The Most Important Thing about Raising Gifted Children

It can be very exciting for parents to discover that their child is “gifted.” Often what follows this excitement is a keen interest in creating a stimulating educational environment for the child. Parents, however, can easily get so wrapped up in trying to maximize the potentiality of their child that they neglect to develop the very thing that he or she needs most.

The most valuable lesson that parents can teach gifted children is that they have value and worth apart from how well they perform.

Baby Einstein

Sufficiently stimulating the minds of gifted children should be the least of parents’ worries. Even without their parents’ help, gifted children will find creative ways to keep themselves entertained and intellectually stimulated. Parents may try to implement incentives to help their children maximize their motivation to learn, but there really is nothing that can do a better job at that than the deep curiosity that is already within every gifted child.

Regardless of the kind of educational environment they grow up with, gifted children are born to excel. They will inevitably outperform their peers in one or more areas in their life and attract a lot of attention and praise from others. While this might sound quite promising, the constant highlighting of their performance is likely to cause gifted children to build their identity and self-worth on their outcomes, results, and achievements, all highly fallible external qualities. This is no good.

The self-esteem of models suffers in a very similar fashion. Model Cameron Russell shares in her TED talk that, despite having won a “genetic lottery” (2:50), she and many other models are some of the “most physically insecure women probably on the planet” (8:27).

Giftedness and insecurity is a dangerous combination. Gifted people (including models that are, in a way, “gifted” in their appearance) who do not know that they have value and worth apart from how well they perform will feel immense pressure to create their own value and worth in the area that they are gifted in. For those with extreme emotional sensitivity, which pretty much includes the whole gifted population, that pressure to create value and worth magnifies exponentially. So many insecure gifted people are consequently driven to workaholism and perfectionism. Success then becomes a dangerous reward that justifies their unbalanced lifestyle. Broken relationships, broken families and marriages, health complications, disease, insanity, and even early death are all consequences of this unbalanced lifestyle.

HOW TO BUILD STRONG IDENTITY IN GIFTED CHILDREN (PARENTS):
Whether you like it or not, the world will take notice of the greatness within your child. They will compliment your child for his or her performance. If your own compliments and positive words of affirmation do not outweigh and outnumber the compliments given by the world, the world will usurp your position as your child’s primary teacher in building his or her identity. You need to take that position because, unlike the rest of the world, you KNOW your child personally and you know that he or she is not just the sum of his or her talents. There will be a huge competition for your child’s attention as he or she attempts to figure out who he or she is. You as a caring parent need to win that competition. You must teach your child that he or she is amazing, regardless of what he or she does or does not do. When you are just taking a stroll in the park together, when your child is not performing, you need to tell your child that you are so proud of him or her, that you love him or her so much, that he or she fascinates you just for BEING the person that he or she is. If your gifted child performs poorly in some area, sure it is totally ok to admit and accept the reality and consequences of poor performance. But if he or she is thinking, “I am not good enough as a person” because of his or her poor performance, you need to intervene. You must teach your child that his or her performance does not define him or her. You must remind your child of who he or she is: an amazing person with incredible value. If you (parents) do not know your own value apart from how well you perform, it will be very difficult to raise your own children in this manner.

HOW I BUILT MY SELF-ESTEEM:
Despite my many achievements and talents, I was once an over-achieving workaholic who struggled with extremely low self-esteem. Despite being published in newspapers and magazines and broadcasted on TV and radio, I was once so afraid of ending up as a nobody, a worthless loser. It was when I finally decided to stop trusting my own thoughts and opinions about myself and the thoughts and opinions of all the people around me, including my very performance-oriented parents, that things began to change. Ever since mid-2011, I started to care for and listen to only what God thinks about me. Since my own idea of God was so distorted at the time, I depended on other people in my church to accurately share with me His thoughts about me. People I met for the first time that could not have known such personal details about me told me specific character traits in me that God is so pleased with. They continually told me that God loves me so much and is so proud of me, all during a time in my life when I had hit rock bottom and did absolutely nothing. As I began to more accurately understand how big God is and how small humankind is compared to Him, the significance of His opinion about me grew and the significance of humankind’s opinion about me shrank. My self-esteem now is so good! I have learned to love myself and be so proud of myself, not because of how well I perform, but simply because I am a beloved child of the Most High :)

MORE READING

This is one of my favourite Christian children’s books on performance and identity.

“You Are Special” by Max Lucado

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21 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing about Raising Gifted Children

  1. dude I love this. you are spewing wisdom beyond your years!! thank you!

  2. Joanna says:

    Ahhh… This is so good, Daniel! It is easy to get caught up in the brilliance these kids display, but yes – so very important to provide them a strong sense of identity. Thank you for sharing your journey with us all. Your vulnerability constantly amazes me.

  3. Cris says:

    Thank you for writing this. Good points to reflect upon and put into practice for my upcoming role as a father.

  4. Michelle says:

    Here is a video that moved me the very first time I saw it. It is Veggie Tales – but the message is powerful. When we know what God thinks of us, it sets us free to BECOME all that He created us to be – and to empower others as well.

    • Michelle says:

      And by the way – thank you so much for your blog. I especially appreciate the positive emphasis – pointing out the good in OCPD traits. I started reading only a few months ago. We have a running joke in our family now about how “gifted” I and my kids are. Your blog is heping me not only to see the good in who I and my kids are, but also to learn how to manage the difficult aspects.

  5. LunchGal says:

    Daniel, I’ve been reading your blog and feel that I have found a gold mine in your words of wisdom.

    I have fallen in love with a man that I have only recently discovered that he has ocpd (or like tendencies as he has not been formally diagnosed). I have been piecing things together the more I read about the disorder. I read that this disorder will never go away, but can only be managed. Can you shed some light as to strategies I can use to open the line of communication with him. I love him, but feel that at times, he pulls away as he doesn’t know how to cope with my demonstration of affection. To the point that I stress him out and he tells me he thinks he is going through depression. I want to break his cycle of meeting up with him for lunch as I feel I am part of his weekly routine. I want to help, but feel that I am being rejected unless it is by his terms.

    • Daniel Kim says:

      I am walking proof that this disorder can go away. I cannot change my high sensitivity, I cannot change how I feel extreme emotions very intensely, but I no longer have to work so hard to manage and control everything because I finally learned that I’ll be fine without all the control. Those who just manage are the ones who never let go of control and never find out that they will be alright.

    • Daniel Kim says:

      First of all, it is not his responsibility to control the intimacy level of your guys’ relationship so don’t let him do that. Next, you need to understand that he is not so open to other ways of living than his own (which you see as disordered) because his way works for him. It controls his overwhelming emotions. It gives him a sense of security and safety. If you want him to be more open to another way of living, offering some alternative way of living that does an even better job at meeting his needs is the best way to go.

  6. Sarifah says:

    First of all thank you so so so much Daniel for this really great work which it’s value can not be really really noticed by any one more than who is living a such case , and i’m one of those
    I understand english very well but i’m not that well in speaking , even though i’ll not let this to be a barrier from connecting with you :)
    I’m studying medicine in my 4th year , i’m the model of any thing good for my parents since i’m smart , polite , religious , straight and listen very well to their orders . Till the last year i was very proud with that , but the problem started to appear when i failed in the final exam last year , that made me revise alot of things in my life and gradually in my searching for a solution for the psychiatric problem i’ve noticed that i have but i could not determine what is exactly is , since in my developing country the psychatrists are not that good in such problems which are called minor by my society , my visit to the psychatrist did nt help ..! So i decided to search by my own , i came across reading about alot of disorders , and the much i read , the much i start to understand , till i knew about OCPD which i knew this is my problem at the first time i read about it , and after alot of searching i feel more comfortable that at least i knew my problem which i’ve to thought that its extraordinary ..!
    What i’m facing now is that i feel so tired from completing this way and pretending like nothing is happening , but at the same time i donno what to do , and my final exam is soon but i do not find any care for it in my self , and i do not matter if i would nt set for it , since the academic excellence has become so exausting thing for me , but my parents do not understand that and waiting for my good results which i’ll not have this way and i can not do any thing towards what i’m passing through !!! All what i wish is to take a rest and find a solution for all this drama :'( …..

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Hello Sarifah. Thanks for commenting. Yes, rest is sooo important. I had exhausted myself so much in music that now I hardly ever work on it even though it once used to give me so much joy. I hope you can find time to rest and enjoy spending time with your friends :)

  7. Danny Kim says:

    Hey daniel kim!!!glad to comment this one. ammmmm what iam going to talk to is not about ocpd but How did you make danthology?Did you mix by a program or what? Oh daniel when do you planning to visit south korea?I really wanna see you. Iam so inspired to your life. And i saw you in korean audition program. you were very great at there. OMG And you were practicing your song in the bathroom.hahaㅋㅋ거기가 웃겼음oh feel free to email or reply me.
    cf. i love danthologies

  8. AndrewInterrupted says:

    Why on Earth would you include a TED-talk reference when the OCPD, ASD, and Dyslexia realm largely applies to males?

  9. SHEMbedbutitfeelsjustalittlebitbiggernow says:

    Hi Daniel, do you have a son or a daughter?

  10. Cali310 says:

    This is an eye opener. I identified with this part so much, “I was once so afraid of ending up as a nobody, a worthless loser.” Even though I have accomplished great things I still don’t feel good enough.

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