When You Aren’t Smart Enough for Your Six Year Old

Image: Lotus Carroll
Image: Lotus Carroll
B informed me the other night that she “gets all of her brilliance from Dad.*”

It’s rough when your own kids perpetuate your imposter syndrome.

I politely disagreed, but she explained to me that he knows far more than me. I rebutted, stating that he knows far more than me on a variety of subjects, but there are some in which I am the proficient one of the family.

(Like handling your messy emotions, Kid. Let me leave you with Daddy during a meltdown and we’ll see who you think has done more research.)

She persisted with her opinion. Again, I countered.

“You know, brilliance isn’t all about how much you know. It’s also about how much you want to learn and how much you are willing to work for it, especially when you are frustrated.”

The next morning, B got stuck on a Trivia Crack question**, and ran into the office to ask her dad for help. I told her the answer, but she disregarded my words and waited for him. He was in the middle of finishing some work, and answered her (with the same answer) just as she ran out of time.

“Dad! You didn’t answer fast enough! I am out of time!”

To which I replied, “REALLY? I JUST GAVE YOU THE ANSWER. THE SAME ANSWER THAT YOUR FATHER GAVE YOU TOO LATE.”

She shrugged. “Well, I asked him. Not you.”

I swear I’m going to start telling her to go look it up next time she has a question that involves a detailed, time-consuming reply. Because, you know, I am probably just not bright enough to answer her anyway. 😉

*     *     *     *     *

*Dad does not support or reinforce this opinion!

**We all went through a few weeks of Trivia Crack addiction in our house. It unwittingly became a learning tool. B played with her dad and me and picked up an astounding amount of knowledge from it over the course of a few weeks. Do your kids play?

Advertisements

Healthy Perfectionism and How to Encourage It

Healthy Perfectionismimage: Joe Hitchcock

“Overcoming Perfectionism”

“Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism”

“Freeing your Family From Perfectionism”

These are just a few of the 1,026 book results I find when I search “perfectionism” on Amazon. “Shame”, “guilt”, “not good enough”, “out of control”, “constant need for approval” are terms I see regularly when searching Google for resources.

I’ve thought I needed to fight perfectionism all my life. I’ve read self-help books like the ones listed above. I worry about my children who have inherited the same traits and hope they won’t ever feel that those words apply to them.

Then I read Giftedness 101, by Linda Silverman. In chapter 5, she describes healthy perfectionism in gifted children as something transformative that pushes them to improve themselves and enjoy facing challenges.

I had an “Aha!” moment as I read it. Her explanation described how I approach the world as an adult and many of the behaviors I notice in my children. It explained the whisper in my head that argued, “But I like being a perfectionist! How can wanting to be better be bad for me?”

So, what’s the difference between harmful and healthy perfectionism?

Harmful perfectionism can be paralyzing. It prevents us from reaching goals and taking chances. Add giftedness and anxiety to the mix, and it can become a stronger force that requires professional intervention.

Healthy perfectionism pushes us forward to meet the challenge, break the record and be the best self we can be. It’s a motivator, not a discourager.

Do you see this in your kids? I see both sides of perfectionism in my girls and I’d like to share some ways we are working to cultivate healthy perfectionism in our household.

1. Encourage Pursuits that they Love

B loves gymnastics. She works hard at practice and has a great attitude. Her coach noticed this and promoted her to the team in January. This led to a rocky period – She was a 6-year-old in a group of 8 and 9-year-olds. Her small stature was a disadvantage and her muscle development was two years behind the others. Gymnastics became really hard. Her coach talked to her about working with a different group and coming back to the team in six months.

I worried that she would feel defeated and give up. I prepared to convince her to persevere and not let a setback ruin something she loves. I began thinking of other activities she could do instead if she didn’t want to continue at the gym. That was my harmful perfectionism talking. The “why try? You’ll never be good enough” voice that plagued me as a child. 

Thankfully, she hears a different voice of perfectionism – one that encourages her to keep going until she gets it. Her motivation grew stronger. She began practicing at home every day and working even harder at the gym. Her attitude stayed upbeat. It paid off – she’s been asked to come back to the team in June instead of September. She is so proud of herself and enjoys gymnastics more with every challenge she overcomes.

What does your child enjoy? Whether it’s art, sports or competitive chess, encourage activities that they love. It’s much easier to face a challenge when it holds personal satisfaction for you. When the pursuit becomes difficult, help your child to see how much progress they’ve made. B loves to watch old videos of herself doing gymnastics – it’s a visual reminder of her improvement over the last year.

2. Be Understanding

Remember that asynchrony plays a large part in your child’s perfectionism. If your 7-year-old has 10-year-old ideas, the distance between what he wants to do and what he is physically capable of may be frustrating. Be empathetic. Share a personal story about a situation that turned out to be much more difficult than you thought it should be and how you handled it. If your child needs to rage about it, let him. It’s good to work through the negative feelings. When the smoke clears, discuss why the goal is important to him, and encourage him to try again. Show him how to break a big project into smaller steps and celebrate taking risks along the way. Help him focus on the joy of the process, not the product.

3. Be a Good Example

I am not athletic at all. I have terrible balance and trip over my own feet if I am not paying attention. I married a natural athlete then had adventurous children and they all like to rock climb. I am terrified of rock climbing. I used to blame it on my short legs, but the truth is, I hate looking stupid. When I rock climb, I feel so inadequate and uncomfortable. I act cranky and came dangerously close to throwing a fit once during some perilous hiking a climb my four-year-old handled with ease. I reflected on my poor behavior and admitted the cause – I didn’t want to fail in front of my family.

I talked to the girls about it and apologized. We came up with worst case scenarios and had a good laugh at the thought of me sliding down a hill on my bum. They encouraged me. “That could happen, Mom, but it didn’t! We’ve never even seen you fall!”

It’s important that they see me fall every now and then so they can watch me get back up, dust off and try again.

 4. Offer “Safe” Opportunities for Failure.

Games have proven to be the best venue for “safe” failure in our home. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve purchased several games recently that involve strategy, taking chances and uncertain odds. I usually introduce a game in a modified version with fewer variables, and we work our way to playing by the rules. The first time we played Rat-a-Tat Cat with all of our cards face down, B had a breakdown. She could not handle the possibility of guessing and making the wrong choice. We talked it through. What was the worst thing that could happen? Would it matter later in the day or tomorrow? Finally, she was able to work through her anxiety and play the game, and it’s one of her favorites now. I’ve seen her generalize these strategies to other areas of her life and it makes me proud.

5. It’s Not Your Fault

Some kids are born more anxious than others and lean toward self-critical perfectionism. You’ve tried read the books, tried the strategies, are endlessly encouraging…and nothing helps. You are a good parent. Perfectionism, along with many other quirks, is a typical part of a gifted child’s wiring and is rarely caused by poor parenting, despite what our judgemental society often tells us. If you feel like your child’s version of perfectionism is beyond healthy parameters, a good therapist can help.

Healthy perfectionism fuels the Olympic athlete, the best-selling novelist,  and the mathematician who spends years proving a theory. The attitude behind perfectionism makes all the difference.

Embrace it. Let it motivate you. Teach your children that mistakes are hurdles, not roadblocks, and prepare them to leap.

Resources on Perfectionism:

The Many Faces of Perfectionism, Linda Silverman (summary)

Perfectionism: The Crucible of Giftedness, Linda Silverman (More extensive overview of perfectionism and how it relates to Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration – excellent read!)

What’s Wrong With Perfect?, Silvia Rimm

Real Learning: Meet the Perfectionists, Lisa Natcharian

This blog post is part of the May 2015 GHF Blog Hop – Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2e Quirks. You can find more posts on this subject here! 

Three Words to Never Say to Your Child’s Teacher

Last week, I wrote a post discussing common myths about early enrollment and acceleration. What should you do when educators hold on to these fallacies at the expense of your child’s social growth and academic development? 

This week, I am happy to share a post from my friend Celi TrĂ©panier, author of Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling, as she relates some insightful advice on what you should and should not say to your child’s teacher. 

**Also, see follow up post, Words You Should Say to Your Child’s Teacher

Advocating for Your Gifted Child: 
3 Words to Never Say to Your Child’s Teacher

Gifted children need and deserve an appropriately challenging education as do all children, but as the educational system focuses more on improving test scores and teaching to the middle, our gifted children have found themselves left out in the cold—unchallenged and not making sufficient educational progress.

As parents of gifted children, we find ourselves in the position of having to advocate, trying to convince our child’s teacher and the school to implement the needed educational accommodations our gifted child needs. It is most certainly an uphill battle. Schools and teachers face increasing demands on their time from their administration to focus on children who need to meet grade level standards. And guess what? Our gifted children frequently already meet the grade level standards and attention then focuses away from their educational needs.

And, there are times, many times, in which a regular classroom teacher just doesn’t understand gifted children. Many of these teachers have had one too many parent push to get their high-achieving child identified as gifted and into the gifted program. When a parent arrives at the classroom door wanting to talk about their gifted child who is apparently under-challenged, teachers become jaded. A teacher’s predisposition to believing you will be that parent doesn’t make them a bad teacher, just one who forgets that there can be gifted children in their classroom who need more.

Trying not to appear to be that parent is a situation you will have to contend with, as unfair as it is. But when your gifted child is suffering because she needs acceleration, accommodations or differentiation, you have to step in and advocate.

Need some help? Here are three things you should probably not—no, maybe never—say to your child’s teacher when advocating for the appropriate education your gifted child needs.

1. NEVER USE THE WORD “BORED”.

Telling your child’s teacher that your child is bored is like telling the teacher she is boring, how she teaches is boring and that her class is boring. No one wants to hear criticism, especially a teacher who cares about her students and is working tirelessly for all of the children in her class. And bringing up the negative points never helps a discussion move in a positive direction.

2. AVOID USING THE WORD “GIFTED”.

Yes, your child has been identified as being gifted. And yes, “gifted” is the clinical term used in psychology, education and in the medical field for a child who has a higher IQ and above-average intellectual strengths. But, yes, “gifted” does trigger emotional reactions such as resentment, frustration, anger, indifference and envy which can be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve. Instead of using the word “gifted” to describe your child, point out your child’s achievements, strengths and abilities using test scores and classwork as proof.

3. TRY NOT TO USE THE WORD “YOU”.

Avoid making the conversation about the teacher—“you need to give my child more challenging work”, “can you differentiate her classwork?” or “why can’t you accelerate her?” Instead, keep the conversation focused on your gifted child and her needs. Express clearly what negative behaviors you are seeing in your child due to her being unchallenged, and state the educational accommodations your child needs to succeed. Keep the focus of the conversation on your child, not on what your child’s teacher has not been doing or should be doing for your child.

Advocating for your gifted child is a tough gig and the odds are, you will likely get some push back from the teacher and the school. Be diligent, but thoughtful when advocating for your gifted child because your child needs you to be in her corner. She deserves an appropriate education.

About Celi:


Celi Trépanier was born and raised in south Louisiana. She grew up with a strong Cajun French heritage, eventually married a French-Canadian, and has three wonderful sons. She currently resides in central Iowa with her husband and youngest son.

Celi has a vast and varied background in education. She received her B.S. from Loyola University in New Orleans and her M.Ed. from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, then taught in Louisiana, Ontario, and Alabama, in public schools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops.

Celi became a passionate advocate for gifted children after tiring of her family’s painful battles with traditional schools and the misunderstanding and neglect of gifted students. Through adversity came her passion, her strength, and her voice. She advocates for the educational, emotional, and social needs of all gifted children, and her dream is for schools and society to one day understand the truths about giftedness in children. Her writing centers on her advocacy for gifted children and her own journey with her three gifted sons. Her emotional and sometimes pointed posts can be found on her website, Crushing Tall Poppies.

You can follow Celi on Linkedin, Twitter, & Facebook

Early Enrollment Myths: Social And Emotional Fit

Image: Alkawa Ke

B mentioned a few months ago that she’d like to go to school next year.

Her request caused a myriad of emotions that I am working through, but that is a different post.

We are fortunate to live in an area with many charter schools and a good public school district. I found a small Montessori-based charter for next year, and set a time for her to shadow a classroom and see what it was like. While she visited, I sat down with the assistant director to ask some important questions.

Among other things, I asked how the school approached teaching a child who was in 2nd grade, but working at a much higher level in some subjects. The answer was reasonable – the kids are assessed at the beginning of the year to determine their academic levels. If they are working at various grade levels, they are placed in the appropriate grade for the that part of the day. Classes are multi-age. Students are grouped K/1st, 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th. Chances are good that B will spend part of her day in the 1st/2nd class and the majority in the 3rd/4th class.

I asked about early enrollment for kindergarten. C will turn 5 a few months after the August cut-off date. I don’t plan on sending her to school at this point, but sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and I like to know my options. I don’t think preschool would be a good fit.  She is reading well and catching on to math quickly – she has almost caught up to B without any formal instruction. Her favorite friends are 6 & 7 and they like to play with her too.  The K/1st class could be a good option for her.

The administrator’s tone changed.

“We do not take any early enrollment. We have found that it is rarely a good social fit.”

She continued,

“You know, it’s really much better for them not to start early. You see it clearly right around middle school and high school. It’s difficult for them to be emotionally younger than their classmates.  They have a hard time fitting in.”

I sighed inwardly as I heard the fallacy that so many teachers and administrators believe despite the well-researched work of Assouline and Coangelo and many others. “Acceleration is bad. It doesn’t work socially. We should slow them down when they are young so they will fit in as teenagers.”

She couldn’t see the contradiction in her answers. According to that philosophy, won’t B run into the same problems? What if B completes the work through 4th grade – will they keep her in the building so she will be with age-peers instead of moving her on to the 5th-8th grade campus?

More importantly, if you have a child who is learning at a rapid speed, whose mind is years ahead and they don’t fit in with age-peers at four or five years old, why on earth would you assume that same child will magically fit in with age-peers in seven years when they begin middle school?

As Ann Shoplik wisely said, “Academically talented children may complain because they feel “different” or socially isolated from other students in their grade. Moving them ahead actually helps them to fit in better, because they share similar interests with the older students who are closer to their intellectual level.”

B is still thinking her about her final decision. She’s talked to me about the pros and cons and will make her choice by the end of June.

If she goes, how will I advocate for her? If C follows in a year, how do I encourage administration to look beyond her age, and to her personality and ability?  Have you been through this or have similar questions of your own?

Thankfully, my friend Celi from Crushing Tall Poppies just wrote a book that answers many of these questions, and she’ll be guest posting here next week!

A few resources on acceleration and early enrollment:

Skip a Grade? Start Kindergarten Early? It’s not so Easy – NPR

What is Holding Back America’s Brightest Students? – Jonathan Wai @ CreativityPost.com 

Accelerated – Noah’s Story