The image shows English professor Dr. Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne) and his student Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) from the movie Akeelah and the Bee (2006) about the National Spelling Bee.
The ‘right schools’
Parents are faced with many challenges, strategic and emotional, when it comes to helping their gifted kids develop multiple talents. Such as getting into the “right” schools.
In his editorial Why the best schools can’t pick the best kids – and vice versa, Barry Schwartz questions a lot about that premise:
“We like to believe, in our least cynical moments, that the U.S. is a meritocracy. Success is about talent and hard work. Luck has nothing to do with it.
“This attitude may well contribute to a lack of sympathy, sometimes even bordering on disdain, for life’s losers.
“I believe that this attitude is profoundly false. It is not the case that people always get what they deserve. There just aren’t enough top rungs on the Ivy League’s (or life’s) ladders for everyone to fit.”
He adds, “To today’s high-achieving high school students, the future seems to ride on getting into selective institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford or my own institution, Swarthmore, where almost every one of the applicants is good enough to succeed but only one in 10 will be given the chance.
“And so the competition trickles down: The road to Harvard goes through the ‘right’ high school, the ‘right’ elementary school, the ‘right’ preschool. We all know this process has gotten crazy.”
Restricting their own giftedness
Psychiatrist Jerald Grobman, M.D. talks about some of the emotional and mental health experiences of many people in his article Underachievement in Exceptionally Gifted Adolescents and Young Adults: A Psychiatrist’s View
“For these particular gifted individuals, the powerful inner drive to explore and master felt like an obligatory force of nature.
“When they gave into their explosive drives and permitted themselves to gratify their special sensitivities, they felt possessed. But, this same excitement and animation also made them feel peculiar and strange.
“From their earliest years through latency and into mid-adolescence, their powerful drives, special sensitivities, and precocious abilities were rarely a source of consistent self esteem.
“Instead, their giftedness frequently led to anxiety and shame, and they tried to keep it a secret by denying or restricting it.”
He notes that their parents “accepted their giftedness and encouraged its development” but were also “dismayed by their extremes of emotion and behavior.
“Because of their children’s self-destructive behavior, they frequently wondered whether giftedness was more of a liability than an asset.”
Discriminating “real” mental disorders from the sorts of emotions and behaviors that may accompany giftedness can be challenging for even trained mental health professionals, let alone “ordinary” parents.
James T. Webb, Ph.D. writes in his article Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children:
“Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being mis-diagnosed by psychologists and others as having ADHD, OCD and Mood Disorders.
“These common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”
This article has been expanded into the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults.
The parenting rollercoaster
Carol Strip and Gretchen Hirsh talk about the chaotic and challenging life in the book A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children:
“Parenting a gifted child is like living in a theme park full of thrill rides.
“Sometimes you smile. Sometimes you gasp. Sometimes you scream. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you gaze in wonder and astonishment. Sometimes you’re frozen in your seat. Sometimes you’re proud.
“And sometimes, the ride is so nerve-wracking, you can’t do anything but cry.”
The high sensitivity that often accompanies giftedness may compound the challenges for everyone.
In her article Growing Up Gifted Is Not Easy, Elaine Aron, PhD writes:
“The parents of gifted children are often raising those kids well, but I have had too many sensitive patients who were gifted but too distressed to ever show their talents because their parents and teachers had no idea about how to meet the special needs of an HSC [highly sensitive child].
“Hence in my book and my talk I focused on their emotional life and what parents can do to help them manage overstimulating or emotionally provoking situations — for example, parties, bullies, vacations, moves, being ‘corrected’ (punishment is out!), and perfectionism.”
Another giftedness expert, Dr. Miraca Gross of the University of New South Wales, has commented, “Most parents like to think that their children are gifted but the irony is that if they are, the parents are more likely to keep quiet rather than brag about it.
“Parents fear being mocked.”
[From news story “Parents shouldn’t be shy about having a bright child.”]
Her book: Exceptionally Gifted Children