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Gifted Children/incredibly bright toddler

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Question
My son is 29 months old and seems incredibly smart for his age. I know all children grow and learn at different rates, but when he is among his peers, everyone comments on how advanced he seems. He doesn't get much time with other children, however, and I fear that may have a negative impact on him. He is very social and lights up at seeing another child. By the time he was 18 months he knew the whole alphabet by sight, his colors, shapes and all body parts as well as animals and corresponding sounds. You could watch him and see him thinking (which is amazing for a doting mother). Now he knows numbers visually and can count to 20 without help. He picks things up in no time, remembers everything, and is very conscious about the world around him. He is so empathetic, he worries when someone is sick or sad or angry. It baffles me that he is so attuned to emotions and actions of everyone around him. He speaks in full sentences, and is generally pretty grammatically correct. And already he is showing that he has a very active imagination. I don't know if he's gifted, and don't plan to have him tested any time soon, my problem is that he seems so much older, I sometimes forget he's only 2 and still a toddler. He has such vast understanding of things, I find it difficult to know what is acceptable for me to expect of him. He's a happy child but has tantrums, he can be demanding and stubborn and at times extremely resistant to things like bath time or meal time and especially when it's time to clean up. I find myself at a loss, expecting to able to reason with him. I don't want to discipline my son for acting like a 2 year old, even though the majority of the time he acts like a preschooler! I'm not exactly sure what I'm asking or expecting to find here, but I'm hoping for a few tips or guidelines that may make this exciting yet challenging time in our lives a little easier.

Answer
It's easy to see that intelligence runs in the family.  It's an astute observation you make about the potential mismatch of different areas of development.

One of the most challenging things about raising a gifted child is the mismatch between intellect and emotion. It's called "asynchronous development." A child can be years ahead of age academically, but emotional development stays close to age.

There is a tendency, a strong tendency, in some families, to put so much emphasis on academic development that emotional development doesn't get the attention it needs. Intellectual stimulation is everywhere, in countless forms. Overstimulation can happen.  It's at home, with parents, family, who ever is in the household, that emotional development starts and which has the greatest impact. It's the parents' important job to be mindful of the differences in development. Out in the world, other people will tend to expect advanced emotional maturity, making it even more important for the parents to be mindful of the discrepancy.  It's vital for parents to teach and model character, "people skills" such as tolerance, gratitude, communication and many others.  No matter how smart someone is, if they can't get along with people, they have little chance for success or fulfilling relationships. at www.humptydumptyparent.com there is an article I wrote, "Parent: a Job Description" which addresses the difference and definitions between punishment and discipline. At the end of the article there are a couple of resources to guide your shaping of your child's behavior and character.  Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com is outstanding. It can be addictive though, if you love books and learning materials. One other I want to add is "healthychildren.org", a service of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  All of those will be able to guide you with what behaviors and emotions are to be expected at what ages/stages.

The most important thing to learn from this message today, for the well-being of the family, is MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE HIGH PRIORITY.

A close second is: have lots of laughter and family fun, the sillier, the better.

Thank you for letting me serve you. I hope this answered your question. Your feedback is important.

Gifted Children

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Faith A. Coleman MD

Expertise

No questions are off-limits. My strengths are understanding what questioners are really trying to ask, knowing the right questions to get to useful answers, and putting complicated, subject-specific words and concepts into language accessible to lay-persons. The topic is fascinating and can be surprising, the opposite of what might logically seem expected of giftedness. I am skilled in identifying giftedness at any age, including very early in life.

Experience

Children constitute about one-third of the patients in a Family Medicine practice. I was Director of Children's and Women's Public Health Education Programs with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. I have two highly gifted children, one of whom attended Roeper School, listed first in this site's Sponsored Links. I was the health expert for Roeper's board of directors; I maintain contacts there. I'm on the board of directors of several organizations of which I'm a member. I spent a summer as the Medical Director of a camp for kids with ADD, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders. Editor, Medical Economics Publishing Co. licensure to teach K-12 in Oklahoma, with added qualification in Journalism

Organizations
Champions for Children: Advocacy, resources, quality assessment, for early childhood daycare (Board of Directors). American Academy of Family Physicians. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. READ: Advocacy, education, resources for teaching and encouraging literacy in adults. East Texas Network for Children (Planning Board).

Publications
Journals: Medical Economics, Contemporary OB/Gyn, Diagnostic Medicine. Albuquerque Journal Daily, Tyler Daily News, New Mexico Daily Lobo, New Citizen Weekly, Alpena News, daily.

Education/Credentials
BA, Journalism MD University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Internship, Detroit Medical Center. Family Practice Residency, Top-100 Hospital - Beaumont. Clinical Faculty appointments to three medical schools. Faculty, Family Practice Residency, Detroit area.

Awards and Honors
Two official commendations awarded by United States Army for service and contributions to young soldiers and families. Publishing Internship, Medical Economics Publishing Company. Research Internship, Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences. Woman Medical Student of the Year. Numerous others.

Past/Present Clients
As above in experiences, publications and awards. Many thousands of patient/family encounters.

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