Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Parenting a Precocious Preschooler: Breaking the Silence

Magazine article Parenting for High Potential

Parenting a Precocious Preschooler: Breaking the Silence

Article excerpt

"I'm sorry, but I think my child might be gifted." As a coordinator of gifted services for a school district, one of the most frequent conversations I have with parents often begins with an apology. Or, they say something like, "I just know my child is different."

Such statements are not intended to be boastful, but sometimes are the only words that parents can find to explain the great complexity of their child's development. Yet when these words are spoken, they are often in hindsight, or whispered in rooms with gifted advocates or only those who value intellect.

Why the Silence?

Parents of highly gifted children recognize the children's precocity within the first few years of life and are often the first and best identifiers of early giftedness.1 So, if we know that primary caregivers are early identifiers of potential, why aren't more parents consulted when developing educational goals for young children in preschool programs? Why aren't more parents comfortable having conversations about their children's precocious development? And when those conversations occur, why the apology?

Precocity in the very young should be a valid topic of discussion in parental and educational circles, yet too frequently those conversations are slow to occur or are absent altogether. Many parents and educators remain silent about raising and nurturing precocious preschoolers. I believe the silence is due to a lack of information or awareness about young children's development and perceived attitudes of anti-intellectualism.

Lack of Information

In my experience, many of the popular child development resources readily available in books or on the Internet are inadequate for parenting a gifted preschool-aged child. Much of that information is based on models of typical development and offers disclaimers that "every child progresses at her own rate." Such information, while a useful starting point, often leads to more questions than answers regarding the development of an infant or young child with gifted tendencies. Few sources address the asynchronous or uneven cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development that frequently occurs with gifted learners.

Where can parents find developmental information on gifted youngsters? Unfortunately, there appears to be an information and programming gap for the gifted preschool subgroup. Much of the academic and popular literature on child development does not address the topic with a gifted child in mind. Even as an educator, with access to theory and research on child development, I've had difficulty finding everyday, practical parenting information on gifted children.

In addition, many early childhood educators may not be able to provide information on parenting children who fall outside the typical development ranges because they lack expertise or training in working with gifted populations. Furthermore, gifted services in schools typically do not reach down to the preschool age group.

Anti-intellectual Attitudes

As a society, Americans seem to have a preoccupation with outliers. Child prodigies-the exceptionally and profoundly gifted-make headlines. News articles featuring the youngest members admitted to Mensa capture our attention and awe. But what about the young child who is simply precocious?

Let's be honest: In social situations, it's not really a conversation starter to discuss your child's intellectual tendencies. When parents feel shut down by other parents, caregivers, or educators for sharing the accomplishments of their precocious children, they are less likely to engage in conversations that might satisfy their own need for more information. Such silencing contributes to a general lack of awareness, and in some cases denial of developmental differences.

Also, parents of highly gifted children are often accused of "hothousing"-that is, pushing their children to learn more quickly than their cognitive age or interest guides them. …

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