10 Reasons Parenting a Gifted Child is Hard

Parenting a Gifted Child is hard work. — ghify.com

Nowadays at public schools, every parent wants to enroll their children in the Gifted and Talented programs. The extra enrichment and the prospect of socializing with the “smart” kids are extremely appealing to career oriented parents.

But, are 20% of our children “Gifted”? What is a “Gifted” child really? How do you know that you have one?

As a new parent, there was a time that I struggled to answer those questions myself. My son’s early physical development did not go unnoticed. I scrutinized every one of his milestones after he started to walk. After reading several books and blogs, what really caught my attention and educated me as a parent is the gifted parent’s personal experiences. Those experiences helped to educate me that as a parent, I just need to find the appropriate resources to help my child at any level that my child’s in. It really does not matter what label people put on him. Before his teenage years, his brain will continue to develop, his IQ will subsequently change over time. IQ is also NOT a great measure of someone succeeding in life.

To truly help our children whether they are “Gifted” or not is just to enrich their days as much as we can and fill their days with happiness.

Before I go off track here, I want to tell you about the 10 Surprising Reasons why I do not wish any parent to be the parent of a “Gifted” child. It makes parenting 10 times harder, 10 times lonelier and 10 times more tiring.

1) Asynchronous Development

A gifted child’s development is often uneven in the early years. Many gifted parents say that their gifted child is multiple ages at once. This gifted child may read at a second grade level, discuss math like a teacher and still throw tantrums like a two years old. The parent often has to make excuses for the child’s immature emotional behavior while explaining away the child’s advanced reading comprehension abilities or advanced quantitative abilities.

2) Overexcitabilities

The gifted child can have many over excitabilities that make it hard for the child to adjust to everyday situations.

  • Psychomotor — impulsive, rapid speech, overactive, competitive
  • Sensual — sensitive to smell, taste and texture
  • Intellectual — intense curiosity, ask questions, intense independent thinking
  • Imaginational — vivid dreams, elaborate fantasy and imaginative play
  • Emotional — intense feelings of responsibility, shy, concern for others, concern for justice

A gifted child who is overactive and competitive might seem like a child who has ADHD. The parent struggles to keep up with the need for activity at all hours of the day. That child may be competitive with other kids at the playground. This makes it even more difficult for the parent to manage the child’s need for activity.

A gifted child who has sensitivities to taste and texture might have difficulties trying out new foods. This child might be an ultra picky eater. This often makes the parent wonder whether the child is on the Autism Spectrum.

A gifted child might break down at listening to a particular song on the radio due to the intense emotions that child experiences. The parent may have trouble explaining those emotions to the young child.

A gifted child might have a need to moderate a fight at school because the child sees injustice in the situation. If the injustice seems to be from the teacher or the school, the gifted child might refuse to go back to school all together.

3) Strong-willed, Stubborn and Determined

Toddlerhood is often when most parents deal with the strong-willed, stubborn and determined child. However, for a gifted child’s parent, at any age, their gifted child just seem to be defiant, stubborn, obsessive and strong-willed.

  • A simple trip to the store to select Christmas presents might turn into an obsessive fishing expedition for “that” gift I “must” buy for mom.
  • A simple trip to the museum might turn into a debate tournament with the visiting guide about the feasibility of climate change.
  • A simple meal during a holiday might turn into an all out war complete with slammed doors due to a misfollowed detail on one of the recipes.

4) Sleep and lack there of

Parents of gifted children will tell you that they haven’t slept in 10 years. It is probably the truth. These gifted children often have trouble turning off their brains because they are processing massive amounts of information.

The parents probably have tried essential oils, blacked out curtains, massage and adjustments in sleep routines. They can probably write books about the different ways to help children sleep.

Yet, those same young children are still working on essays or math problems late into the night.

5) Greater need of nutrition, stimulation and rest

Have you ever seen young kids beg for snacks?

Well, a parent of a gifted child will tell you that this child needs to be fed every hour on the hour. That parent still has trauma from breast feeding years because the baby literally ate all the time. This child needs to have certain books read, certain activities presented and certain enrichment in that child’s life. Otherwise, all hell will break loose. This child also needs rest. But it’s probably impossible to for that child to wind down unless a strict regimen is followed.

6) School or mismatch in academic needs

The hardest part about being the parent of a gifted child is the mismatch in education needs of the child. When the battle tested parents go through the difficult toddlerhood with the child only to find out their child needs to be homeschooled. It’s extremely frustrating.

But before deciding on homeschooling, there was a year of being tested for the one hour enrichment in the Gifted Program of that public school district. After that, the parents find out that one hour is not enough for that gifted child from the apparent behavior issues reported by teachers.

Homeschooling puts a dent on the family income. It particularly jeopardizes the discretionary income that will be used to send that gifted child to multiple enrichment camps that the child needs to fulfill his or her potential.

Homeschooling provides a life line of learning for the child, But, at the same time, one of the parents faces a steep learning curve of becoming a teacher to the child.

7) Socialization

Socialization is extremely difficult for a child who is many ages at once. The parent of the gifted child has to reach out to the whole wide world to find friends for the child. Even then, the child will probably have a variety of friends: well-educated adults, friends for physical activities and friends who are also gifted.

  • When your child is not verbal yet, but can do complex puzzles, and understand the language of most adults. That two years old child needs to play imaginative games with a four years old. How do you find friends for that child?
  • When your child is only 6 years old, but that child needs to debate about the efficacy of oil drilling policies in North Africa. How do you find a debate partner for that child?
  • When your child is only 8 years old, but that child finds all the games played at the playground immature. Instead, that child chooses to read scientific books during lunch time while all the classmates whisper about the child.

8) Parenting Community and Societal Judgement

In the parenting community, most parents are really empathetic when they see new parents struggle with normal baby or toddler issues. However, when a mom comes in with a super “smart” baby or child, that mom is often shun all together. It’s because most moms see their children as super “special”. Understandably, they don’t want to see another child “outsmarting” their child.

Even though, the parents of the gifted child may need the “most” help coping with difficult issues experienced by raising that gifted child, they will find parenting groups and local communities difficult places to find support.

The internet community and the world at large becomes the only places those parents will find support. Thankfully, these days, there are many resources available online.

9) Family Dynamic

What if there are multiple kids in your family and a mix of gifted children and normal children?

A gifted child is just a special needs child who will need extra attention. This extra attention can often magnify sibling rivalries, family disconnections and communication issues.

It is especially hard for moms to juggle the complexity of raising a gifted child while another normal child is tugging at the mom’s feet asking for attention.

It’s almost critical for parents with gifted children to have extended family support so that each child can receive the proper attention regardless of special needs.

10) Perfectionism

A gifted child is naturally persistent in his or her curiosity. This persistence often leads to relentless perfectionism. Even if no expectations surround that gifted child, the child will experience an inner drive to achieve perfection in his or her learning. Normally, the drive, motivation and persistence can help a child persevere learning issues.

However, unchecked perfectionism often cripples the gifted child. It disables that child from learning all together.

The child can internalize fear of failure to the point of not wanting to learn about even the most interesting subject. At a normal school setting where grades and exams are central, some gifted children who are not exam performers will feel additional pressures to perform. These children will often internalize each failure and experience the crippling effect of perfectionism.

Parents of such children may need to pay extra attention to help the child manage the ups and downs of any learning experience.

References for this article:

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration and Giftedness: Overexcitability Research Findings
A review of research on parents and families of gifted children
Small poppies: Highly gifted children in the early years
Gifted and Talented Mumsnet

Written by

Writer, Technologist: Tech|Future|Leadership (Forbes-AI, Behind the Code)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store