Do Not Jump to Conclusions about Your Preschooler’s Characteristics

Recently I had some pretty obvious physical symptoms that indicated I should see a doctor. Because my symptoms were pretty pronounced, I was shuttled from doctor to doctor in quick succession. Each specialist hypothesized about what awful disease I probably had. While each of these doctors had a lot of experience in their professions, we had no test results back yet. There was little objective information. I didn’t want to listen to any of their speculations, because I would worry myself unnecessarily. It also would have made no sense for them to treat me for an illness they just thought I had. This reminded me of communications I have with many parents.

I frequently hear from concerned parents with very young children. Either the parents or others are experiencing behavioral problems with the kids. The parents are certain that their child is gifted and that is the cause of the problems. They don’t know what to do. They are frantic. I ask parents to remember to withhold conclusions until they have more information. Because some well-meaning teacher or friend tells you that they think your child is gifted, doesn’t mean she is. Even if your child is gifted, that doesn’t mean that his or her giftedness is the cause of whatever problems you are having. The parents are assuming a “diagnosis” and speculating about “treatment” prematurely.

The first thing I recommend to these parents is to learn as much as they can about giftedness. Read books, such as Early Gifts: Recognizing and Nurturing Children's Talents. Subscribe to magazines and journals on gifted education. Attend gifted education conferences. If you feel it is necessary to have your child formally tested (there are pros and cons to this) find a psychologist who has experience with gifted children.

Also, basic parenting skills are important. Even if your child is gifted, he is still a child. Because he is verbally precocious doesn’t mean he should be given the power in the family to make adult decisions, which can then lead to behavior problems. Read some books by Silvia Rimm, such as Dr.Sylvia Rimm's Smart Parenting: How to Raise a Happy, Achieving Child  .

Once your child is in school, talk with your student’s teacher. While you may see one side of your child, the teacher has worked with many children and may have valuable information to share with you that is quite different from your perspective. While it is important for you to share your knowledge, it is also extremely important for you to truly listen.

Your child may be experiencing social/emotional problems that sometimes accompany giftedness, but the problems you are having may also be caused by other reasons.

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