aside Gifted??

I’m sorry to have to tell you, but your kid isn’t bleeping “GIFTED”.

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As life would have it, just as I’m about to write this post I get word from my 8 year olds Teacher that he has been tested for the advanced class at school and he’s eligible. Would we like him to join this class once a week? Bugger, that really stuffs up my blog now.

Well here’s the thing, I’m’m pretty sure my feelings haven’t changed on this topic. I still believe my kid is great but he is not gifted and here’s why I’m not going to go and tell everyone else he’s gifted too.

In order for him to be truly “gifted” he would have to be in the top 2-5% of children worldwide who are considered gifted. Prodigies talking in French, while playing the violin at 3 are extremely rare. Sorry to say parents but unless little Carmody is doing something like this pre-kinder then he’s definitely not gifted. So sorry to say Mrs Jones (not her real name), your child is not gifted because she can pull out a wedgie at the same time as she recites the alphabet out aloud. Special yes, gifted no.

What is considered gifted by the supersmarts of the world?

Apparently there is no one agreed definition. That’s obviously the reason many everyday parents today get confused. What is agreed on however is that the child has special abilities in a particular area for their age. There are usually 5 main areas that the giftedness is found in:

  1. Intellectual
  2. Academic
  3. Creative
  4. Artistic
  5. Leadership.

(Please don’t ask me the difference between academic and intellectual, I’m so not gifted)

The key to your child being “gifted” is that they excel in one of those areas beyond what is expected for their age. IQ tests are not a good measure because they can’t measure just one area, so don’t waste your money in signing up to that online IQ test. So there you go, not all kids can be gifted, sorry to say Mrs Jones as much as you want it, it isn’t to be.

There is also a theory that there is a strong correlation between “giftedness”, anxiety and sometimes psychotic disorders. “These traits combined can form sensitive, bright and intense personalities capable of processing vast amounts of information from their environments”. However, this ability to take it all in may also lead to what some researchers, such as Polish psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski, describe as “over excitability.” (www.theanxietyfreechild.com ) It can’t be easy for children to have expectations placed on them from a young age where they need to take in vast amounts of information and then do something with it to prove their giftedness.

The problem with the term “gifted” from my perspective as a parent is that the word has been overused and abused. Today “gifted” is used to describe almost every child that can do a something simple like a cartwheel. They may be special, beautiful, kind and clever but they are not gifted. I wonder what it means to a child to have that label attached to them throughout their schooling life and beyond. Are we creating perfection seeking narcissistic individuals? Perhaps we are setting the standards so high for our, dare I say it, average kids that they burn out and give up on being the most gifted student, athlete or artists. What drives our need as parents to burden our kids with labels that might weigh them down in life?

I can understand where Mrs Jones and her intentions come from (not that I agree with them). I understand how as parents we can get pulled into the idea that our child needs to be extraordinary.  There are whole industries dedicated to making us feel inadequate as parents and reminding us we need to get the edge for our children’s sake.

These industries produce products for pre-birth, educational activities for the pregnant belly and educational toys for 1 month olds. Child Care centres in Australia recently changed their focus from play to education; parents invest in advanced tutors for primary school children who would otherwise be outside playing with the neighbourhood kids. However no matter how much money you spend you will not be able to create genius. Children may be brighter for a bit but most will never be in the top 2% in the world even if you do the pre-birth stuff. There is a difference between learning and intelligence.

I understand the pressure on parents to prove their kids are smarter than the average Carmody. The middle class competition to get into the “best” schools means parents are signing up and attending interviews pre-birth, before the child even has a chance to prove they can play the violin at 3 months. It feels good to think you might have the edge on others for your offspring. You probably even enjoy the bragging rights if you are honest.

So besides the marketing hype and pressure what makes us want our kids to be gifted?

  • The second chance card: You thought you might have been gifted but were never given the opportunities. Your parents just didn’t bother having you tested. Without you even knowing it you’re living your dreams through your little person.
  • Keeping up with the Jones’s syndrome. You must not lose face with the Jones’s. Your child must get into the best schools too. Sad but true. How many people do we know who compete on this level?
  • Making up for your missed opportunities due to economic circumstances: You might think you’re coming from a good place, giving them what you didn’t have. Wanting them to have a better future, after all smart = $ = a better life than you had.
  • Boxing things up: I think as adults we sometimes find it easier if we can box things up into neat packages. So labels serve a purpose in making our life neater and easier for us to understand. Little Johnny might not be the best socially but if he’s labelled gifted it makes sense to us accept and move on.
  • Outside influences: There are strong systems working to convince us gifted is much better then ungifted and instil in us the anxiety that if we don’t act now  our children may not make the cut to the next level of giftedness.

So what about the children?

Well for the ones who are labelled gifted by parents and or schools, they have a lifetime of perfection and expectations to live up. What happens when they fail at something? And they will fail at some point, everyone does. Will they take it as a personal weakness and take it to heart to the point where depression and self-hatred sets in? Depends on the child I suppose but if you’re always used to being gifted what happens when you’re not? What happens when they feel like they have let down their hardworking parents who have invested everything to make them successful gifted beings? Will they have the resilience to bounce back?

What of the rest of us ungifted lot? If we label certain children gifted and talented what about the rest of them? If the rest are ungifted how will they ever outgrow that label in an institution like a school? I always think about the class clown as a good example of labelling being negative. The class clown may not have been intellectually gifted but was in fact the funniest kid in the class. I never understood why there wasn’t a comedy course for those kids. They could have been the next big comedian. They were labelled ungifted and never realised that they were somebody because the only ones considered gifted are those that can be measured with a test.

Shouldn’t we just say kids are kids, they love learning no matter how gifted or ungifted they are. My son is a beautiful, caring, funny and a smart human being but I won’t be telling him he is gifted and therefore in a special class. He has things that he is good at just like his brother and his friends. What if as parents we are so focused on proving giftedness that we are actually missing the special moments, the moments that help them thrive into beautiful individuals. So please don’t get obsessed about giftedness, you might just miss the real stuff. Average is OK and not everyone needs to be a brilliant academics.

I love my son for who he is now and not who he is expected to be.

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2 comments

  1. From a mother who was labelled as gifted from a young age, I will never tell my children they are gifted. I tell them they’re smart and clever and can do whatever they choose to do, but the gifted label worked in reverse for me – made me think I didn’t have to try. I don’t think they’re that ‘gifted’ anyway (must take after their father ;-))

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