By Audra Nelson, Parent
As a parent of three bright, high-energy kids, I spend most of my days feeling tired. Grateful and happy, but tired. There are simply not enough hours in the day. For this reason, I have a love/hate relationship with parenting advice. The advice often sounds great, but just thinking about how to implement it can wear me out.
The Center for Talent Development’s recent Opportunities for the Future Conference was chock-full of fantastic parenting advice. Strangely, though, I left feeling energized. Maybe because it’s summer, and the days truly are longer. Or maybe because the advice seemed too important NOT to implement. Either way, I’m excited to act on the following six ideas shared by keynote speakers Drs. Del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach.
1. Talk about how talent develops. Don’t let giftedness be the elephant in the room with your kids. Too often, gifted students believe every challenging task is a test of their giftedness, and they live in fear that people will find out they aren’t as smart as everyone thinks they are. Remind children that they have a role to play. It’s not about being gifted; it’s about using your gifts and developing your talent, achieving and learning more each day.
2. Teach kids that mistakes make us smarter. Too often, children buy into the belief that smart kids do well without working hard. We need kids to realize that working hard makes you smart! As you stretch yourself and overcome challenges, you create new pathways in your brain. Every mistake leads you closer to success. As parents, we can help kids build their brains by providing them with enrichment opportunities such as those offered by CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program or Gifted LearningLinks.
3. Avoid -EST words. As adults, we know it’s rarely, if ever, true that we are the best, brightest, fastest or any other -est. At some point, our kids will learn this lesson, too. If they grow up thinking they are the -EST, the reality will come as a shocker. As parents, we can help build kids’ confidence and give them a realistic view of the world by avoiding “-est” words and exposing them to other kids of equal or greater ability. The earlier that students “swim in a bigger pool of talent,” the easier it is for them to develop a mindset centered on learning and growth rather than a performance mindset in which ability is a fixed entity.
4. Give specific, developmental compliments. John Hattie did a meta-analysis of the education research to find out what makes the most impact on a child’s education, and this was it: individual feedback. The next time my daughter asks if I like her drawing, I’m going to stop and really look at it. And instead of saying, “That’s the best portrait you’ve ever drawn,” I will take note of something specific. Maybe I will say, “I really like the realistic colors you’ve chosen,” or “You spent a long time working on that. You must be learning to pay attention to detail.” I will make the time to respond to her in a way that will influence her learning, not just allow me to get back to my agenda.
5. Document and recognize growth. Showing kids how much they’ve learned year to year gives them a visual of growth and an understanding that growth is not fixed, but malleable. When my son moans and groans about handwriting practice, I can encourage him by showing him the improvement he made from preschool to kindergarten.
6. Advocate, advocate, advocate for gifted education. Research suggests that in a typical 180-day public school year, gifted kids spend nearly 75 days on unnecessary repetition, approximately 80 days on content previously mastered and only 25 days on new material. The research on gifted students’ growth over the course of a year is equally dismal. Gifted kids seem to be learning more during the summer, away from school, than they are learning during the academic year in school. In a system that evaluates teachers on achievement, rather than individual growth, teachers have every incentive to pull up low-achievers and, sadly, to let high achievers be. Gifted education needs parent advocates. Let’s get started today!
If you attended the conference this past weekend, what were your takeaways? If you didn’t, what do you think of the ideas above?
CTD sponsors the Opportunities for the Future conference every year. The event offers a wide variety of sessions and workshops for gifted students and their parents.