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How to Talk About Your Gifted Kid

Gifted Parenting and Strategies

How do parents of gifted students talk to others about their precocious children?  This is a question that comes up often among Young Scholars parents and the gifted community at large, and the following question was posed on our public discussion forum. See a few responses below!

Q:  “So, how do you talk about your gifted child to other parents and acquaintances? I became acutely aware of the different attitudes that exist in response to hearing about different kid’s accomplishments. Today, at a birthday party, one parent went on and on about her son’s great baseball game that morning…he was the big scorer and he is very talented. I thought I could also share a little about my own child’s latest academic accomplishment. The sports story was well received and everyone apparently welcomed hearing more about it. The academic story was initially met with a decent reception but then the ‘pushing’ questions started. ‘You must have to stand over him to get him to study so much to do so well.’ So, how do you talk about your gifted child with others? I’m tired of feeling like I have to keep everything on the down low.”

A: “I have wonderfully supportive friends and family who are fascinated and amazed by my eldest. Some of his talents are kind of like party tricks, and they all think it’s pretty cool. So I definitely post many things about my son’s achievements on Facebook. I also want my son to feel proud of himself; and so he should because he is pretty amazing.

“However, with acquaintances and strangers I am less forthcoming. Some people can get really funny, and take it less as ‘my kid is smart’, and more as ‘your kid is stupid’. I wait until they ask questions, if they ever, and I answer honestly. I am not going to act like being gifted is bad and shameful.”

A: “I see communication as an exercise in reciprocity. e.g If I listen supportively (and, usually, enthusiastically!) to you tell me about Johnny’s hockey hat trick, then I expect you to listen to me tell you about my son. I’m usually quite effusive about other people’s children’s accomplishments, and I find this attitude is beautifully contagious.

“That being said, I have no problem pointing out when that reciprocity is breached by the (very) occasional bad apple. This may not make me friends, but I don’t really care. It’s my job to be a loving, supportive parent, not Johnny’s mom’s ‘BFF’. Maybe I’m more blunt than the average forum member, but I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to manage someone’s inferiority complex if I’m making a disclosure that a reasonable person would find acceptable, even interesting.”

A: “I try to keep myself grounded, or centered. Sports are a fun past-time, nothing more, really. Intelligence is not the be-all, end-all, either. Academic achievement is certainly not. Precocity does not mean all that much in the end. Children develop at different rates, have different interests, have different amazing gifts to offer the world. I have found if I keep all of this in perspective I have no problems in these conversations. Personally, I would not bring my child’s reading or math skills up in a conversation, but if it comes up, I do not feel uncomfortable, and it has always been well-received. It is just matter-of-fact.”

A: “When I’m in a social situation and a parent talks about their child’s achievement, I smile and ask leading questions to keep them talking about that child. Invariably, I’ve found most don’t ask me much because they are so busy talking up their child. When someone does ask, like others here have said, I use words like ‘busy’, ‘loves to learn’, ‘sensitive’, etc. I don’t give specifics. I learned not to do that when DS was three and reading random signs in the office of secretary at our insurance agent. She said, ‘You did that to him?!’ in response to my sharing he knew all his letters and could count past 75 at two.”

A: “I’ve been faced with this a lot lately because we have been trying to sell our house and the choice of city for our new home relates to the school we applied to get our son into. The house buying/selling has been a saga for the last year so people at work have asked me about it. Having to explain we are trying to get our son into the gifted school leaves me feeling like I kind of have to ‘prove’ that he really does qualify to go there and I’m not just a crazy parent pushing her kid.

“In other situations, I try not to give too many specifics about what he does if I can help it. Always depends on the audience as others have said. The most tiptoeing has to be done around parents with kids of a similar age. I usually go for the angle of how much of a challenge it is and it’s not a cakewalk having a GT kid.”

A: “I save those comments for two friends and my parents. The email is generally titled, ‘because I can’t tell anyone else.”

We are threading a small needle, though, as my daughter is internalizing this. She got an award for a math contest, and failed to tell anyone. We talked about who do you tell about things like this. We had to explain it was a big deal, of the degree that had it been sports, her picture with her and the other awardees would have been in the local paper. Tell your teacher, principal (award was from another school), and *your parents*. Yeah, skip your friends, though.”

A: “When my DD won the academic award, I made sure the school and the district know. She got award from the district and the school but only a few people actually acknowledged it.

“Actually it was a good thing. It makes parents who care about education closer to you and shun the other parents away. That’s the way we like it anyway. I think we are all very proud of our kids. It’s a thin line between keeping everyone informed and bragging. The tolerance for sports is high but anything you talk about academic success will sound like bragging.

“You need to pick your audience unfortunately. The best way probably is to invite your friends over and the house is filled with your DC’s awards. It bound to start questions about those awards.”

A: “Perhaps it’s just the group of people I’m around, but we often brag about how smart our kids are to each other. I suppose it’s mostly just luck, but I’m friends with two women (we were all pregnant at the same time) and our 3 boys (all 9, 3rd grade) are all amazing readers! We often chat with each other about what books to get them, about how the school is basically failing to teach them anything when it comes to English Their kids are also good at math.. I don’t think they’ve had their two tested, though.”

A: “I only recently realized how I’ve spent 5 years minimizing everything – generally characterizing my daughter as ‘interesting & fun’ – because it neatly sidesteps the issue.

“Up until this year, I did have one (childless) friend that was safe, but when we recently had to go the psychologist route to figure out why the kid was wanting to quit kindergarten, the conversation with my friend shut down faster than you can say ‘gifted’. it was pretty shocking to hear my best friend of 35 years tell me that my kid ‘might have been slightly ahead of the curve for years, but now you’re finally seeing that they all even out in the end.’ Ha – I guess it wasn’t a safe conversation after all!

“So now it’s just my mum and my husband’s parents who hear the real stories: and as they frequently say… they understand, because they raised us. everyone else gets the old chestnut, ‘she’s quite an interesting person.’ which is quite good, because it leaves the door open for the other parent to chime in, ‘they all are, aren’t they?’ which is quite true – even if they don’t all even out in the end.”

A: “You know, there are children who are hot-housed in sports, too. Maybe next time the other parents are jumping on you for making your child do worksheets, you could turn it around on them… why are they making their child run laps, and practice drills for hours on end, when they should be playing with their friends?

“And then, once the defenses come rolling in:
– ‘It’s what he likes to do.’
– ‘We couldn’t stop him if we tried.’

“Then you say… ‘Exactly.'”

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