Parents & Socio-Emotional Nurturing

With her permission we have reprinted the perceptive contributions of Elizabeth Meckstroth, the guest presenter in a very successful OGT electronic conference. Since 1979 Elizabeth "Betty" Meckstroth, M. Ed., M.S.W., has worked in supportive cooperation with organizations for gifted children and their families, co-authoringTeaching Young Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom and Guiding the Gifted Child, assessing children, speaking, consulting, counselling, facilitating parent discussion groups and publishing numerous chapters and articles.

The contributions are in their original format of email messages to a conference list. Her conference had the full title: "The Gamut of Giftedness: Parents' Roles in Nurturing Social and Emotional Issues", and the following loosely defined subtopics emerged.

Pre-Conference Statement | Opening Post | Becoming our Self | Friendships | Spirituality | Motivation | Perfectionism | Creative Decision Making | Closing Notes

Pre-Conference Statement:

Dear Parents -

We will explore the intricate complexities of gifted people.

Our starting place is assessing ourselves. What are our needs, strengths? How are our expectations, hopes and fears guiding our choices? What parenting paradigm shifts are we making to accommodate gifted children?

We will discuss characteristics of gifted people with a focus on differences in quality and degree along the gifted continuum. Some topics that require awareness are:

  • asynchronous development,
  • intensity,
  • control,
  • sensitivity,
  • perfectionism,
  • introversion,
  • motivation,
  • sibling relationships,
  • depression;
  • somatic affects,
  • peer relationships,
  • stress, and
  • self awareness.

Other issues will certainly be discovered!

As we explore these social and emotional issues, our quest is to develop a repertoire of options to nurture ourselves and our children.

This will be a synergistic experience. I'm eager to get to know you and to learn from your insights and stories.

To open, will you please consider, "What am I parenting for; what are my goals in raising my child?"

Peace and Joy! Joy! Joy!


PS: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
PPS: How do you turn a battleship? One degree at a time.

Opening Post [top]

Welcome parents!

I want to honor you for giving your time and care to discovering more ways to nurture your children. If you are participating in this seminar, I expect that you are among the most conscientious, most concerned parents. Probably, you already have enough to do! Many parents feel that there's not enough of them to go around! I think that being so conscientious can make the role of parenting more difficult - It's easier to think that everything is OK and you know what you're doing!

Many gifted children require more time and attention than most average children. They often acquire more power in the family dynamics and have subtle ways of seeming to take over our lives!

Each of you is in a different stage of awareness and experience so some information will be redundant for you - like the gifted child in the regular classroom! This forum is a rich source of information to learn from each other.

I need to introduce a disclaimer: There is great diversity within the gifted range. Gifted children differ from each other as well as resemble each other. Anything you can say to describe a gifted child, the opposite will hold true for another. We say that gifted children need less sleep and have higher energy -yet some have low energy and a teenager can need 13 hours sleep a night! Children with the same IQ have different personality, abilities and interests - There is more variety in the gifted range than there is in the entire "normal" range. So please regard my statements as alternatives to try or options that may be appropriate for some people. I do not want to impose my ideas and experience on you. We will create a smorgasbord of possibilities!

Looking at research and norms for gifted children may be an obstacle to understand gifted people because then we might assume that we know rather than opening to receive the uniqueness of each child. For example, even though nearly all the research on grade acceleration supports it's broad benefits, this option may not suit your child.

I've been working with families of gifted children since 1979 and one thing I've learned is that nearly always; parents are the authority about what their children need. They might not have the courage to go against the grain of their community to act on what their children require, but it is my experience that deep down -- in their heart or soul or gut feeling - they know. You know your child best. One mother told me, "I'm tired of making my family miserable just to make other people happy. I've started doing what I know I need to do for my children."

You parents are the most important teachers.

My goal for your participation is that you will acquire one tool, one idea that will serve you the rest of your life.

I'm excited to get to know you!


Becoming our Self [top]

Dear Parents -

I'm loving discovering your insights, wisdom, wonder and humor. Reading through your posts, I'm touched by your sensitivity to your children. One of the golden threads that runs through your responses seems to be your hope that your children honor and live out their true, real Selves. I would love to explore ways that you have found effective in nurturing and developing their self-respect. I think that a foundation for encouraging this is listening to our children. Careful listening might be the most important single way we can convey that we respect them and their ideas. Listening conveys self-esteem and builds trust. We tend to trust people who listen closely because we assume they have such good judgment! How do you win your child over to want to listen to you? Listen, listen, listen. This is especially valuable because gifted people often adjust what they say so that they will be accepted. They sometimes feel that other people do not take them seriously. This can lead to not trusting themselves. Careful listening can also be a lifeline. It can convince children that there is someone who thinks that they are valuable and worth understanding. Listening says: You matter to me; what you do an think and feel matters to me. It teaches how to interact with respect and understanding and thus, enables your child to be a safe friend. Your listening creates courage, understanding and trust for your child to eventually be his/her own source of power, possibility and safe place.

Here are a few ideas I put together to help you concentrate on being an encouraging listener:

  • Arrange private time together. Plan an appointment. A few intimate minutes a day is usually more meaningful than longer, less frequent periods.
  • Listen with your entire body, mind, and spirit as if nothing else at that moment matters as much as your child's thoughts and feelings. Listen as if your child has something important to give to you.
  • Create a sanctuary where you are a witness and a child receives affirmation. Listen to understand what a situation means to your child, rather than explain what it means to you.
  • Take your child seriously. Respond with: Slight head nods. Mmmm... Uh huh I see. Reflect essential bits of your child's thoughts and feelings. Repeat and paraphrase what you hear. Do not add you own ideas. Be careful to use the child's own words, rather than interpret.
  • Ask for clarification and amplification: "I'd like to know how you might have felt about that. - What were some of the ways you were feeling when he said that? - What are some of the things you are feeling now?"
  • Allow them to own their feelings. "I get it that you're furious with your brother." Restrain from expressing your advice, evaluations, theories, and your own experiences. It is important to focus your attention on gathering information, feelings, and understanding what they signify to your child. (Have I said this enough yet?)
  • Respond to their feelings: Affirm their feelings. Help them label their feelings. If a child can identify their feelings, they then can do something about what their feelings are telling them. "I'm in a bad mood." might mean feeling inadequate or embarrassed because a child has agreed to do more than he/she has time to do. You could then focus on prioritizing values and meaningful activities. Perhaps create a schedule. This is part of a process of making constructive decisions about choosing behaviors.
  • Accepting and understanding do not mean agreeing. Feeling something does not mean doing or being something.
  • Strive to give life to their ideas. Be aware of your positive to negative response ratio and the ways you give life and death to your child's thoughts. (I once went to a conference where an entire session was making the point that every time your child tells you something, you have the option to give life of death to his/her ideas. You could try to monitor your positive to negative response ratio. Just notice how often you respond with life giving enthusiasm or deadening omens.
  • Invest a few seconds in recognizing and appreciating each child as he/she leaves or arrives home. Again, one presenter at a conference left me with a vivid message - but I forget his name, sorry. Show me your greeting; show me your leaving and I will tell you the relationship.

Dear Alison and other parents who I'm getting to know -

I was intrigued by your comment, "...parenting has taught me more about myself that I would have imagined at the beginning.. .. Internally, I have had to question how I think and feel about things and how to draw on my own strength to face the difficult times."

I think that what you wrote is central to everything we do in parenting. There are so many ways it is difficult to separate what we do for and with our children and our own needs, desires, history. I often wonder how deeply and pervasively vestiges of our own parent's needs, beliefs, etc, impede as well as facilitate our being our best Selves? Then, in what ways do we pressure our children to follow what we think is best for them and then bestow a reward on them for matching our own notions of excellence, success, or being right? That leads me to also consider that loving, synergistic caring about someone else gives us a sense of wholeness and competency and creates wondrous relationships that resonate our best Selves. In reflection, mostly through my privilege of being with many parents of gifted children - who are usually grown-up gifted children - I've gleaned some hindsight cautions.

Felice Kaufmann has acquired life stories of Presidential Scholars that illustrate the struggle to become authentic in a world that rewards approval from other people, usually the norm. Felice followed these top two students from each U.S. state into mid-life and generally found that about half of them dropped out from striving for other people's definitions of success. Instead of climbing the corporate ladder or otherwise earning huge amounts of money or achieving high social status, they might be running a dairy form in a rural area, or happily operating a used book shop in a small town. Another protector of gifted children from England, David Willings' research found that when children are not the authors of their own words and behaviors, but speak and perform to achieve what other people value, they tend to grow up resenting the parents who rewarded them.

Gifted people who can imagine so many possibilities and who can also bring honor to parents and teachers are particularly vulnerable. Around mid-life, people with exceptional abilities and perceptions might be gnawed by insights such as: I've spent my whole life facilitating other people's priorities." I've lived a lie." "I married a role."

Just as our astute children absorb our language, we teach them our values, attitudes and myths. Perhaps the most important lesson we can teach them is to be authentic. Two of the most valued life goals of gifted children are self-respect and happiness. If our children sense that we are not self-respecting and happy, how are we "imprinting" them? (more on this later.) You've probably heard that parents need to put their own oxygen mask on first; we can only give what we have to give. We teach what we are.

Next, I'll copy one of my handouts for you that relates to this area. Then, we can discuss ways that we can model honoring one's Self and being authentic. What do you think has worked for you or what might you like to try to do to achieve this goal?

I look forward to your ideas.

Peace and Joy!


A Bedtime Story

An obscure Greek myth is a metaphor for our Selves and our Children*. This is a brief story about Procrustes and his bed:

A very long time ago, if you wanted to go to Athens, you had to pass by Procrustes. Then Procrustes would tie you onto his iron bed and make you the right size for it. If you were too short, he would stretch you, as on a medieval rack, until you were the right length. And any part of you did not fit on the bed's confines was necessarily whacked off.

Myths portrayed truth, magic and reason in times when Athens was the center of commerce and civilization. Thus, the road to Athens symbolizes the path to success. Today, Athens could represent a goal set by society, institutions, or other family members.

"When a person has fit the procrustean bed all too well, the success at adaptation may get in the way of individuation, which is to have a personal, authentic individual life that grows out of the depths of who each of us is, what we value and love and know from within to be true." (p. 65)

Many Children are set on our chosen path to success at an indefensible young age. Just as we were shaped by our parents' and teachers' needs and fears, we likely impose our own limitations and aspirations on our Children.

  • How many times and ways do we dismember parts of Children who do not fit into our convenience, hopes and needs?
  • How many ways do we deny the truth of ourselves to our Children?
  • How are our Children conformed into programs that accommodate policies and systems?
  • What was deferred on our way to Athens that, though promised to ourselves, will not be lived?
  • What does Procrustes evoke about how we, as parents and professionals, fit ourselves into our various self-imposed roles?

*Children refers to those whose care and nurture are entrusted to us as parents and professionals. Story adapted by Betty Meckstroth from Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning. Jean Shinoda Bolen. NY: Scribner pp. 63-66.

Dear Parents -

I'm savoring your ideas and pretty soon am going to enthusiastically respond to the spiritual concepts that have been introduced, but first I feel nudged to address a somewhat basic issue with our Children. In some of your messages, I've picked up your dilemma of how much to push, how much to allow. Where is the fulcrum of power and control in different situations with your Children? Particularly, Fernette wrote: Do I accelerate my son in a particular subject because he can do it because he can do it, because I want to teach him to work hard at something? Or allow him to get to some point faster. The pithy answer is to 'facilitate' what my dear daughter or dear son wants to really do, to help them to be happy and deepen their choices. ..." Then Janice's reflection, "I would not be surprised if the school thinks I'm a pushy mother ... but it still comes back to wanting the best for him." Then Mandy, "I also am finding where to draw the line between happiness and self-esteem versus learning/extension." I could continue to quote, but you get the predicament!

Some reflections of what I've learned and heard from gifted children and their parents include a young woman saying , "The more my parents push me, the more I push back." I've often experienced that especially regarding school issues; school is the battleground where the children can always have the last word. As parents, we really can't touch them there. We can advocate for adjustments in an effort to create more appropriate education for them, but if they decide not to play our game - or to prove us wrong - well, you know the rest!

Kathy's goal of parenting for balance appeals to me greatly. It certainly applies in balancing gifted children's desire - almost need for control! Here is a piece of research that I publicize as often as possible. It was such a relief to find it because so many parents of gifted children feel that they are inadequate because telling their child something like, "Do it because I said so" only invites about 17 reasons why this job does not need to be done - Mom's way, now, or at all! I'll copy what I developed from the research, then continue discussing why I think this "missing link" in understanding and cooperating with our children can be so frustrating. It's not your fault!! Look at this!!:

Control Characteristics of Gifted People

Based on research by Paul Janos and Nancy Robinson in The Gifted and Talented: A Developmental Perspective by Horowitz and O' Brien, Eds. Published by the American Psychological Association

Research consistently supports that gifted children of all ages exhibit these characteristics:

  • Self-sufficiency
  • Independence
  • Autonomy
  • Dominance
  • Individualism
  • Self-direction
  • Nonconformity

These are more for boys than for girls.

At all ages, gifted people express independence through:

  • Curiosity
  • Experimentation
  • Exploration
  • Risk-taking

For their GOALS, gifted people show more:

  • Persistence
  • Perseverance
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Vigor
  • Striving
  • Sacrificing

These are stronger as the child gets older and are especially for successful men and women.

Intellectually gifted adolescent girls:

  • Seek novel experiences
  • Avoid routine
  • Enjoy challenging experiences, even more than boys.

Elaboration by Elizabeth Meckstroth

This is an internal locus of control. The child needs to:

  • Recognize that results are self-produced.
  • Experience and see the connection between what they do and what happens to them.

Underachievement comes from low motivation and lack of focus. They need a greater ethical and social value, something more than just doing something.

The highly gifted are the most vulnerable because they are out of synch with school, friends, and sometimes, family.

There have been studies which show that gifted children tend to become head of the household. More power and is attributed to them and parents tend to invest in them more than they do other children. This is just a perspective that may not apply to you, but it is worth considering the next time you feel taken over by your children!

Now, back to the control issues and how much do we "push" our children... I just want to emphasize that I don't think it's fair for a child to sense that he/she runs the family. That's too much of a burden for a child. So when I read about Christine not knowing whether of not to enter her daughter in a co-ed or girls' school - I'm totally perplexed. (** See additional comments at end.)

I want to build more on this issue of control. We want our children to have the confidence to have control over their selves, yet to be able to adapt to situations. Those who adapt, survive. Later, I'll talk more about ways we can engender ways for our children to have a sense of control of their lives. You are giving me a lot of interesting situations to reply to. Thank you for your interest and time to respond. I'm really, really excited to discuss the spiritual aspects that some of you have mentioned.


**About selecting a school: Of course, there are so many other factors to consider when selecting a school for a gifted child. As well as the sex composition, the flexibility of the program to accommodate and exceptional student's needs is a huge factor - plus a myriad of other complex factors that impact a gifted children at school. Definitely, I think that is important for your daughter to visit the schools first.

Friendships [top]

Dear Parents -

You've given me a lot of profound ideas to respond to. It's a challenge to pick one out of the others, but I think I found another golden thread of interest. I particularly see that Carolyn, Mary, and Allison are wondering how their children can develop more satisfying friendships. I've thought about this a lot. Our children's relationships permeate how they perceive themselves. There are many factors that affect their relationships. I feel like I could write on and on this subject. I think I'll submit the Friendship responses in parts.

When I presented at Linda Silverman's We Can Do It! Conference for parents a few years ago, I began my talk with this poignant quote from Vivian Paley' s The Kindness of Children:

What do you look for every day and sometimes you think you found it, but then the next day you have to start looking again? I'll give you a hint. It's about school." Her riddle is not a funny one. She has been telling me she doesn't like third grade "Let's see. Is it when you answer a math problem and then the next day you have to do it again".. "I'll tell you the riddle.. Every day you look for someone who likes you and sometimes you think you found a friend, but the next day you have to start again."

A starting point is understanding that most gifted people are essentially introverts. As intelligence increases, so does the probability to be introverted. Introversion is another way our Children are dissonant with most of their age mates and the people who teach them.

Although we all possess a continuum of both extraversion and introversion, in the US, it is estimated that roughly 75% of the population is essentially extraverted, while approximately 60% of gifted people are generally more comfortable as introverts. I'm in the process of seeing if the tendency of introversion increases as intelligence increases. Although there are extremely intelligent people who are blazing extraverts, most of us are contending with little people who can be hard to read. As introverts, many of their inherent core qualities evade scrutiny!

Here are some distinctions between extraverts and introverts that refer to their preferred comfort zone:

Extraverts essentially Introverts essentially
- gain their energy and enthusiasm by being with other people - need to be alone to recover their inner strength
- focus more on the outer world of people, things and activities - focus on their inner thoughts and ideas
- are eager to try new things and events - hesitate to try new things and events
- talk as they think and process ideas - think about what they might say before speaking
- crave company - have intense needs for privacy
- eagerly want to share ideas - resist interruptions
- may be lonely if not with others - may feel beleaguered by being with people for too long
- want many friends - want one or a few close friends

When a child with statistically insignificant high intelligence is an intrinsically introverted minority, difficulty finding resonance with peers is exacerbated. This makes friend making even harder for our kids. I remember wanting my daughters to be popular. I laugh at myself now when I remember the younger one receiving a call from a friend after school inviting her to come over to play. She declined. In response to my trying to encourage her to go, proposing that once she got there she would have a good time, she responded, "Look Mom, I've been with kids all day!"

I've learned not to project need to "socialize" a child in the modes of the majority. Introverts seek certain quality in their relationships. They can feel lonely in a group, yet comfortably connected with one or two other people. And they can truly enjoy being alone! There's a difference between isolation and solitude. Although our mainstream media tends to regard introversion as an antisocial pathology needing to be fixed, it's as normal and natural for them as left-handedness is to a southpaw.

I've been collecting information on how to support introverted children. Here are some suggestions we can ease interactions for our introverted children. If they can practice being comfortable with you, perhaps they can take their courage into their social world.

  • Honor their need for privacy; they'll let you in when they feel more secure about what they want to share.
  • After you ask them a question, wait at least 3 seconds before talking again. They need think time and live a lot in their head.
  • Suggest individual sports such as swimming, karate, gymnastics track or tennis rather than soccer. Team sports can be too invasive.
  • Facilitate their finding their one best friend. (More on this later)
  • Before requiring them to participate in an activity with other people, let them first observe what is expected, or at least explain the situation.
  • Mentally imagine a situation or role play it with another person or figures or stuffed animals, puppets, etc.

It's harder to know what's going on inside these introverted kids. Often, it's what they do not say or show that is essential to them.

If you're a parent of a gifted child, might take refuge in having your own introversion legitimized and validated by some personality indicator such as the Myers-Briggs. It is also helpful for children to understand how they may not have the same social needs as most of their age peers. Even so, we all need some extraverted skills to cope and express.

Next I will follow with an introduction to friend-making. Chapter 1!


Friendships - Why?

Dear Friends -

I honor your concern about friendships of gifted children because gratifying social relationships are crucial to a good life. We can't generalize a child's social and emotional conditions from intellectual and academic achievement. -Just because they're getting all A's, doesn't mean they're doing well socially or emotionally. AND, we've learned that generally, gifted children are more confident in their academic abilities than their social acceptance. To complicate things, being gifted usually amplifies social aspects of their lives. This means that gifted children respond to their social and emotional experience with more depth and intensity.

You already know that there are positive and negative aspects of high intelligence. Like people from minority cultures, it is often the degree of differences from the norm that creates vulnerability to potential problems; because as intelligence increases, so does the potential for misunderstanding. Experiencing satisfying social relationships is their enormous task.

Our Children are hindered in developing friendships since they have more difficulty relating to their age mates; they feel that they cannot communicate effectively because they bewilder and confuse their age peers; and thus feel more isolation and alienation. Even when our Children find more appropriate intellectual peers who are older, they experience their physical inferiority and different interests. Thus, mutually rewarding play is rare among their age mates. Do you get that no one has done anything wrong, but the friendship problem is often inherent in the situation? Even though as a group, gifted children view themselves as less socially adept, more inhibited, less popular, and less socially active, most of our kids relate well to their intellectual peers and adults, and tend to have friends older than themselves. Your Miraca Gross has documented this well!

Friendships - How To

We've seen that an essence of stress for our gifted children is feeling estranged. Many elementary age gifted children report that they feel different from their classmates and usually think that the problem is their fault. Our gifted children have fewer opportunities to experience understanding and empathy.

Who is a peer to a gifted child in what setting? We may be concerned that our Child does not have any real friends, however, friends may not be chronological peers.

Many influences complicate their chances for finding friends. They make up intricate game rules and create complex play. They may come across as bossy because they can see how to organize the play and they're creative and want to express their new ideas. Finding that one best friend can be an extremely disappointing search. Now, what you can do to help your children with friend making!!

Again - alter your expectations. Their need for many friends might not match your hopes of having a popular child.

For our gifted children to find good friends, they usually need to "go out of the box" of the immediate neighborhood or classroom. Because, in some ways, they are developmentally advanced from their age mates, they are sometimes required to tolerate unreasonable restrictions if the are trying to match their chronological ages.

A really important factor in developing satisfying social relationships for gifted children is that these children understand and accept that other children usually do not intend to be mean, rejecting, or uncaring, but they simply do not have the same reality that they do. Generally, I define giftedness as capacity of consciousness, the depth and breadth to which a person processes experience and information. A favorite analogy to describe the relative vast consciousness of gifted people is to relate them to a television set: Most people would get about five 7, some are wired for cable, and profoundly gifted people would have the consciousness of a satellite dish. They pick up signals and make connections that other people cannot even imagine exist. When our Children are hurt because they think that other people just don't care or interpret other people's indifference as an intended attack on them, the TV-satellite dish analogy can help them understand that it's not that other kids don't care, but that others just don't see and feel the same way.

Gifted children fare better if they appreciate different friends as components of a best friend. Let them know that you have different friends for your different interests and needs. You can proactively help find components of relationships. Search for friends by interest and activity match. One person can be their favorite for computer games, another to collaborate on science experiments. A neighbor may be great to join for sports.

As often as comfortable, recognize your Child's social sensitivity and skill, "Sammy seemed happy when you asked him if he wanted to have the first turn; no wonder he likes to come over and play." What we recognize - good or bad - becomes reinforced in some way.

Ask your child: What do you look for in a friend? How are you with these qualities? What are some things you might try to make friends?

Then you can write down your child's ideas and brainstorm plans that your child might be able to actually try some Ideas. Building a relationship around a somewhat structured activity can give a burgeoning relationship some buttressing.

Gifted children's minds are a place to try out new experiences. Mentally walk Children through experiences; review other possible behaviors and anticipate consequences. You can role play social situations. Let they "try out" how they might act when confronted with making a decision on what activity to select in play. Let them experience the impact of their own behaviors.

Participate in lessons or interest groups where there are no age or grade limitations can open peer possibilities. Look at classes at the science museum.

Mentors or tutors might help. Call the high school and ask if there is a student who shares your child's interest - chess, endangered species, rock and roll - however esoteric that might be now. The drive to get them together - and potentially for child care - might develop into a good match to allow your Child to experience a cooperative relationship. I've particularly heard about developing wonderful self confidence in relationships ensuing from a tutor in a special interest, although this tutor might be a generation older.

Surrogates isn't the term, but some supplements might strengthen a gifted children's peer relationships. Our adolescents can especially find acceptance and solace in their, music. One highly gifted adult told me that music was the first thing he could relate to. You've heard of music therapy and then there's art therapy. Some Children can connect to art or their own artistic expressions. Any creative self-expression helps our Children define and confirm their self and to a degree, facilitate being able to relate to others. How many gifted people grow up with their cat or dog as their confident? There's pet therapy too, especially useful to help children gain trust in themselves and others.

The Platinum Rule We want our Children to respect other people's differences and to have enough coping options to interact with all types of people. Our Children can learn much from participating in and observing various situations. Different experiences refine what they value, and give them ideas of what they want and don't want to be. Rather than applying the "Golden Rule," it is often more appropriate to consider the "Platinum Rule." That is, instead of treating other people as we would like to be treated, caringly try to understand and give what the other person wants and needs.

Components of Social Intelligence

Maybe this is the most vital chapter in the Friendmaking series!!!

On my older daughter's tenth birthday (My Children, now ages 30 and 33, are still my greatest life satisfaction!!), I asked her, "What is the most important thing you've learned in 10 years?" expecting to hear, "to read; do math; use the phone.." She blurted, "manners." (Oh, at 10, she was already wise!) Manners can open or close doors faster than money, things, or test scores. Just knowing that you know what to do gives you confidence that you need in social situations.

Get a book on manners for children and go over one situation a week. Encourage your children to role play different situations so they can practice their skills. There is much research confirming that gifted children KNOW what to do, but they don't DO it. They need to practice.. like the ballet dancers who rehearse 100 times until the performance becomes "second nature" to them. Practice with fictional or animal characters: Let the child act through the character - while learning, it's much less threatening.

You could also find a class offering manners training for children. That might give You some credibility!!

At all ages, our friendships are enhanced if we are conscious of what we are giving to the relationship. However, since our children are often lauded for their logic, they are apt to protest that there is no reason to keep their elbows off the table, shake right hands rather than left, or excuse their burps! Some gifted children can be convinced to apply courtesies if they understand why social modes help them. You might take a social anthropological journey and explore manners to learn how familiarity has survival value - it says, "I'm one of your kind." (BTW, I recently returned from touring the Galapogos Islands - It's also the survival of the familiar!!) Going around the world to explore protocol can be a great adventure.

You can give your Child some hints that they might try to open themselves to getting along with other children, even if they are not interested in investing in a big relationship. A few social reminders can just make lunch and recess go better for them. Yesterday I spoke with a mom who was taking her gifted children to a psychologist to learn social skills. The Child was practicing one behavior a week. This week he was practicing greeting people. Together you and your Child can develop a repertoire of ways to greet people - for FREE! The next week, you might ask your Child if he would like to develop some of these ideas about how to respond when he finds that he is faced with being with someone for no real purpose: How can he fill the space and make his presence a good experience for the other child?

  • Smile; try to use their name.
  • Ask, "What are you interested in these days?" "What have you been doing" Rather than parroting a trite "How are you?"
  • Compliment if you can.

Diedre Lovecky and I developed an analogy of seeing yourself and the other person as chests of drawers. Then consider, what drawer do you want that person to open? What could you ask about that that person treasures in one of his drawers? Which drawer could you open and offer some idea or event or question that would have interest and value to the other person? We all could polish what we offer someone when we approach them to accommodate our current needs and interests.

Here's another idea from Vivian Paley, "Let me see kindness." To see the benevolence in another is another dimension of being compassionate. If we coach our children and model looking for the other person's kindness, people will experience our kind-heartedness and we'll feel better too. If you coach yourself to see kindness, it will be a gift you give to yourself - that of more congenial relationships. Another book too good to miss is Teaching your Children Sensitivity by Linda and Richard Eyre. I know most of our Children are "too" sensitive, but here are many ideas to become even more aware of how our/their words and behaviors affect other people. Provocatively, the authors ask us to consider what are our goals in a relationship. They prompt us to become aware of our social habits and know that we can change how we interact.

Another great help for children have difficulties or may be quite oblivious as to how they influence their social relationships you can help clue your children into how to read body language and how their stance and grimaces impact others. If Children are not aware of how their body language affects others, they have no idea of why people treat them as they do. This also gives Children some control over themselves and others in social situations. To increase their acuity in interpreting body language, play situational charades. You can also run a video with the sound off and everyone guess, "What's going on in this scene?" Then replay it with the sound on! We all could use a refresher in fine-tuning our awareness of non-verbal communication. We have learned that a very small percentage of what we communicate is the words we use, compared with what is conveyed by how we say something and what our body positioning expresses.

Honor differences: It essential that our children recognize that people act from different motives and that no one's behaviors are always rational, justified, moral or kind. There are means to expand our Children's capacity of understanding ideas and behaviors that counter what they think is right. You can study different philosophies and religions with your children. Exploring customs in other countries, examining different religious beliefs and practices, and studying their own country's history also opens children to learn that awareness and, thus compassion, continually evolves. These explorations give children a perspective that they are just beginning to formulate what can be considered acceptable, and that not everyone sees things the same way they do.

Stories: Read, tell, act out wonderfully rich stories and let children walk in other's moccasins. Changing the story changes their perception and ideas. Changing perception and ideas changes their lives and the world.

No blame. Blaming leaves the blamer helpless. Asking questions that encourage children to find solutions to try possible solutions creates confidence.

Dear parents, I've had enough day. I'll see you tomorrow and continue to try to catch up with you. I know you didn't ask for a chapter, but I just keep thinking of one more thing.


More on Friendships

Dear Parents -

I'm going to continue forward with some of the responses to the friendship issues and really appreciate your giving me something to dig into! Alison, I find your insights into your 3 introverts worth noting. It is characteristic of introverts that they can live a rich and full life in their head. We get filled up to capacity - then tilt! on overload quicker than extraverts who feast on stimulation from other people. Extraverts basically recharge their batteries with other people; introverts need alone time.

If any of you want more information about introversion-extraversion, you can look into Type Talk or Gifts Differing or People Types and Tiger Stripes that focuses on children's learning styles. Gifted people are also more intuitive than the general population. We'll integrate that idea with the Spirituality discussion.

Christine, I'm smiling at your observation that your little introvert makes friends easier. Some of us Introverts secretly wonder if people like us because we allow them to hold center stage in our relationship and at the same time, are relieved that we can mentally retire to our vivid imagination. I recognize your noticing that your extravert is more vulnerable because he is more transparent.

Thank you for your enlightening descriptions. You also bring up an essential aspect of our Children's friendships. I mentioned their needing components of a best friend. I've heard parents being worried because their child was "wasting his time" in aimless play with someone less intellectually challenging. I'm remembering the goal of parenting for balance. Our children are so complex that they need a variety of friends to balance the essence of who they are. Yes! I like that - their essence! Not just an Intellect, but having other essential components. We all need friends for different aspects of our lives. Once I attended a presentation at our National Association's Conference and Sidney Simon spent an entire session convincing us parents and professionals that we need to invest in ourselves by having a variety of support friends. I just found a copy of his "worksheet" -or "playsheet" as I prefer to call it! Here's the list to fill out. Enter the name of the person who fills these roles for you. What is in lower case is my interpretation. You can use one name as often as applicable, but then consider if you might want to reach out to someone to broaden your support.

Fun, Play

  • CHICKEN SOUP - Who can you call to come over with jumper cables or to go to the store for you if you're sick?
  • INTELLECTUAL STIMULANT - Who suggests that you read a book or take a course together?
  • MENTOR - Who inspires and supports your growth?
  • CONFIDANT - Who can you call and tell your worst fears and most embarrassing moments to?

This came to mind to emphasize that our Children need SITUATIONAL peers - some they cook with. They need EMOTIONAL peers - often these are children much younger or grandparents where they are safe to revert to their younger stages and wallow in their emotions. They need PHYSICAL peers to play and exercise with and they need INTELLECTUAL peers. I'm sure you can add to this list.

Hi Shari! Thanks for writing to inspire us! I'm intrigued by your description of your dear daughter who "can be very extraverted - yet dissociated at the same time." I recognize and admire with interpretation and could not express it as well.

Mmmmmmmmmmm..I feel a section on perfectionism coming on.


Spirituality [top]

Several of you have opened us to exploring the spiritual realm of gifted people.

Our Children are often aware of their intuition. This is a realm of consciousness beyond what is perceived through our senses. As intelligence increases, so does the tendency to use intuition for gathering information. An example is that 94% of male Rhodes Scholars were intuitive thinkers! Our American intuitive Children are a minority of approximately 25% in a society where most describe themselves as taking in information through their senses and generally ascribe their reality in terms of what is concrete. Intuitives are more comfortable perceiving ideas and events using insight; and focus on possibilities, meanings, and relationships. They tend to discover ideas from a global context and perceive possible future events. Thus, our intuitive Children may become so intent on pursing possibilities that they overlook actualities. Sound familiar?? (I'm a fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and have used the children's version - the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children with hundreds of children who I've assessed.)

Generally, I define giftedness as capacity of consciousness: The depth and breadth to which a person processes experience and information. For many gifted people, intuitiveness is their reality, their consciousness. Their consciousness just encompasses a greater realm than the immediate concrete focus. Again, their life experience is amplified. It could be that intuition is expanded connectedness and consciousness - knowing that keeps going.... (Remember the TV set - satellite dish analogy? = mini version: Gifted folk pick up signals and make connections that other people cannot even imagine exist.) If spirituality is consciousness in a realm beyond what is perceived through our senses, this could include consciousness of the ethereal, the infinite.

This mental satellite dish can be understood as having discerning lenses that amplify a person's experience in the emotional, physical, intellectual, imaginational, or sensual aspects of their life. That is, they perceive, receive, experience, understand more than most others do.

The gifted child can have a bird's eye view (a higher consciousness) and understand the other person, team, side's point of view too. Often the other side of humor is cynicism - sometimes only intonation determines the difference. Gifted people can become cynical because they can "see through" people, they empathize and perceive the dark side too. In the field of gifted, the term intuition has been used to cautiously depict some gifted children's spiritual knowing.

***For some gifted people, their consciousness encompasses a spiritual realm. Picture a spiral or labyrinth. Some gifted people have mentally traveled far from their small personal center and are conscious of a more universal, intuitive realm, yet are continually connected with their Self. They are making mental connections in more infinite communion.***

Who draws the line demarcating spirituality from reality or emotions from reality? Some try to control and limit reality. What is unconscious to one may be threatening if it is displayed in another. What remains unconscious is sometimes defined as a dark side, the shadow.

Many gifted people would not designate their spirituality from their reality. Just as average people may censure gifted people for over reacting and being too sensitive, a gifted person might feel that the average person is uncaring and insensitive. The same perspective of spirituality may apply. For many gifted people, spirituality is their reality, their consciousness. Many gifted people are consciously aware of what others cannot even imagine.

One woman who is highly regarded in the field of gifted in the US, my friend and co-author, Stephanie Tolan, has "come out of the closet." She presents and writes about spiritual experiences of highly gifted children. Her Welcome to the Ark is based on actual experience with children and her recently published, Flight of the Raven also portrays the experiences of highly gifted children who silently communicate with each other.

We don't know what we don't know.

I am enthusiastic to learn your experiences in the spiritual realm with your children. One aspect that several/many parents have discussed with me is their child mentioning experiences in past lives.

Eager for your responses - Betty

Dialogue with Alison

Dear Parents -

Thank you for your meaty responses. I feel like my hours are numbered and I want to get to as much as I can. I want to go back and specifically amplify some of the ideas that Alison presented a few days ago and copy part of her profoundly inspiring post.:

A: "I recommend Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning as Frankl asks clients "Why are you still alive?"

B: That is an inspiring book. I've attributed the basic message I'll write another message on this point.

A: "I have found that I do not like focusing for too long on the past as I think it can blind me to the present."

B: My mental prompt is asking myself, "Am I responding to the here and now or to the there and then?

A: "I do not think that we can expect our kids to love us - love comes when we give love"

B: Thank you for the reminder. I bought 6 copies of A Garland of Love from amazon for gifts and read the daily paragraph that inspires ways to create more love in my life. There's no ringing phone or tangible demand to give time to create love in our space.

A: "I am getting better at putting the O2 mask on first. It is getting easier as the kids become more independent"

B: Yes, it is amazing what our children can do for themselves if we are not available to do things for them!.

A: " I understand the many on the oz-gifted list are trying to avoid forcing their kids into a gifted mould expected of them...I see many clients at work who have moulded themselves to who the family or church wanted them to be only to find it very difficult to be themselves again when older. It is like the have a plasticine mask over their real selves. I do not want this for my kids."

B: That is so important and needs to be understood. Thank you, Alison.

Motivation [top]

Dear Parents:

Re-reading the message from Alison reminded me of an idea that might be a motivator for your children and help then gain some enthusiasm for school work. It was inspired from reading Man's Search for Meaning and gleaning that we can survive almost any how to live if we have a why to live.

Usually we ask our children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Our children are burdened with multipotentiality! Many of them can do many things and want to do more than they have hours for. Especially, as they get older and need to be making class and college choices, they may be stymied by eliminating classes that they want to take. OK, here's the plan. Since many of the jobs our children will be doing probably do not exist today anyway, instead, offer them an overarching umbrella of possibilities. (We all want to have it all!) Help them select a cause to live for. You can try this: "Suppose you directed a foundation and you had to give away 10 million dollars a year. What are the organizations you would select to receive the money?" Then - here's the hooker- you can suggest to little Avery that he might really be able to do something to save the seals or create clean air for cities or feed the hungry or create homes for the homeless or peace in the world.

Then, meanwhile, back at the kitchen table where he's balking at doing his math homework, you can gently ask him if he can imagine that knowing how to use that math concept might be useful to him in negotiating a contract for discounting food prices for the hungry homeless. You get the idea. A cause incorporates many academic subjects and roles. You can prompt him to create meaning for the formerly meaningless.

Any other ideas?


Dear Parents -

I just reviewed the ambitious proclamation of topics we would discuss in this Seminar and realize that there is much yet to include. Since I just wrote about motivation, I thought that I would continue a little on this topic.

Children are always motivated, but perhaps not for the same goals as we have for them! Their ideas of their needs and rewards may differ from yours and their teachers. It may be more interesting for them to fulfill their own interests. Here's that control issue again. I decided to cut and paste my usual handout on Motivation for you to consider. This was not included in what I previously sent to Carolyn. If you want to elaborate on any ideas, let me know:

Conveying Constructive Motivation

  • Express trust that the child will act intelligently and responsibly. Use anticipatory praise; expect positive behavior!
  • Respond to children's needs, not to their negative behavior. Needs may not be verbally expressed. Interpret their behaviors and bodily expressions.
  • Examine your own needs and expectations. Are you replaying a vestige of your own childhood? Do you need your child to make you look like a good parent?
  • Discuss your and your child's expectations to understand the reasons for each others' needs. Agree on expectations for yourself and for your child. Ask your child to state the expectancy or perhaps, confirm them in writing (behavioral contract). Jointly write down expected schedules.
  • Agree on the consequences of not complying and adhere to establish trust and security.
  • Explore many alternatives and choices. Allow choices within defined limits.
  • Avoid win-lose situations. Discuss advantages of cooperation.
  • Stimulate creativity and responsibility with asking, "What do you think might happen if you...? What else might you try? How might you feel then? Have the child explore, "In what ways will my decision help me and hurt me?"
  • Ask children to suggest ways that they would like to learn.
  • Relate the learning project to the child's interest, perhaps to all the things they want to be able to do and be when they are older.
  • Break the project down into intermediate steps and successes. Build in rewards.
  • Encourage children to express how they feel. Establish a complaint department to avoid explosive revolts.
  • Encourage honesty. Do not torment children with their truthfulness.
  • Facilitate finding a peer so that they can enjoy cooperative experiences.
  • Cut out criticism.
  • Punishment probably won't work.
  • Be a model of self management and responsibility.

I realize that each of these statements could be a topic of discussion. Perhaps, consider it a menu!!


Perfectionism [top]

Dear Parents -

Sally Lyon, my Devoted Moderator, gently reminded me that I mentioned discussing perfectionism. I'm glad she did because I've experienced that this is another not so golden thread that connects gifted people (Notice, not just the kids here!) There are genetic dispositions to personality. One parent explained to me, "You plant a potato; you get a potato!" And, as with the general genetics of IQ, there are also significant environmental influences.

There is a continuum of definitions and values for being perfectionistic. Some are encouraging and inspire. Some are situation based, meaning that one person places more value on a project than does another. In our discussion, I'll focus on learning ways to help our Children counter the self-defeating aspects of inappropriate, unrealistic high expectations they impose on themselves that often result in refusing to participate and devastation. You fill in the rest..

I've observed that gifted people seem to guard their talents and suspect that "ability" is part of "vulnerability." Ability lies in vulnerability! What do you think of this?: If children experience that one of their particular abilities, say their understanding of the solar system, brings them honor, praise, value in their world and to themselves, they are going to protect that image of themselves that is worth a lot to them. It seems that this is an area in which children might not want to take risks and thus refrain from demonstrating their foibles and mistakes. They might just quit a project to protect against the threat of loosing their confidence in themselves.

As parents, our own behavior models the most potent teaching. Ouch, here it is again! What we do imprints our Children the same way they learn to speak our language. So with any of these ideas, the most viable way to integrate them into your Children's practice is to demonstrate the desired behavior or thought process.

Here are some ideas that you might offer a Child who is daunted by a project or activity: It is important to break the task, activity, project, etc. down into small, manageable, attainable chunks. Chunk it! Sense of failure often comes from inappropriate goal setting. Inch by inch, it's a cinch. Yard by yard it's hard. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you turn a battleship? One degree at a time. I learned this vividly during a presentation by Yo Yo Ma, when we were in Dayton OH, about 20 years ago. He was asked how much he had to practice the cello as a child. He responded that his father made him learn 2 measures a day- perfectly. For example, if your Child is starting to put together a model airplane, he could write down the steps and check them off. Possibly something like: 1- Identify all the pieces 2- arrange them in order of assembly 3- Then if there are directions, do them in order. If no order, create an order, one section of plane at a time, etc. If it is a more complicated science project, the first step could be to decide what you want to do. Then 2 - make a plan. 3- do the research 4- acquire materials, then so on; step by step. You can chime in on congratulations on each step.

I know that it is hard for most of our Children to slow down in their mind and to break tasks down. In their mind, they see the intricate finished product and are impatient and frustrated if it does not soon turn out like their inner model. As adults, we somewhat go through this process mentally. Our children often only see us whip up the finished creation, although we have done a lot of internal figuring out what to do next.

Convey courage: "I know you can try it!" Transformation comes by trials. Remind them of things they enjoy doing that formerly they couldn't do and didn't want to learn how - maybe to swim or ride a bike.

Expect progress, not perfection: Remind your Child about the time she didn't know how to count to 100 or make change and how she kept trying and practicing and now it's easy!

Acknowledge learning: Ask, "What did you learn while you were doing this?" "What might you try next time?" "How might you do it differently next time?"

Applaud persistence: Remind children that heroes keep on working at something even when it's hard to do and when their efforts are not immediately rewarding. Have them read biographies of people who accomplished in their interest area or otherwise well known, like Edison. Often they are not aware of the long hard struggles that preceded famous accomplishments.

Discover and honor meaning and enjoyment: "What were you thinking about while you decided which colors to use?"

Honor time invested: "You gave a lot of your time to this. It must have been important to you."

Many of us were raised on the mandate: "It doesn't matter how it turns out as long as you do your best." "It doesn't matter who wins as long as you did your best." If we think about what we impose on our Children when we really attempt to placate them is that we expect that their actions and their products reflect their very best possible!! Our Children might infer that we judge "the best" of them by their results. Instead, reward trying; "Do your best" can be damaging. Not everything is worth what it takes from us to do our best! Encourage Children to try a skill without being committed to high performance. This is another attitude we can model. You can be certain that your Child hears you proclaim, "Done is better than perfect." -I don't even think "finished" because what I do might be just enough to get by for now - So, you can say, "That will do for now." I love to remember a little neighbor girl who came to visit and enjoyed creating various drawings and projects. Every so often she would show me her paper or other creation and ask, "How do you like it so far?" Perhaps you can instill the intent of creating a "work in progress." Your Child can hear you proclaim, "That's good enough for what it's for." Or, "This is what I have the time to do now." Expect progress, not perfection!

Okay! Okay! This is what I have the time to do now!


Creative Decision Making [top]

I'm attracted to Michelle's observation that "Those who were able to maintain a positive attitude rather than dwell on how difficult their life was seemed more resilient and able to cope and make the most of what they could still do with their life."

I want to relate this profound observation to what I offered earlier about gifted people wanting to have control over themselves. The crux of control is being aware that you are making choices about yourself. Our children's astute awareness, vivid imagination, and excellent memory enable you to work with these control tendencies, helping them learn to make wise choices so that they feel good about themselves and their relationships.

When children have problems, they usually respond with some form of acting out or withdrawing. Most haven't yet learned many coping mechanisms. Instead, children need to become aware that they always have choices over their behaviors and attitudes when they face challenges. They need to learn that their choices can work for them or against them. They need to experience and see the connections between what they do and what happens to them. (Sounds obvious, but this axiom is not internalized in many.) It empowers a person/ child to know that they have choices! People who want to suicide basically feel that they have run out of choices..

Here are some more ideas to appeal to your children's sense of control:

Tell them what to expect. Then ask them to tell you what they expect to expect. They might have interpreted the situation quite differently. We not only need to assume responsibility to communicate what we want, need, etc. but we also need to assume responsibility to validate that our messages are received and understood. You already know that just because you tell somebody something doesn't mean that they hear or comprehend what you meant!

Allow lead time and give notice before an activity is to be started or terminated.

Give explanations and reasons for processes and jobs.

Separate parts of a situation and help them to distinguish between which they have control over and which they do not.

Teach and depend on shared control. Guide negotiation to a consensus on how the children will cooperate and assume shared control. You might need to define limits of possible choices. The consequences of each alternative need to be understood.

As a devotee of the Creative Problem Solving Institute, I want to offer you a basic outline to equip you and your family with creative decision-making. This is so important. As Michelle concluded, there is research evidence that quality of life, health, and success is more determined by how a person reacts to adversity, obstacles, etc, than the number of "hard knocks" he/she receives from life. How we encourage our children to respond to their frustration that ensues from wanting things to go their way now is essential education for Life!

Here is a process to consider:

  • Analyze the problem situation: What is involved? Find the facts. Compartmentalize and prioritize components of the problem rather than generalize awfulness. Analyze the dynamics and components of stress being experienced before you deal with it.
  • Appreciate and try to understand the involved people's different reasons, needs, emotions, meanings. Whose needs are not being met?
  • Examine the influences of your attitudes and behaviors.
  • Recognize the external components so that you can identify what behaviors and attitudes you can change and what you cannot change.
  • Define the problem: What would I like to be different? Who owns the problem?
  • Determine your current range of options, rather than react as a victim.
  • Be a solutions finder, rather than a fault finder! Move from thinking about it to doing something about it.
  • Consider choices to experience control of your life. Replacing thinking that you have to do something with thinking that you choose to do something.
  • Brainstorm alternatives: How might I make that happen? This is the fun part. Try to go for the 37th idea. The sillier, more absurd you can get, the more fertile the thinking!! It can make a good impression to have chart paper and everybody get into the act and write down suggestions. Cardinal rule of brainstorming is that no idea is criticized.
  • These can be little idea, small, attainable goals and big idea that need more chunking.
  • Appreciate a situation as one component of your life. It's not the end of the road!!
  • Evaluate consequences: How might this work for and against me? For and against others? PG children are good at this since they can abstract.
  • Allocate resources: What do I need to make this happen? Get your stuff!
  • AT LEAST READ THIS: Make a plan: What will I do by when? This is another "chunk it" part. For most projects, it usually is more convincing to start from the due date of a project and work backwards. How long will it take for each part - if this is a big project with a due date. If you start with now, it can feel like you have forever to get it done! Kids tell me that they need the adrenalin rush of time crunch!!
  • Do it!
  • Re-evaluate: What did I learn? How did it help? What might I try next time?

More information, materials, workbooks, etc. on CPS can be ordered from Prufrock Press at

Part of my neighbor's immortality is memories of the plaque in her kitchen: ATTITUDES ARE CONTAGIOUS. IS YOUR'S WORTH CATCHING?

I hope this is an effective asset for you.

Enough to digest in one post.


Closing Notes [top]

Reproducing materials

Dear Parents -

Some of you have asked about using the information from my messages to you and my displayed handouts for other purposes to help inform friends, school personnel, etc. I am very happy for you to use this information any way that will be helpful. The information is not "mine." I stand on the shoulders of many other dedicated professionals and everything I really needed to know, I learned from parents like you. Guiding the Gifted Child was significantly written from notes that I took at parent support groups. That's why that book is still useful - it's speaks from the front lines and trenches of parenting gifted children. Stephanie Tolan's chapter and her additions were HER own parenting experience.

I understand that it is OZ policy that I be notified if you reproduce my materials and certainly I would appreciate that.



I've been reviewing your thoughtful messages and want to randomly respond to some of your ideas.

I'm glad that Becca brought up the worthwhile book, Helping the Child Who Doesn't Fit In. This is valuable for parents who have children who seem oblivious - that's too strong a word - to tuning in to where other people are coming from. Some kids just don't get what other people mean if they are just joking or playing around or somehow using words to perhaps cover up what they really mean. It seems that I'm having trouble expressing the motives of this book that essentially gives children ways to become conscious of other people's body language and non-verbal communication. This is an essential part of having self-confidence in social skills. As the Forward ends, "It (this book) brings us new ways of helping children learn a new language, rich in emotional meaning, and necessary for healthy interpersonal relationships." It's by S. Nowicki and Marshall P. Duke Michelle, I hope you found some encouragement in the Motivation message.

Jolanda - I want to expand on the idea you presented of your 4 year old using offering to help as an overture to conversation. You remind me that, for many gifted people, it is generally more comfortable for them to give help than to receive help. They seem to have absorbed subtle messages that gifted people should know better and thus, be able to handle situations. Many are left with the mandate that it is OK to give help, but inappropriate for them to ask for help.

A common comment that many of us were told is that we can be anything we want to be. That is a huge burden to impose on a child since it could imply that this student could be anything - sort of generalizes that he could - or should - be good at anything. I think you know what I mean..

Meredith - Thank you for your caution about learning disabilities - the hidden handicap. I think that there are still people who cannot accept that a person can be gifted and LD - that these qualities are exclusive. There is probably a higher incidence of LD among gifted than there is in the normal population since inherently, these conditions are often defined by the degree to which a person is impaired. I'm referring to the discrepancy between ability and performance.

Boundaries, Books, Overexcitabilities

Now, I'll continue on with our discussion of the Platinum Rule and what Meredith astutely extracted from the idea. I totally agree on all the aspects of the concept you brought out. Thank you for your sensitive, insightful interpretation. Your elaboration and Michelle and Sue Too's perceptive posts lead me to becoming aware of our own personal boundaries. Together, you three make a great statement about reinforcing our children's awareness of their own physical and psychological boundaries. Again, I think that how you, as parents demonstrate your sense of Self to your children imprints the value of distinguishing your own needs, wants, feelings from those of others. Our very sensitive gifted children can be permeable - everything comes in. Many are empathetic to the point of not distinguishing their own needs, feelings, ideas. You can also recognize and honor when your child makes a conscious choice to kindly maintain his/her integrity.

Resources: For you in AU, I want to give another recommendation to Louise Porter's Young Children's Behaviour: Practical approaches for caregivers and teachers. I spent rich and wonderful time with this lovely, astute, wise woman at my home. I think that her book is one of the most humane, sensitive, practical guides for parents. Louise really knows gifted children and her ideas would apply to them.

Here in the US, I sometimes suggest to parents, "If you buy just one book, get Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Kurcinka.

This brings me to Overexcitabilities and Dabrowski's theories. Thank you, "Fly," for introducing him. "Yes!" to everything I've learned from the wonderful people who have translated, interpreted and taught Dabrowski's ideas. OE's can be explained as having a selective lens that amplifies a person's experience. I agree with your suggestion that intuitive knowledge comes from the gifted person's heightened sensitivity to the world, and to their selves. Accessing intuition is difficult to put into words because the receptor is not from our senses, but some inner knowing - yet, I think that our OE's access the stuff for our intuition.

Oh, Jr. Hi.. Therese, if I wrote what I was thinking now, it would be counterproductive. I'm too familiar with the situations you clearly describe. Some other options are to selectively attend Jr. Hi school - perhaps do a partial home schooling and take courses on line or test into HS courses. The idea is to look beyond the walls of the classroom. My heart goes out to you as you describe your son - asynchronous development cubed, he is. Since there is no place for a profoundly gifted child in schools, that place has to be created by creatively assimilating and accessing various options - from nearly always outside the regular classroom. A challenge for individualizing appropriate academic and social programs for profoundly gifted children is that their occurrence is statistically insignificant. However, I think that among their greatest needs is to find at least one person close to their intellectual level and age with whom they share interests and is in the same comfort zone. It seems that same sex doesn't matter much with these kids. Over and over, I've heard that this friend factor - more than one is even better! - is an essential great source for their optimal development. They can be safe at any speed and get out of the living suicide mode of eliminating parts of themselves that do not fit in with the crowd. A great source for information to help profoundly gifted kids and their families is

Yesterday I went to the site for Johns Hopkins University, then Center for Talented Youth, then Publications and found some valuable information for how to fashion programs for profoundly gifted children.

I wish you courage -


The First Honest Book About Lies

Dear Parents -

I'm trying to pick up loose ends and anticipate what else you might like to discuss. It seems that the thread of "perfectionism" winds itself through many aspects of parenting gifted children. Too many experience frustration, guilt, shame - you fill in the rest here- in response to their not getting things done "right." Since we like books that help, I found one that I think should be required reading for all gifted children who have much of an ego investment in being right. The First Honest Book about Lies, by Jonni Kincher, is a treasure-trove of remedies for the need to be right. It's warm and light-hearted. Here are some chapters cover: ideas popularly thought to be true that turned out to be wrong; statistics and how they lie; false politeness and "social lies"; "truth" in advertising; and much more. It's really fun to read. It is available from Free Spirit Publishing $14.95 or $6.95 used through (I've had great luck receiving high quality used books!) The catalogue says that it is recommended for ages 13 and up, but I think gifted children as young as 6 would enjoy and benefit from these perspectives. I can't tell you enough how beneficial I believe that these pages can open your children's minds to how tenuous "right" and "true" can be.

Peace - Betty

Dear Ann -

Thank you for your confidence and inquiry. I have not seen clients for over a year. However, I have an associate, Elizabeth Mika. The more I know her, the more I appreciate and respect her. I might be one person away or directly know someone in your area, if you choose to look for counseling closer to home.

I admire your reaching out for help with your family. I forget the exact number, but the average parent waits several years before picking up the phone to select psychological help. It is a risk that I don't need to elaborate. If you want to contact me off list, that is fine.

Wishing you courage and fortune in this endeavor.


Good-Enough Mother

As part of the wrap-up, I need to remind you of one of my favorite concepts for parents of gifted children. That theme is my version of D. W. Winnicott's "good-enough mother." Roughly, I think that if you were a "perfect" mother who could anticipate and would seamlessly meet all of your children's needs while maintaining your high energy, equanimity, humor, wisdom and creativity - what kind of expectations would your children have for "real people" and for themselves? Children need opportunities to experience that people they love, trust and depend on can let them down, loose their tempers, forget what they told them and it's not the end of their world. Of course, I don't advocate creating situations where you disappoint your children, but it would be unfair for children to grow up and have parents who wouldn't model that it is normal to ask for understanding, help, and forgiveness.

I started out by suggesting that you parents were among the most conscientious. I truly admire your reaching out to gain ways to nurture your children. Although it sort of sounds like a trite cliché, I really do feel that it is a privilege to have your trust to be able to communicate with you. I know that your words are the "tip of the iceberg" to convey the magnitude of your care and concerns. And, my words are meager token to reflect my deep reverence for you and your families.

You'll get more from me in the morning. I know our hours are disappearing-


People make the party -

Without each of your participation, there would be no grist for the mill; no fuel for the fire, etc. Thank you for taking time to formulate and write your situations and responses to create this symposium.

I have been continually impressed with the breadth of your wisdom and your deep concern to manage your roles with astute kindness. Since you are open to evolving your relationships with your children, I can only foresee that you too, will reflect on your children as your greatest life satisfaction and joy. They evolve us!! We can't begin to imagine where they will lead us to new experiences and discoveries about ourselves!

I want you to know how much I cherish your generous, encouraging thoughts you have conveyed to me. I treasure your comments.

I am also indebted to Sally Lyon and Carolyn Rutter for spoon-feeding me through all the steps to get set up to participate. These awesome women have been incredibly patient and meticulously supportive. David Farmer has carried the ball behind the scenes and will create this archive for you.

Peace - Betty

Dear Everyone who participated in this Conference - even those readers only.

I should have been aware that some of your roles extend beyond parenting - such a teaching, counseling, studying visit this site. I wish I could retract the Dear Parents to a more inclusive Dear Reader. I apologize for my short vision.

Thank you for your participation and for all you contributed to me and other readers.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm happy if my articles and handouts can be useful to anyone else. It is gratifying to learn where they are going, so I would greatly appreciate your notification. You may contact me privately at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It is my goal to help families understand, nurture and advocate for their children.

Thank you for making this a delightful experience for me-

Peace and Joy!!


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