The Knox School of Santa Barbara
Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Parents of Gifted Children - Part II
By Jim Webb, Ph.D.
#6. All children, gifted or not, need limits, but parents should allow choices within those limits. (You must wear shoes to play outside, but you may choose which ones to wear). The goal is to help the child learn to make appropriate choices in the future and to develop self-discipline. House rules must be consistent, enforceable, and allow logical consequences. Expectations should be clear, conveying a trust that the child will act appropriately. Four questions parents should ask themselves are: “How effective is this discipline in the long run? Is it working? What is the effect on the child’s self-esteem? How will it affect my personal relationship with the child?” This advice is good for parenting all children. However, because gifted children are so intense and sensitive, it is easy to drift into a power struggle, which can severely damage our relationship as well as their self-esteem. # 7. Relating to peers is a challenge because interests and behaviors differ from those of age mates; often they need different peers to meet various intellectual, emotional, or athletic needs. Help them learn “basic business-friendly skills,” but also to find one “soul mate” with whom they can interact, rather than many superficial friends or acquaintances. Children who understand themselves, know their interests and strengths, and can reach out to others like themselves, are more likely to feel connected and less likely to succumb to peer pressure. #8. Gifted children, particularly those who are creative, challenge traditions and values in ways that make teachers and parents uncomfortable. Help them understand the cost-benefit ratio of their actions. One the one hand it is good to challenge nonsensical traditions even though it makes others uncomfortable; on the other hand, traditions offer connectivity, comfort, and support. All family members can participate in identifying traditions, examining which ones they wish to keep, and then decide how to create new traditions. #9. Idealism, unhappiness, and depression occur among many gifted children. Idealism can lead to cynicism, and spark feelings of existential isolation and aloneness when others don’t seem to share the same thoughts or feelings. Adults can help them gain perspective and coping strategies. If they feel helpless and despondent, a referral to a mental health professional is appropriate. Most important is to maintain your relationship with your child and communication about their feelings and thoughts. #10. Modern parenting is complex! The pace of life and the consequent pressures upon parents are greater than in previous generations. The easy daily access to social media exposes our bright, intense, sensitive, children to disturbing images and events, and the barrage of information is overwhelming. Because so many opportunities are available to children, parents must establish family priorities and not let electronic media interfere with communication and relationships. Remember, too, that parents are role models of how to fulfill emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs. Where Can Parents Get More Information? Parenting a gifted child is often a lonely experience filled with questions. Many books and Internet sites, such as those shown below, can provide information.
James T. Webb, Ph.D. has been recognized as one of the most influential psychologists nationally on gifted education. He was President of Great Potential Press, which features books that address the needs of gifted children and adults; he was founder of SENG, (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted). Dr. Webb was a frequent keynote and workshop speaker at gifted education and psychology conferences in the U.S. and abroad. The Knox School was fortunate to have Dr. Webb speak on multiple occasions at our in-house symposiums. He was the author or co-author of numerous articles and books, including the best-selling A Parent s Guide to Gifted Children, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses, and Searching for Meaning, among others. Jim had a passion for furthering the educational and emotional needs of the gifted. The Knox School of Santa Barbara would like to thank Dr. Webb for writing this original article on behalf of the School in 2017. It is republished here as Part I and II.