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Parenting for High Achievement and Avoiding Underachievement

Gifted Education and Support

This Tips for Parents article authored by Dr. Sylvia Rimm is from a seminar she hosted for Young Scholar families. She lists seven specific tips for parents, and offers an explanation of each. Rimm touches on topics such as Foresight, Praise, Power, United Parenting, and Twice Exceptional Children.

  1. Foresight
    Gifted children often bring such immediate delight that it’s easy to believe that they know what is best for them and that our role as parents is only to provide appropriate stimulation. While providing gifted children with challenge and learning are important contributions to their development, guiding them with foresight and confidence will help them feel more secure and will assist parents in avoiding some future problems.
  2. Praise
    Praise conveys expectations for your children. Whether it’s parents, grandparents or strangers on the street that convey high complements to your children, it can convey enormous pressure to them or only high and excellent motivation. Super praise indicates to kids that you expect them to be best and can result in too competitive or perfectionistic expectations. Too frequent praise conditions kids to expect continuous praise and feel inadequate when they aren’t attracting attention. Since praise conveys your values, consider praise words like smart, hardworking, thoughtful, kind or good thinker rather than brilliant, genius, best, smartest, gorgeous, perfect, natural athlete, like Albert Einstein, etc. When others overpraise your kids, explain to them that it’s just the way some adults talk, and while they’re smart, there are plenty of smart kids around and none of them are really best. Encourage them to always do their best by emphasizing that the harder they work, the smarter they get, and the smarter they are, the harder they’ll work. Hopefully, that will get rid of the myth that if you’re smart, it should be easy.
  3. Power
    The adult-sounding vocabulary and reasoning of gifted kids can often cause parents to treat small children like miniature adults. While it’s not appropriate to talk down to children, they need to be treated as children. While they’ll be happy to accept all the power you give them, it will cause them to feel insecure and enjoy power and control for the sake of control. I recommend raising children with the V of LoVe: that give children little power early but expands power and choices as they mature, thus causing them to feel appropriately empowered. The inverted V gives them power too soon, and they expect adult privileges too soon without concomitant responsibilities. On the other hand, parents who don’t increase privileges and responsibilities with maturity cause children to feel and be overprotected.
  4. United Parenting
    Respect and agreement between parents and between parents and teachers are a high priority for raising successful and happy children. Parents can easily foster underachievement by providing the easy way out. This is especially difficult for parents of gifted children, since many teachers don’t understand the special needs of gifted children. Parents need to be advocates for their children, but they need to do that carefully or respectfully, or they will find their gifted kids avoiding schoolwork only because it’s a little repetitive, even when it is appropriately challenging.
  5. Twice Exceptional Children
    Gifted children with learning disabilities or attention deficits often have double the problems because the disabilities may mask the giftedness, or they may become defensive about their problem areas and begin avoiding work that feels threatening. Both teachers and parents need to be sensitive to these children’s differences because they can trap gifted children into lifelong underachievement. Emphasizing a work ethic and helping kids to use their strengths to develop their weak areas will help these children with their struggles.
  6. Suggested Books
    I suggest several of my books for further reference. They are listed below: CD’s and DVD’s are also available on the topics I’ve discussed with you.
    How To Parent So Children Will Learn (Three Rivers Press, 1996)
    Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades — And What You Can Do About It (Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1995)
    See Jane Win (Three Rivers Press, 1999)
    See Jane Win for Girls (Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2003)

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