Parents of gifted children are typically the single most important influence in their child’s development, outlook and fulfillment of talent. In addition to being their child’s primary caregivers, parents of gifted children alternately function as “mentor,” “praiser,” “disciplinarian,” “playmate,” “teacher,” and sometimes “best friend”-to name just a few. Parents are truly the guardians and nurturers of their children’s talents.
The home environment is critical in nurturing giftedness and instilling the values conducive to its full blossoming. This monograph, culled from the research and work of many experts in the fields of child development and gifted education, focuses on a number of key environmental, academic, and affective variables.
The monograph offers practical suggestions for interacting with gifted children at home, for building the kind of foundation to support the edifice of talent, productivity, and self-actualization characterizing gifted adults. It is not intended to deal with all the concerns that parents of gifted children have in raising their youngsters. The specific issues addressed are some of the critical ones that the author has discussed with parents during his 20 years in the field of gifted education. The primary age range of children addressed in the monograph is toddler through elementary school. Specific reference to age is made as needed or appropriate. Parents may use their discretion in applying the activities to children of different ages.
For the purposes of this monograph, “gifted” may be considered primarily as the combination of three characteristics—above average ability, creativity, and task commitment—coming together in an area of the child’s interest (Renzulli, 1978). Children may not display all areas. In fact, most children are not.
The activities and suggestions in this monograph are designed to nurture talent development, whether academic or creative. They are not formally “differentiated” as one might expect of school activities for gifted children. While all children might benefit from many of these activities, gifted children will tend to excel in their responses (e.g., quantity and/or quality of ideas, interest, excitement), or become interested in them at an earlier age than other children. This will vary on an individual basis.
Considerations and Strategies for Parenting the Gifted Child
- Evaluate your parenting style, temper overbearing personality traits, focus on positive aspects of behavior, allow for unstructured time, and balance permissiveness with authority.
- Discipline doesn’t have to be negative. Children require structure and age appropriate responsibilities. Rules should be few, reasonable, and consistently enforced.
- Provide an enriched environment with lots of materials and opportunities for exploration.
- Remember the ABCs of stress management: attitude, behavior, and environment. In order to avoid stress, children need to be physically fit, learn to relax, learn to break tasks into manageable bites, and need to have positive role models.
- Creativity requires a nurturing, expressive climate. Allow for regression, solitude, and divergent thinking.
- Help your child learn critical thinking, problem solving, and study skills. Don’t be afraid to use everyday family conflicts and problems to help your child learn the building blocks of thinking skills.
- Make learning fun. Motivation and interest will increase if pressure is taken off homework and other academic material.
- All work and no play never helped anyone. Try to keep a balance between structured and unstructured activities for the whole family.