunities or in-service training for teachers about the needs of gifted learners. If the district doesn’t, ask officials to offer such training.

  • Learn about your state’s gifted policies. See the Policy section of this website.

  • Write your state legislator and ask him or her to sponsor the creation of a residential high school for gifted students. Read the Genius Denied excerpt about Indiana’s  Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities.

  • Write your state legislator and ask him or her to sponsor legislation requiring schools to screen students for giftedness and/or to lower the age of identification to include pre-K and Kindergarten. Ask him or her to support legislation mandating that schools meet the educational needs of all who qualify.

  • Become involved with the PTA and curriculum selection committees to make sure the needs of gifted students are addressed.

  • Join your local and state Gifted and Talent Organization; become active in bringing about positive change for gifted learners.

  • Donate above-grade level books to an elementary school for in-class libraries.

  • Counter stereotypes of gifted students. If parents are talking about acceleration, for instance, and one parent says, “I knew a kid who skipped a few grades and was always miserable,” you could bring up a story of a child who made more friends in his new grade and was happier.

  • Provide copies of key research articles on gifted issues to teachers and administrators. Articles can be downloaded and printed from the Davidson Gifted Database.

  • Nominate teachers who challenge gifted students for local or state teaching awards. Emphasize in the nomination letter that this teacher is helping solve the widespread problem of underachieving gifted students.

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