It’s the term that does half the damage: gifted. It has an elitist air to it, an insinuation that someone has something better, has something more, has an elevated status that is unattainable by most. Calling your child gifted gives some the impression that you are calling your child better. We, the parents of gifted kids, know this to be quite far from the truth.
We know the frustrations that asynchrony brings, the struggles of intensity, the exhaustion of overexcitabilities. We know the confusion of having a twice-exceptional child and the absolute battles we must often wage to get our children the services they need and deserve. We, the parents of gifted kids, know that giftedness is not often a gift but a responsibility, a neurodiversity. We don’t place ourselves or our children on pedestals, we don’t look down on the kids in “regular” classes, and we absolutely are not bragging when we state that our children are gifted – although we should be allowed the same bragging rights as all parents. We know that as difficult and wonderful as it can be to raise them, there are a lot of people out there who just don’t like gifted kids.
Most of the people who take offense to our childrens’ intelligence are other moms and dads, parents of kids in their classes or on their sports teams. They view the gifted label that my child earned as an affront to their parenting, an insult to their child. Some of them dismiss your child’s unique struggles with the offhanded, “Every child is gifted.” Many of them are of the opinion that gifted programming in schools is elitist, unfair, that gifted programs are clubs that most are excluded from, not enrichment that some are in need of.
Rather than learning what our children are, they consider the label as something their child isn’t.
One parent dismissed my youngest child’s remarkable test scores on the grounds that she has older brothers, as though they somehow snuck into the classroom and whispered answers to her. One parent walked away while I was mid-sentence when I answered his question about why one of my children skipped a grade. Lots – I mean lots – of people raise their brows and breathe deeply, make the here we go again face when I tell them why I’m only homeschooling one of my children.
Our social media brags go unliked while our friends’ are celebrated. Math pentathalon medals, spelling bee trophies, early acceptance letters, toddlers with astounding vocabularies, home-made circuit boards, self-penned poems and symphonies… the accomplishments of our gifted kids just aren’t met with the same excitement as championship games or first steps. I’m sure plenty of people doubt if our posts are even truthful.
Everybody loves a champion, but a lot of people just don’t like gifted kids.
If you’re a part of any gifted groups or communities, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of horror stories about teachers who seem to make it their personal mission to tear down gifted kids. Obviously not all teachers, please don’t take this as an indictment of the whole profession, but there are far too many educators in schools doing far too much to damage gifted kids, seemingly far too intentionally.
Sometimes there are teachers who argue that a child can’t be gifted because they don’t have perfect grades, because they disrupt class, because they’re not motivated. Sometimes there are teachers who think it’s their place to prove to a child how un-gifted they are. We know our kids can be a handful, and not every teacher is always going to like being corrected by a student. A student who has already mastered what a teacher is presenting can quickly become bored, maybe even disruptive, and instead of finding ways to challenge or differentiate for that child, the teacher views him as a troublemaker, as an affront to their attempts to educate.
It doesn’t stop with teachers, either. There have been many tales of counselors, aides, even principals who, for one reason or another, just have it out for the gifted kid. They don’t appreciate the level of sarcasm and sass that gifted kids can often rise to. They’re not used to young people being able to advocate for themselves. In an education setting that is largely designed to be one-size-fits-all, gifted kids stick out like sore thumbs, like the tall poppies, and some teachers would rather cut them down in an attempt to keep the garden uniform than to explore how these kids can thrive.
Teachers may accuse the gifted student of cheating, of faking, of disrespect.
Teachers love students, but sometimes they just don’t like gifted kids.
While all of these instances are painful, some of the worst experiences are when other kids just don’t like their gifted peers.
Social struggles are a common issue among gifted kids. They often speak more maturely than their classmates, on topics that don’t interest other kids their age. They’re usually asynchronous, having the intellect of an older student, in the body of a same-age student, and the emotional capacity of a much younger student.
Gifted kids get pulled from class for gifted programming, leaving the other students to feel left out. The older they get, the more isolated gifted students can become as they cluster into small AP classes apart from everyone else. They may goof off in class and still pull off impressive grades, becoming either a distraction or a subject of jealousy to their classmates.
Gifted homeschoolers may find themselves the odd person out during co-ops, either being the youngest in a class based on ability or being forced to attend a class they’ve already outgrown because of their age. Homeschooling families, as a whole, tend to be pretty understanding of differences and unique paths, but that doesn’t mean that gifted kids are always immediately embraced by the other children.
They get called nerds, geeks, know-it-alls. They’re called weird. They’re called rude. They can’t always find someone who shares their interests and struggle to care about what’s popular among their age group. They may have sensitivities or overexcitabilities that can interfere with social activities or events. They are statistically different from most of the children around them, and it’s usually pretty obvious. They struggle to fit in, and children aren’t exactly known for empathy and patience when it comes to befriending others who are different.
Kids like a lot of things, but sometimes they just don’t like gifted kids.
There’s a whole world out there that wasn’t built for our gifted kids. Our children are outside the box, outliers, differently-wired. They don’t fit on the bell curve any easier than they fit into a crowd. It can be unsettling for others when they encounter someone so different, triggering either a defensive reaction or a curious one. We know our kids aren’t necessarily what everyone else is used to. To be honest, we still struggle with their differences and needs, too. But these kids didn’t ask to be different, they didn’t do anything to make themselves gifted. They want to find their place as much as any other kid and deserve to be appreciated for who they are, not reviled for something others think their own children aren’t. Giftedness is not a threat to anyone. We cannot force people to change their thinking, only offer to educate them. It’s our job to raise our children, not win over every critic. Yet no matter how much we accept this, no matter how much we tell ourselves they’re coming from a place of ignorance or hurt, no matter how much we remind ourselves that the vitriol isn’t really about our child, it still hurts that some people just don’t like gifted kids.