QUESTION: First of all, I want to say I am so glad I found this site!
My daughter, Elena, is 2 1/2-years-old. From birth, I always knew there was something peculiar and fascinating with her. From birth, my daughter was extremely alert. The hospital staff thought it was so wonderful as to how alert she was. At one month old, she voluntarily smiled. People at our church just kept commenting as to how alert she was a baby; it was truly like she was taking her environment in as a newborn. Elena, from birth on, has been advanced in everything except speech. Elena was a late talker and her speech is catching up, now. Here are some examples of my daughter's abilities: Elena recognizes all letters of the alphabet and knows the sounds each letter makes. Recently she wrote the capital A on the sidewalk and said "A!" When we read, she points to each letter I sound out or say (even lowercase letters); my daughter is a puzzle whiz. 100%. I bought her a United States Puzzle Map manufactured for 5 years old and up for Christmas. Two months later, she completed it and never mixes up her states to this day. She doesn't mix up North and South Dakota! She also has the SuperMind puzzle which is for 5-9 year olds, and my daughter does it with ease and enjoys color coordinating it. Needless to say, she's better at puzzles than I am; Elena knows her shapes and colors and says them when she sees a heart or a yellow bus, for instance; Elena enjoys putting together anatomical figurines together (putting a brain in the skull, then placing the skull in the head). Sounds weird, but she really enjoys learning the anatomy and LOVES playing doctor. She's also mastered all of her anatomy puzzles that are designed for 5-9 year olds; her pretend play is extremely detailed. For instance, her dollhouse figurines must not magically appear on the third floor in the dollhouse (like how most toddlers play; I'll admit, I played like that, too!). Rather, she has the figures walk up the stairs to each floor. As I stated earlier, she loves playing doctor. She always has to have her lab coat, stethoscope, otoscope, her "boo boo" for diagnoses, and her doctor shoes all together. If one piece is missing, the outfit is incomplete to her. None of her toys are really her age group; rather they're extremely advanced for her age (well above her age group), especially her puzzles. But she enjoys playing with them and mastering them.
I had my daughter when I was 20 years old (I am 23 now). I was young and Elena is my firstborn. I suppose I have refrained from talking about her abilities for so long because I didn't want people to think I was bragging and I am an "inexperienced" mother, I suppose. I cannot talk to other mothers whom I know about this because they defensive and they don't understand because our children are on different levels, if that makes sense. At this point, I just want input and advice. After my nurse practitioner (psychology nurse practitioner) said that my daughter is extremely bright and many kids probably won't catch up to her, I knew I needed to research more about giftedness and I want to know what I need to do her as her mom to ensure that she reaches her full potential every day and lives a wonderful life. I constantly praise my daughter for her abilities and I always make an effort to make sure that she is happy and has a solid self-esteem. I may be young, but I don't want to be naive. I want the best for Elena, and it would just be so nice to talk to more experienced moms who have gifted kids for input (opinions, thoughts) and advice. I appreciate you so much for taking the time out to read this. I am sorry this message is long, but I feel relief knowing that I can talk about this with people who will not feel "threatened" or "defensive" and can empathize with me. Thank you so much, and take care!
I'm working on your answer.
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QUESTION: Thank you so much! I wanted to also mention that my daughter independently worked a computer (everything except typing) before she turned 2. Now, she can type simple words when I tell her to type a letter, since she knows all letters of the alphabet. She knows some sight words, also knows what right and left mean, and if she sees a sad person, she will say "sad" and frown, then go hug whomever is sad. These are just a few examples, but I wanted to be as specific as possible. I also felt it was imperative to mention that my fiance is extremely intelligent, and my mother's relatives went to Ivy League schools. My father's family is very intelligent, as well. I hope this helps. Thanks again, and I so look forward to hearing from you soon!
Thank you for your patience. There is little doubt that your daughter is gifted. Giftedness does run in families.
It's so much fun to have a gifted child that sometimes you can hardly stand it! It's so challenging to have a gifted child that sometimes you can hardly stand it. Gifted kids take extra energy. There's an infinite number of ways to make messes and create mischief and extra verbal ability to talk their way out of it. Troublesome behavior may not be intentional, but still requires shaping.
"Discipline" often is confused with the word "punishment"; they are not the same. Discipline is better thought of as methods to shape a child's behavior, and to teach responsibility and accountability. THAT IS KEY! Kids with advanced intellectual ability are often seen as mature beyond their years, but EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS A CLOSER MATCH TO AGE; IT'S CRITICAL TO BE MINDFUL OF THAT DISTINCTION because there's such a strong pull to see a child as having advanced emotional maturity. It's called "asynchronous development." It can be the most significant challenge or stumbling block for parents raising gifted kids.
It's easy to put so much emphasis on intellect and academics that other maturation doesn't get the attention needed. It's critical to teach "people skills" such as respect for self and others, good manners, communication, tolerance, gratitude and others. No matter how smart a person is, if they can't get along with other people or manage their own behavior, there is little chance of success or fulfilling relationships. The home, from parents, is where kids start to learn people skills. Kids raised with a balance of work, play, and rest or free time will do better academically than a child who gets too much emphasis on academics. Parents of gifted kids are worried about providing enough intellectual stimulation - overstimulation is more of a concern. At your daughter's age, everything, everywhere, everyone are stimulating learning experiences. You couldn't slow down her learning if you tried. If activities start to feel more like work than fun, it's time to "just be" more.
There are countless products and Internet sites that claim authority about gifted kids, making ridiculous promises, but really preying on concerned parents striving to give their child the brightest future possible. These are trustworthy:
1. familydoctor.org, with the American Academy of Family Physicians, with health information for all ages.
2. healthychildren.org, with the American Academy of Pediatrics has health information specific to children.
3. freespirit.com is a treasure of great materials for gifted kids and others.
4. criticalthinkingcompany.com is about the movement to teach kids how to think and problem solve.
Public libraries can be good sources for materials, many have a children's librarian to help with selection.
Remember that YOU are the parent, decision-maker and rule-enforcer. Gifted kids are especially in need of consistency and firmness, which can be done with gentleness, rather than harshness.
Sharing excitement about your daughter's development will be misunderstood as bragging by many people. That's inside them and you can't change it, no matter how diplomatic you are. Many people don't have the maturity to enjoy the good things in the lives of others. It may be best to use words other than gifted when you speak to people with whom you aren't close. Tests for evaluating intelligence become useful at age 4-5. That's usually when the term "gifted" is applied, treating it as a type of "learning difference."
Avoid using the words "good" and "bad" in reference to your daughter's behavior. Things like: "It looked like you had fun with that puzzle" or "I like the colors you used in your drawing" avoid value judgements. Gifted kids can be their own worst enemies, fearful of disappointing their parents or being flawed, even though the parents are not critical.
One of the best examples you're setting is the mature ability to admit you don't have all the answers, and that it's ok to have questions and ask for help.
You didn't mention if your fiance is your daughter's dad. It's important to get along with her dad.
The two most important things to take from this message today, if you learn nothing else, are:
1. MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE HIGH PRIORITY!
2. HAVE LOTS OF FAMILY FUN AND LAUGHTER. MAKE FAMILY MEMORIES!
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