When Being Gifted is no Gift.

in hive-120078 •  10 months ago 

Raising and homeschooling my daughters raised challenges I didn't always have the foresight to see what consequences there might be for them. They are both very different, not only in how they learn, but how they were treated because of it. My eldest picked up things quickly and easily, whereas my youngest needed more visual, hands on practise to achieve the same. Often that annoying word, gifted, would crop up for my eldest.

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You'd think that being gifted would make life easier for her, but it comes with some insidious side effects. There I was trying to build up my youngest’s resilience at always being in her sister's shadow, but it took a bit longer to realise the damage that riding high could do to my eldest.

I soon realised she'd potentially come unstuck when she came across things that she didn't pick up straight away and needed to work at it. For those who’ve always had to work hard with learning, they know no different and just keep working at it. However, those who have never needed to work at anything very much often end up seeing themselves as failures when one day it doesn't come easily. It's a long way to fall when you've been put up on a pedestal and people have high expectations of you.

To counteract this I always tried to be realistic with her and let her know that I didn't have expectations and loved her no matter what. I would tell her that it's okay to not get something straight away and that it can be a good thing to have to work at something, because there will come times where things won't come as easily. She would work at things until she got them, although often the drive seemed more to prove that she could be the best at it or match those who had more experience, which probably wasn't the best motivator.

Any teachers she had would often favour her and praise her, so she'd have that as her reward and validation. She'd get awards, certificates and high grades, all adding to that validation. Yet there comes a time as you move into the adult world where these methods are no longer used as motivation, because you're expected to be self motivated. For someone who's gotten used to all that external validation it can be hard to accept their self worth without it. Without that external confirmation, it's hard for them to assess if they're doing well enough. They can feel that they need to work harder and harder to do better and better, because no-one's telling them that it's good enough and they can feel like a failure every time they start to struggle on something.

This is a more extreme pedestal to fall from, but I feel it illustrates well how hard a reliance on external gratification hits you when it's gone. Stephanie Rice, an Australian Olympic gold medalist, reflected on her transition after retiring from swimming:

”Going through my transition after swimming was incredibly tough. It wasn’t until about a year after finishing my athletic career when all the dust settled, and the realisation of no longer being ‘current’ and recognised for being the best at something set in. Achieving such high levels of success in sport brings about wonderful opportunities which are usually all based on external gratifications. So when you take away the vehicle in which you receive this recognition it definitely has a huge hit on your self-worth.”

As a parent there is only so much control you have on things. You can't control how coaches, teachers and other people in general, treat your child, but it would be a mistake to isolate them from learning from others. All we, as parents, can do is try and balance things out and arm them ready for the days that being gifted becomes a curse and they have to develop their self worth from within.

~○♤○~

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Interesting post as usual.

They both got good heads on their shoulders - they are pretty resilient people and you did a good job.

Experiencing the fall is part of life, I think its something we all have to go through.

You could be right. Perhaps most of us experience the fall much sooner, as children, so we deal with it quicker. I certainly got taught my place near the bottom of the pecking order early on, being the youngest. 😆

Oh you nailed this, @minismallholding! You might be talking about me... sigh I so rarely start things I might not be good at, and it has been a liability in my adult working life. Also the (easy) inclination to escape into my head when it might have been better to sit with or talk about what I feel? There have been days emotionally retarded has been flung at me. LOL

Appreciating this important reflection.


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It's a shame it's so rarely talked about. I think we just assume that those who pick things up easily or are "talented," have it easy and don't need to worry about anything.

This was a threat of a thing with my oldest and why I make all of them continue with things they generally enjoy but otherwise struggle with XD

Thank you for recognizing this and trying to help your daughter with it!
I was in the "gifted and talented" program and honors classes in school and definitely feel this. But I also felt it then because I was good at some things and terrible at others. I learned to read and write when I was 3 years old and was always off the charts in reading comprehension and those types of measures - but I always struggled with math from the time we got introduced to multiplication tables onwards. My brain just does not compute math. Whenever teachers looked at my notes (because you had to "show your work"), they didn't understand what I was doing because I didn't understand how to do it. And yet I was always put into honors math classes, because if you're an honors kid you get put in honors everything even when it does not apply.
So I'd feel like a little genius in English class and a total failure in math class. When your whole identity has been built on "being good in school," this really does a number on you.
I'm glad you are supportive of your daughter. My parents just tried to drill multiplication tables into my head and when I couldn't memorize them, got more frustrated with me than I did myself because I had never struggled with anything in school before and they weren't prepared for it. I never got praise for my report card full of A's and B's and instead got condemned for the C I got in math.

Interestingly, reading comprehension was the one thing my daughter struggled a bit with. She was more of a math and science brain, but still did well in English, just didn't enjoy it or get it so much.

Assumptions do us all an injustice. Everyone has different strengths and works differently.

Oh my goodness @minismallholding, this is such an important topic! I was the gifted education consultant for my public school district for 3 years, and during that time I saw so much misconception around what makes a child "gifted." The research is just starting to catch up with what parents have always known - sometimes being gifted becomes a curse. It is so important to learn directly from the parents and children. I believe I am raising 2 of my own, and would love to chat with you more about your experience sometime. Sending you a big hug 🌱

As a parent often we're initially excited by the idea that our child is "gifted" (assuming we never were), but it doesn't take long to see the problems emerging.

I'd be very interested to hear your perspectives from your time as a consultant.


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Which is why building their mental strength is so important. I love the fact that you're trying to make her realize she won't always have things easy. Eventually she'll learn the hard way, and am sure she'll be ready by then

She's 18 now and it's been hitting her hard this last year, which is what had made these issues more apparent to us. She's been told she has "crippling self esteem issues," something that's not going to be easy to work through.

Not quite long I learnt that people have different ways of learning. Some are visual learners while some can just grab something by reading them up. I personally find it hard to comprehend somethings so fast just by reading them unless I read them over and over again. This happen to me during my college time and it was a huge challenge to me.

However, just by looking or watching how things were done, I quickly learn and comprehend things - Probably that's the reason I flow more in art.

People have their own ways of learning, understanding this earlier will help them and their guardians follow the right path of nurturing them.

Personal motivation takes time and patience especially for people who need validation from others to believe in themselves.

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I think we all want validation from others to a point. If no-one else believes in your serif worth, does it really exist?

It often frustrates me that education is geared towards one form of learning, when people have different ways of learning. I'm glad you found an outlet in your art.

This was my downfall growing up. School was easy and I had always been told I was smart. As soon as things got hard I got very upset and felt like a failure. As a teacher I am most careful with these kinda kids. You have to say 'well done for WORKING SO HARD" not 'aren't you clever, 'fantastic Effort' not 'Fantastic result'. I wish all parents were taught this. I also teach my students that if you aren't struggling, you arent learning!

What a blessing for them to have a teacher that gets it. You can do putative reinforcement without sabotaging.