Being a gifted child brings pride and joy to parents. Gifted children are often stereotyped as intelligent due to their ability to grasp concepts effortlessly and quickly in school. Despite their impeccable abilities, they are after all, human. Like every other learner, gifted learners too, face their fair share of challenges in learning.
In recent years, there have been more studies done on giftedness and the challenges faced by gifted learners. These studies aim to help us recognise the needs of the gifted and the importance of providing emotional and psychological support to them.
What defines a “gifted” learner?
It has been a traditional and uni-dimensional view that high-functioning cognitive individuals who fall within the academic domain of talents with an IQ test of at least 130 or top 1% level in general intellectual ability are being considered as truly gifted while anyone who falls outside this range is viewed as “non-gifted”. Over the last few decades, a majority of academic views have changed as more research supporting multiple components of intelligence has been demonstrated (Gardner, 1999; Sternberg & Davidson, 1986). Creativity, motivation and high self-concept are among the important qualities identified in the broadened conceptions of giftedness by the theorists such as Renzulli’s (1986) three-ring that attempt to portray the main interacting clusters of human traits ─ above-average ability, creativity and task commitment for ingenious productivity in his multi-faceted and expanded conceptualization of giftedness.
The role of parents in nurturing giftedness
To ensure that the needs of the gifted are catered for, it is imperative to recognise some of the struggles that gifted learners face and what parents can do to provide greater support to them in their educational journey. The key roles of parents and other members in the family to a gifted child are basic home experiences, love, security, understanding and acceptance (Roberts, 1954).
For example, in the case of competition among siblings, where the younger sibling tries desperately to act in a way different from the elder one who also demonstrates high intelligence, appropriate guidance given to the child can eventually help him understand and cope with his insecurities.
Sometimes, it could lead to personality adjustment of the younger child whose self-concept may be affected by the belief that he is the “non-gifted” one in their family to feel motivated enough to excel. In this case, parents have to establish the value of self-belief in their children and ensure that good relationship among the siblings is constantly maintained.
It is natural for parents to develop and facilitate the gifted child in his academic pursuits for excellence, nurture his gifts and talents when the child exhibits such potentials in an early age. However, gifted children often internalised a great sense of stress when they experience pressures from their parents and relatives that typically arise due to their giftedness. While the abundant praise they receive can strengthen their motivation, frequent and excessive acclamations may have adverse effects on their self-belief as they become too reliant on such extrinsic motivation that they “find it difficult to function without continuous praise and reinforcement” (Rimm, 2003, p.424).
While trying to conform to the expectations of parents and adult mentors, those with unrealistic perfectionism will attempt to achieve perfect grades or attain all aspirations and goals for fear that they would disappoint the adults who held high hopes for them especially those with multi-potentiality. Being extremely self-critical, their self-esteem may be affected when they find it hard to respect their own mediocre performance and feeling guilty for neglecting areas where they could have done better in. Parents hence have to be more aware of their children’s ability and adjust their expectations accordingly so that their gifted children will not be overly pressured to perform and yet able to enjoy their achievements.
Giftedness is the greatest natural resources one could have. With a good understanding of giftedness, proper and continuous nurturing and guidance from their supportive parents, the gifted learners will be able to have greater motivation in what they do, thereby realising their potentials and transforming their gifts into talents.
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.
Renzulli, J. (1986). The three-ring conception of giftedness: A developmental model for creative productivity. In R. J. Sternberg and J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 53-92). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rimm, S.B. (2003). Underachievement: A National Epidemic. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (3rd ed., pp. 424-443). Boston, Mass: Allyn & Bacon.
Roberts, R.H. (1954). The environment of the Gifted. Journal of Teacher Education, 5(3), 218220.
Sternberg, R. J., & Davidson, J. (Eds.). (1986). Conceptions of giftedness. New York: Cambridge University Press.