Myths of the “Gifted” Child

Originally this bit of The Equuschick’s brain was entitled “The Myth of the Gifted Child”, and while there is some truth in that idea because well, every child on the face of the earth has been given gifts that others lack, and anyway, “gifted” in its most commonly used form today is a Label and let’s all say it together, DOWN WITH LABELS, why can’t every child just be the child that God made them to be instead of the child their Label says they should be?

Yes. As parents, let us all give our children permission to be the person that God made them to be because God made them just who HE knew they would need to be, and isn’t that the point? And the end.

At least, the end of the bit of The Equuschick’s brain entitled “The Myth of the Gifted Child.”

But this other bit of her brain is currently on what some might call “myths of the gifted children” hence her title, but today she will be using the term Child With a Non-traditional Learning Style Who May Be Advanced in Some Areas.

(Actually, she’ll be using the term CWNTLSWMBEASA but now you know what it stands for. Yes, it is cumbersome. Feel free to suggest other terms as they occur to you.)

Yes, all children are brilliant. But let’s face it, not all children are Mozarts or Thomas Alva Edisons.

On the other hand, let us not forget that in today’s world Mozart would have been recognized as quite probably autistic, and Thomas Alva Edison burned down his mother’s barn when he was but a young lad. 4 Words: Lack of Inhibitory Control.

But in our culture today, where we Label children, and where all we usually remember about Mozart is his music and all we remember about Mr. Edison is the light bulb, we have created some myths that surround these interesting folk.

These myths conjure simplistic ideas and simplistic phrases along the lines of “You just need to give wings to their dreams.”

Now The Equuschick, though she probably hadn’t thought about it much, actually fell for this one before marriage and motherhood. If she had never articulated it in these words it was only because it never came up in conversation, but if anyone had asked what she thought raising a CWNTLSWMBEASA would be like, she would have been all, “Oh how delightful! All a kid like that needs is just wings to his dreams.”

Silly Equuschick, says the older Equuschick now to the younger Equuschick.

CWNTLSWMBEASAs don’t need wings. God gave them the wings. He even gave them their passion for a launch pad. And make no mistake, they NEED that launching pad of their passion. Encourage it, never take it away. But they don’t need you to build it for them. What they need from you is a landing pad.

This landing pad should be solid enough to take no nonsense and to teach them things that will be quite hard for them to learn, and yet soft enough not to break them when they fall. They don’t fall well. They are not used to it.

In other words, a context. A context, both intellectual and moral, in which to use and expand their capacities, is crucial.

The intellectual context is key because, interestingly enough as all of you parents of CWNTLSWMBEASAs already know, a child that is truly advanced in certain specific areas is likely to be at least not quite as quick, and in fact often a bit behind, in other areas.

“Well-rounded” is just not a term that describes the natural state of these little blessings.

The Dread Pirate Grasshopper could speak in full sentences long before most of his peers, at the age of 2 he demanded a detailed explanation of what “fog” was and how it was made, at 2 and 1/2 he was able to thoroughly enjoy a tour of the local art museum and describe and discuss various works of some pretty serious art, and at the age of 3 listened to The Equuschick read aloud The Hobbit and was able to hold lengthy and philosophical discussions about it. He retained enough that he can still discuss it, in some detail, months later.

The Dread Pirate Grasshopper is 3 and 1/2 now and does not yet count past the number of 10. (Until quite recently, he gave up in frustration at number 8.)

Now,there are three possible explanations for this and the most likely is explanation #4, all of the above.

No, mathematics is not his forte, but neither is it the forte of either of his parents. What this means, especially in the context of The Equuschick who feels as if she has a blind spot in her brain every time she has a conversation with a math pro, is that without at all intending to hold him back or handicap him in any way, she simply doesn’t focus on numbers as much. Wordplay comes very naturally to The Equuschick. Playing with numbers is something she has to put on the to-do list and actively remember to do.

The second explanation is implied above namely, no, it isn’t the DPG’s forte.

But the third explanation is perhaps the most fascinating, because it circles back up again to the question of context- in this case, moral.

Simply put, the DPG is bored by numbers. They are not his passion to begin with, and they also require more mental exertion of him than wordplay does. Most people don’t like work, and people who may not have had to do it at all in some areas are often quite shocked and resentful when they encounter Hard Work in others.

The Equuschick doesn’t know this bit from second-hand experience. This was the Equuschick’s teen years. She liked reading, she liked writing. They were easy, but she didn’t know they were easy because that was what The Equuschick was good at, she thought they were just easy things to do. She thought math was sooooooooooo hard because of Math, and not because of undertrained work ethic muscles.

So it is with the Dread Pirate Grasshopper. Most of the things that he enjoys doing, he has been able to learn to do with quick and ready ease for most of his young life.

When he has to try, he really doesn’t know how. When he doesn’t understand something the first time, he resents it because it is unexpected. When he falls, he doesn’t know how to land.

This explains in part the CWANTLSWMBAISA’s tendencies towards short fuses, quick melt-downs, emotional drama, and the speed and passion with which things escalate when they’re frustrated.

But to explain something is not the same thing as to excuse it. In order to help this child reach a stable and sucessful adulthood, it is still just as crucial (perhaps more so, as The Equuschick hopes to address in a later post, see last paragraph) to train them out of these habits as quickly as possible so they can accelerate without burn-out as they reach maturity.

And so, it has become to clear to The Equuschick that her job as the DPG’s mother is to build in him a landing pad of equal parts hard work and self-discipline, encouragement and grace.

Yikes.

But this is precisely what all children need anyway, isn’t it? The thing about CWNTLSWMBEASAs is that in the light of their most visible capacities, their fragility as children, and only children, often becomes over-shadowed.

There is still the whole learning style thing, and the practicalities of working with the DPG on numbers is a whole ‘nother funny story.

Which brings The Equuschick to this question- Would there be any interest in a series on these sorts of topics?

When she started to write this, she had a whole range of things simmering for discussion. Inhibitory control. Physical coordination. OCD tendencies. Emotions, which relate to inhibitory control, how they do so, the “whole” child…etc. (And of course, the funny stories.)

In light of the DPG, The Equuschick has actually been asked questions before, such as how? why? and what do you do with them? But the answers are legion, and are often questions themselves.

So if you are interested in a series, of uknown duration, on these sorts of things, please comment. If not The Equuschick shall keep all these bits of her brain in a filing cabinet in the office somewhere.

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