Every so often in multiple groups that I’m in, someone will post a question about their infant. He/She’s gifted, what toys should I buy, what flashcards should we do, what educational program should we start?
Sometimes these posts are about children as young as 3 months old. Sometimes 12 months, or 18 months. It varies.
These posts make me sad. You cannot nurture gifted with drill-and-kill academics. All that does is bore the child, and send them into early educational burn out.
I’m not writing this as an expert, because I’m not one. I could go look up studies and quote numbers and all that, but really, it’s still just my opinion. I’m just a mom with gifted kids, who’s stressed, tired, worn out, and struggling to keep up with them. And because I have that viewpoint from the ground floor, I can tell you that gifted isn’t really what these parents want.
They want smart. Academic achievers. Children who succeed in school and thrive, children who get all A’s. They want children who can wow their friends and family with the astonishing tidbits of knowledge that they painstakingly memorized. They want children who get scholarships, go to Ivy League schools, and graduate Suma Cum Laude. They want bright children.
There’s really nothing wrong with that at all. None of us want our kids to be seen as less, or as stupid. We all want our kids to be smart, to succeed, and to make us proud of their accomplishments. But here’s the thing – often, gifted is none of that. Gifted is the opposite.
Gifted is bored in the classroom because they already know this stuff and learned it 4 years ago. Gifted is struggling to fit in with their peers. Gifted is existential depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Gifted is wanting to research every little detail about their current interest and know everything about it. Gifted is reading at a high school level and doing math that’s 3 grades lower than theirs at the same time. Gifted is tough.
I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face:
gifted is wiring.
And no amount of drilling with flash cards is going to make a child gifted, any more than having me practice every day will make me a juggler. I just can’t juggle. It requires a certain amount of hand-eye coordination that I don’t have – my brain isn’t wired that way.
In fact, if your child is truly gifted and uninterested in flash cards, you’re going to run into a stone wall if you force them to drill.
No, the only way that you can create gifted is to birth one. We can’t affect the way their brain is wired any more than we can choose when they grow hair. And trust me, if I could have done something to make that happen I would have, because the Princess didn’t start growing hair until she was 2. Poor little bald girl – it’s a tough world when you have to tolerate mommy putting sunscreen on your head despite you telling her “no!”
So while these parents are desperately trying to make their child gifted, I’m over here desperately hoping that this trip to the store will go smoothly. Or that this time we’ll manage to make it through the museum without any difficulties. This time we won’t have any issues with bullies snickering because my kid knows too much about volcanoes for them, or because he talks like an adult.
I’m over here scrambling to answer the question “mommy, what’s HIV?” and trying to remember if Callisto is one of Jupiter or Saturn’s moons, because he asked and I forgot (Hellloooo Google!) Or I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how to help him make his tornado sculpture spin “like a real tornado!” (answer – a dollar store fidget spinner attached to a center pole.)
Gifted can be fun. Gifted can be wonderful accomplishments and glorious achievements. It can also be defiance, intensities, and parenting a child you feel like is a walking puzzle.
Gifted is not simple.
So if you have a gifted infant, do yourself a favor and ease up. Let them learn and explore, let them follow their interests. And if they happen to love flash cards, then go for it! Just don’t force it. And please, just love them. Love who they are, enjoy their unique personality. Don’t be disappointed if they grow up into a perfectly average kid. Because if they do, you just dodged a bullet.
If you could spend a day in our house, you might throw away the flashcards and send up prayers to the academic gods that your infant is beautifully, wonderfully, gloriously average!