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Jul 16 2012

How to parent a gifted child

how to parent a gifted childIt’s day two of National Parenting Gifted Children week, and I’m a stop on today’s blog tour. Sadly, I’m also getting this up mid-day instead of earlier as planned. Last year I wrote, hit publish, and then dashed off to sell my house and spend 11 days homeless as we meandered a thousand miles east with two boys and a flatulent dog, waiting for a closing date on the other side. This year my only excuse is…um…let’s go with the cumulative affects of the last several months, culminating in PAINT ALL THE THINGS! summer (no, we are not completely finished) and essentially moving into our house for the second time in 11 months.

Oh, and finishing my book.

So you want to know how to parent a gifted child. Me too. There is no handy dandy mass market book, like What To Fear and Loathe Expect When You’re Expecting, and probably wouldn’t be much help if it did. These kids are the ultimate in personalization, the difference being you can’t order up parenting strategies like a grande hot decaf triple five-pump vanilla non-fat no foam whipped cream extra hot extra caramel upside down caramel macchiato from the barista. So let’s go with a mindset, a generalized list of sorts. Pick and choose what works for you.

1. Toss the standard parenting books, magazines, and websites out the window (psst…not this one). Your kid isn’t in there, and you’ll feel tons better not having those around mocking you. They do mock, and they also reproduce at a frightening rate when you’re trying to help your kid. Toss ’em, or better yet, build a bonfire and make s’mores. Mmmm….marshmallowy gooeyness…

2. Listen to your kid. Not listen to the kid while still wearing the “I need you to be a certain way” filters, but truly listening to the kid. Listen to what he is saying, and especially listen for what he’s not telling you. For years A begged to be homeschooled, and for years would cry out, “Quit trying to fix me! I’m fine the way I am!” He’s right. And I listen better now.

2a. Conversely, quit listening to the jackholes those offering up well-meaning advice. When you’re raising an outlier, advice from the middle will only make things harder.

3. Nevernevernever say never. I said for years that I’d never homeschool A. It was a line in the sand to never be crossed, and I was just never going to homeschool. Well, a big ol’ wind came by and blew that line in the sand out of the water (just how many metaphors can Jen mix in one sentence?), and now I’m homeschooling A. It ain’t always easy, but it’s hells better than school was for him.

4. For the love, get out and take a break. These kids…sigh…these incredible, amazing, gonna-change-the-world kids are just…well, you’re going to lose your everlovin’ mind if you don’t take care of yourself. Ask me how I know this. I have screwed up my body, mind, and soul over the last several years, and a lot of it can’t be unscrewed. Also? If you have a gifted kid, chances are pretty high that you and/or your spouse are as well. So you probably have similar intensities that will play into your parenting. You will be a much better parent if you get away from them sometimes.

5. Find your tribe. Online, real life, whatever. Avoid imaginary unless they buy the drinks. Then call me, ’cause if an imaginary tribe is buying drinks, then there is likely a rainbow-farting unicorn with them and dude, I gotta see that. Being with other parents of quirky gifted kids is a balm to the soul. I had coffee with two moms this morning and it was a relief not having to explain why things are the way they are. They get it.

6. It doesn’t always need to be fair, if it is what is appropriate for the kid at that time. At least, that’s what I remind myself whenever the boys complain that something isn’t fair. Sometimes they’re right and the situation isn’t fair, and sometimes it’s a case of what the kid needs when the kid needs it and the other one has to find a way to deal with it.

7. Fake it til you make it. I have no idea what I’m doing. At all. But if I keep going as though I do, eventually I’ll get it.

8. You owe no one anything. This is your kid, you get to raise him your way, and if that’s by letting him go sockless 341 days of the year because the seams blow the top of his head clean off, then that’s that. I had to institute a “socks on the feet if snow’s on the ground” rule. Now A just turns them inside out.

9. Wine. Just…yeah.

10. Accept that you’re doing the best you can, with what you have, at this moment.

Now. Some ten disclaimers. Do I follow all of these? Bwahahahahahahaha…no. I got #9 down, and #7 is just my M.O. All the others are a work in progress and I struggle with them daily. Hourly. With every breath. I am no expert here, so get out your salt shaker and enjoy a few grains. But I know what has helped me, and what has sucked, and what I hope to do better. I wish there was a parenting barista, ready to whip up exactly what was needed at a moment’s notice. Instead, we will all just band together and do the best we can with what we have at the moment it’s needed.

With extra whip.

Comments

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17 comments

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  1. Kim B.

    9a: Whine. Find an outlet, then use it. Or you will explode.

  2. Corina

    Thank you for your candid, say-it-like-it-is advice. “Fair” was explained to me by my (GT) Dad when I was young: “Fair is not always equal.” I got it then, I get it now and I pass this bit of advice to others. (Knowing full well that your GT child will attempt to exploit the definitions of FAIR and EQUAL in heated attempt to sway your decision!) HA!

    1. Jen

      Yeah, we get a lot of those “discussions.” I’m rather tired of them.

  3. j

    2a is true. We have had our moments using that kind of advice on a profoundly gifted child, and I would add don’t use professional advice unless they are experienced with all kinds of gifted.

    1. Jen

      Amen to that! We worked with a therapist who claimed to have experience with gifted families. Uh, no. Then we worked with one who truly DID and she changed our world.

  4. Heather

    These tips work for those of us with gifted and, also, the spirited child whose needs are ever changing. My house is full of structure, arts and crafts, and controlled chaos. Allowing myself to be myself helps me be a better mom.

    I just hope I am not screwing them up too much. 😉

    Thanks for the article. This was a nice 4:45 am read while the house was asleep and, me, not so much.

    Tootles!

    1. Jen

      I want to screw mine up *just* enough to be interesting. 😉 I suspect I’m succeeding beyond my wildest expectations. LOL

  5. Rikki Gard

    My daughter will not wear clothes while in her carseat. My 7 yr old PG son is even stranger. As a result I have #9 down also.

    1. Jen

      Ya know, I’ve always suspected that the safest way to ride in a car is facing backwards and naked. Your daughter is halfway there. 😉

  6. Jenny Bardsley

    I think #4 is the hardest for me. Both of my kids are so intense that hiring a babysitter is out of the question, as is leaving them in the church nursery on Sunday. Luckily we have grandparents living nearby, but even still…

    1. Jen

      Church nursery was our (ahem) salvation. LOL! The only downtime we would get a week, and only because the person there knew how to handle A. We REALLY lucked out with babysitters; one had four brothers and nothing fazed her and the other worked with special ed kids from 7th grade on (now she’s a special ed teacher). If you’re anywhere near a university, check with their special education department to see if they could recommend someone as a babysitter. You may be surprised.

  7. Derrin

    I wish someone had given me this list when my children were young! Made me smile, and remember the good bits as well as the frustrating times before I realised that there wasnt a guide book for these kids. The internet and finding a tribe that way was still somewhere in the future. How wonderful to be able to share this now! (and I will pass it on to lots of people – they too deserve to smile 🙂 )

    1. Jen

      Thanks! I keep trying to remind myself that one day I’ll miss the chaos. Doesn’t always work. LOL

  8. Terri Hedrick

    haha! I love it all! I’d like to see that unicorn too. 😉

  9. karla porter archer

    Such a great list. I am exhausted from the the few discussions I’ve had from those who would like me to pretend my kids are ‘normal’. Which always leads me to #9…

    Thank you for such a humorous (and real) list.

  10. So over

    Amen! Nice list Jen. If I had not found a ‘tribe’ (and I include you in that), I’d be locked in a room with padded walls. (Hey wait, some days that might be nice).

    Can’t wait to read the book. Congrats!

    1. Jen

      Some days I still need the padded room. 😉

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