The Gifted Child
We've all heard the stories. Tiger Woods took up an interest in golf at only six months. Wayne Gretzky started skating by age two. Mozart had begun composing by age five. Gifted children? You betcha. Talent and greatness you should expect and push your child to have? Not necessarily. While these stars certainly showed a natural gift early in life, they are the exception to the rule.
Most babies in the first year of their life spend their time learning about the world around them and becoming acquainted with themselves. While your child may very well aspire to greatness in a few short years, right now they are simply aspiring to be a baby. In fact, there are some talents that you just cannot realize until your child is older. Your child may be the next Picasso, but at four months old she still needs to master the art of sitting up before she can master holding a paintbrush. However, if you really think that your child may be gifted, there are some signs that your child may show during their first year that could be a sign of things to come.
If your child exhibits overall advanced development (sitting up early, talking early, walking early); a good ability to make connections and remember things; shows original problem solving skills (stacks some books in order to get to a toy that's otherwise out of reach); has a creative imagination; a heightened curiosity and concentration level and a heightened sense of perception and sensitivity, there is a good chance your child may be gifted.
Extremely gifted children have been known to do very unusual things for a baby of their age. For instance, repeating simple words within the first month of being born. Even if your child does not show any advancement for their age, there is no need to fret. There are many children that turn out to be exceptionally gifted. However, they were late bloomers in everything, not even learning how to talk until they were almost three.
Another thing that many parents need to keep in mind is that a gifted child is not necessarily a child who excels in school or academic pursuits. Intellect should not be measured simply by a child's abilities in reading, writing and math. Instead, parents need to recognize the importance of different kinds of intelligence. Someone may be a genius when it comes to building a bridge or a computer chip, but place them in the kitchen and they won't be able to tell you a pot from a pan.
The idea of different types of intelligence is often referred to as the theory of multiple intelligences. Recognizing that there is more than just academic smarts, multiple intelligences encourages the development of a wide range of skills. If your child does poorly in school, do not assume that they are dumb. Nor should you let your child think that they are stupid. While helping them overcome their difficulties in school, look to encourage any talents they may have that are not school related. Perhaps your child really enjoys sports; then sign them up for an after school team. Allowing your child to see that they are clever in other pursuits outside of school will help to give them more self-confidence.
The media can often be the culprit of a misrepresentation of reality. Talk shows, newspapers, and magazines all seem to report on a regular basis about a new wonder child that has achieved great things by their impossibly young age. The media is well aware of the "super baby" phenomenon and reports on it every chance they get. This can make it seem like every child is gifted except yours, who is just average. The reality is that these children are not the norm. Unfortunately, this over reporting often encourages parents to push their child to achieve what these other children have.
Child experts strongly advise against pushing a child to perfect a talent. They feel that pushing a child can be more harmful than helpful. A child who is pushed to be a flawless piano player may end up resenting their skill. They may also achieve their perfection at the cost of other skills. Unfortunately, being exceptionally gifted does not guarantee a charmed life. There are many sad stories about various child prodigies whose lives have been ruined for one or another because of their parents pushing.
Keeping Things in Perspective
So, what should you do to ensure that your baby has the best chances of excelling in whatever talent they possess? Simple. Encourage your child in what interests them; don't push or force a talent that you would like them to have. Yet, many parents have a hard time telling the difference between encouragement and forcefulness.
Encouraging your child means providing them with the means for them to feel confident in their talents and gifts, whatever that may be. If your child shows a strong interest in history, take them to a museum. If they have a wild imagination, feed their creativity by reading books together. But don't go overboard. Encouraging can easily turn into pushing without you even realizing it. If your child says enough, then back off.
Pushing your child means forcing your child to sit while you teach them to read with flash cards. Children know what they do and don't enjoy, even if they are only five months old. If you ignore your child's protests over a selected activity, you may end up fostering hatred towards a particular talent. Also, ask yourself who is actually interested in developing this talent. Is it your child or you?
All parents hope their child will be gifted in some way. The majority of parents hope to be able to discover these talents as soon as possible so that they can begin to nurture and encourage their child's ability. However, some parents hope to create a "super baby" by forcing their child to take up a skill, such as playing piano. These parents often impose strict rules about practicing this skill to perfection. While a parent may have the best of intentions, a forced talent is not necessarily an enjoyed talent in your child's eyes.
Parents like to compare notes with each other and every one wants to have the smartest baby. But your child's development should not be a competition. Do you only want to have a gifted child so that others can think you're a superior parent? Gifted babies come from gifted parents who love their child for who they are, not who parents hope they'll be.