Gifted children do not always show their potential early on, but many do and often their parents are completely unprepared for how to handle the little bundle of energy that they are responsible for. Many people think of giftedness as something that implies easy parenting and "straight As" in the classroom. In fact, that is often far from the truth. Gifted children do, indeed, have high potential, but they also come in a complicated package that includes different social and emotional needs in addition to an entirely different way of thinking, in some cases.
If you are the parent of one of these precious bundles of joy, you should probably toss aside all of those standard child development books written for 98% of the population and pick up others that might be more applicable to your challenges. First learn about giftedness. Parents of gifted children need to begin educating themselves early on about what giftedness means so that they can provide the best possible support for their children. Then read about parenting approaches that are often well suited for gifted children. Talk with others who are in a similar parenting position.
Giftedness is often defined as testing at 130+ or two standard deviations above the norm on an IQ test, but there are many reasons why this may not be a sufficient measurement. Testing is an art as well as a science, and factors include an appropriate testing tool; a tester who is experienced with gifted children; learning differences; and the emotional state of the child at the time of testing. GHF recommends a more holistic view of each child, using qualitative factors as well as quantitative. Research tells us that parents are the best identifiers of gifted children, but if you are not sure if your child is gifted, try some of these resources:
Sometimes giftedness is not obvious — it is all too common that a child who is normal (for a gifted child) is misdiagnosed, or their overexcitabilities are viewed as pathologies that need to be treated, especially in schools. A number of authors write about gifted normalcy versus pathologies , and yet gifted children have special educational needs. They must have their developmental asynchronies taken into account in order to thrive. Jowett's 1875 translation of Plato reads that “The most gifted minds, when they are ill-educated, become the worst.” As a society, we want to take advantage of the potential offered by our brightest young minds, and for many families, the best route to doing so is through homeschooling. For families prepared to make the commitment to homeschool by choice or by necessity, homeschooling offers the flexibility needed to educate these young individuals in a manner most appropriate to their needs.
Parenting Gifted Preschoolers, by David Farmer, provides an excellent chart estimating the normal developmental timetable for developmental milestones in toddler and preschool development, and the timetable for a child who is 30% advanced, as well as suggestions for educational activities for these advanced children.
This article was originally written for UniversalPreschool.com. It has since been updated.