In my usual researchers’ mode, I stumbled on this and I knew instantly it was a ‘must-share’. Now, I intend to do more of all the activities spoken about, however, the raising of a ‘gifted child’ may not be an appropriate terminology since the parameters for measuring a gifted child is evolving. Interestingly, you are ultimately guaranteed of raising a brilliant and resourceful child with a good measure of success. And you will never go wrong with the ‘read, read, read’ practice. It always works. Read and do practice.
Talk, talk, talk. Ask your kid open-ended questions, like “What would happen if we stopped for ice cream on the way to the beach?” Such questions help a child reflect on what he knows and tell him his opinion matters. Don’t worry if he’s too young to understand. Likewise, don’t be afraid to use relatively sophisticated words. They would figure it out if familiar multiple words are used alongside.
Read, read, read. Research has repeatedly shown that access to books and one-on-one reading time is a predictor of school success. “Reading stimulates the brain to make connections and builds background knowledge about the world,” says Kim Davenport, chief program officer at Jumpstart, a national early-literacy organization. “Reading is the foundation of all learning and will enable a child to absorb and apply content from all areas, including math and science.” Modeling good reading habits may give them an edge. “Seeing parents reading for enjoyment will be contagious,” says Davenport. Invite your child to cozy up on the couch with you to read. Keep books out—in baskets, on shelves, and on coffee tables. And share what you’re reading with your child, and ask him to do the same. This will not only spark conversation but build his vocabulary and comprehension.
Praise results. Instead of just saying “you are a star”. Say that you are a star for solving this or that problem.
Giving the right props is key, says Stephanie Rosales, a licensed educational psychologist in La Quinta, CA: “Children who are praised for solving a problem tend to be more motivated in school than children who are told they’re smart. The latter, ironically, often become frustrated when something doesn’t come easily.” Say stuff like “I like the way you figured out how to solve this problem”.
Seize teachable moments You can help your child sharpen school skills as you go about your day. Say you drive by a windmill. Instead of saying “Hey, a transformer!” ask a question: “What do you think they do?” Encouraging observation of details will help your child do the same in class, says Rosales. And a trip to the store can be a chance to build vocabulary, math skills, and money smarts. Tell a 2-year-old the names of fruits as you bag them. Ask a 3-year-old to find four cans of drinks. Have a 5-year-old write down which cereal she wants. Older kids can compare prices and sizes.
Whether your child is advanced or average, the best thing you can do is be involved. Taking them on this journey of self-discovery is what’ll drive their personal genius. In one word: What do you most want your kid to be? Happy? Funny? Confident? Loved? I am betting that many of us will say even silently a “Professor of Science”. Your goal is to help your child be the best he or she can be, right? So, use all of the above to discover what their strengths are.
Resist the urging temptation to praise your child for every “OK” job they do so they don’t get stuck in not learning to take responsibility for actions taken.