Your Kid is Gifted…Who Cares?

I know I might step on some toes with this one and I (truly) apologize in advance. I’m really not trying to be divisive or mean. I hope you’ll be understanding.

I’m not sure when this trend began–somewhere in the eighties, I’m sure, alongside the self-esteem movement. Parents were suddenly thrust into a world of comparison and competition. Oh, well, my kid did this and my kid did that. Out of this movement grew the increased pressure for children to perform.

Labels were slapped around liberally. Excelling. Talented. Superior. And my least favorite…

Gifted.

I am tired of hearing about kids who are “gifted.” There, I said it. If your kids are gifted, please, don’t hate me. Let me explain…

God is not preoccupied with a child’s “giftedness” as the world defines it. He made them that way, yes. He can and often does use someone’s intelligence to bring glory to Himself. But being “gifted” is not His primary concern for our children and, thus, it shouldn’t be ours either.

Does that mean God doesn’t want our kids to do well in school? Of course not. Does that mean that He doesn’t care about the details of our kids’ lives, including how stimulated, challenged, and engaged they are with their world? Of course not.

God cares more than we can imagine about the things we as parents care about. He is, after all, a parent Himself. But what He really cares about is character.

He is less concerned about whether or not your kid read War and Peace in 2 days, is toying with the Pythagorean Theorum, or built the winning science fair volcano that spews actual lava (although that would be suh-weeeeet).

He does care, however, if your child sat next to the fat kid at the lunch table. He does care about whether or not your child stood up to the bully on the playground. He does care about whether your child is kind to other children, including their siblings.

And I get it. It’s easy to emphasize how smart we think our kids are–I fall into the trap myself sometimes. It is fulfilling to tout test scores, list accelerated classes, and brag about advanced reading or math programs. It feels good.

I also get that, in our culture, unfortunately, a person’s academic success (followed by their material success) is too often what we emphasize. People don’t ask, “Is you son kind?” or “Is your daughter full of integrity?” They ask “What math class is he in?” or “What college has he applied to?”

I personally deal with this temptation, as I live in Snottsdale Scottsdale, Arizona, a city notorious for being superficial and shallow. Moms here drive designer strollers to match their designer handbags. The playground is a hotbed of “comparison temptation,”–ranging from first steps to preschool admissions.

When I am tempted to brag about my kids’ brains (because I mean, come on, they are smarties) to makeup for my own insecurities, I try to remember that  God isn’t concerned with that, so why should I be.

I congratulate my kids for the things they do well. I encourage them when they first learn to write their letters or discover a new math concept. But I don’t tell them that those things determine their worth. I don’t emphasize intelligence to the point that they think it matters most. Instead, I emphasize the things that God cares about–if they obey mommy and daddy, if they share their toys with others, if they are quick to listen and slow to anger.

I love my daughter’s character. I love her big heart and willingness to freely give. I love my son’s kindness and compassion. God does, too…and that’s worth bragging about.

Okay, so let’s hear it. Do you think the concept of gifted children is over-hyped or totally appropriate? Are you ever tempted to emphasize worldy traits over spiritual character? Come on “gifted” commenters, lay it on me!

31 thoughts on “Your Kid is Gifted…Who Cares?”

  1. Yep. Great article. I’m a the mom of one of those “gifted” kids, and I can tell you it’s sometimes hard among the tests, evaluations and special classes to remember that my primary responsibility as a parent is not to get her into Harvard on a full ride but to help her be the kid who sits “next to the fat kid at the lunch table.” What I’m most proud of is not that she read Harry Potter in kindergarten (sorry), but that she is the kindest, most gentle, and honest person I know. (Well, it’s slipped a bit since hitting puberty, but I’m hoping it’s still in there.)

    Don’t be too hard on the parents though. Schools really drill into them the whole “gifted” thing and how critical it is to focus on your child’s intellectual development. I admit it’s easy to get caught up in it when your told your child is a brainiac, but we have to remember that God cares far more about her heart.

    1. Lisa,
      Thank you for reminding me that it can be difficult for parents to navigate the waters of “giftedness” and just academics in general. Parents receive so much pressure and information on what is “best” for their kids. It can be hard to quiet those voices long enough to just hear what the Lord would have to say.

      Your daughter sounds wonderful. You should be proud…and from a daughter whose mom said I acted like an alien once puberty hit, it will pass.

  2. Good job! I think it’s great when kids do well in school (I had the brains, but not the motivation), but it’s even better when they show God’s love to others . . . especially the kids who are forced to eat lunch in the bathroom ’cause s/he’s not allowed at anyone’s lunch table.

  3. I wonder sometimes if the general decline of education hasn’t made today’s “gifted” student the average or slightly above average student of days gone by. I hear you on the self esteem thing. It’s so funny how so much of the self esteem building adults claim is for their kids really validates them instead.

    Given our situation as missionaries they don’t have a lot of competition in school. They are home-schooled in a foreign country. However, my oldest can’t stand not knowing every person in a room and my youngest will not tolerate a wall flower. She gravitates toward them befriends them and draws them out.

    I don’t care how successful they are in school (if they are trying) if the nurture these qualities and please Christ with them.

    I have been milling a self esteem post around for a while, I think it may be time.

    1. Ken,
      I think your first question hits the nail on the head. There was an article in the New Yorker a while back called “The Myth of the Gifted Child.” You may enjoy reading it. And you are so right that self-esteem building often validates the parents, not the child.

      I want my kids to do well in school because they are motivated, driven, self-disciplined individuals, not because they hear from mom and dad that school is the most important thing. Homeschooling, I think, can definitely help in that area. Although I have to admit that I hope God tells me my kids can go to school instead of having me homeschool them.

      I’d love to read a post from you on self-esteem! Go for it!

  4. I once heard a minister comment that some folks have a gift that will get them to a certain level of responsibility or authority, but they don’t have the character to keep themselves at that level. That is often the case when prominent Christian leaders or politicians “fall” due to a moral or ethical lapse.

    When I was young, I was gifted in that I was fairly intelligent – although that came at the expense of not being good at sports or having much in the way of social skills. As my life progressed, I often wished I was notably excellent in some area – to be the best in the world at some narrow marketable skill. When I ran across the stories about people like that, however, I was always struck by the part of the story that told the “other side of the coin.” There was always a down-side to being the best. Tiger Woods had his women. Steve Jobs has reportedly been described by his biographer as capable of being “petulant,” “brittle” and “very very mean”. The list could go on. Dig deep enough into the lives of people who are “the best” and you find things that are far from the best – perhaps not good at all.

    I eventually began to shift my focus. Instead of trying to accentuate my strengths – at the further cost to other areas – I instead began to focus more on being well-rounded. For instance, while I had always been emotionally withdrawn as a child – a defense mechanism – I began to get in touch with my feelings. I began to work more on the areas where I was weak, and less on the areas where I was inherently strong. I have a long way to go. I don’t pretend to have a good handle on this yet. But, as the second half of my life unfolds, I intend to make up for some lost time, and enjoy life more – even if that means never leaving a legacy of being the best at something.

    1. Ed,
      Great comment. You bring up so many important points. For starters, I think you are right in that many people who appear from the outside to “be the best” are actually not so great when it comes down to it. This thought goes hand in hand with our preoccupation with celebrity and our need for peer competition.

      Also, I think being well-rounded is so important and sadly very overlooked these days. I wasn’t a star student. I was slightly above average in sports. But my family worked on making me well-rounded from introducing me to musicals and symphonies, museums, different world cultures, outdoor activities like camping and hiking, and tons more. I am so thankful because as an adult I appreciate so many different and unique tastes. I desire the same for my kids.

      Gifted doesn’t simply need to mean “academic.” There’s a quote from Einstein that I think you’d appreciate Ed: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

  5. I don’t think this situation is an “either/or” situation as you appear to make it in your posting. You can try to get your children in the best classes where they’re challenged (the “gifted” classes if you will) and still teach them that they’re supposed to sit next to the fat kid at lunch. Developing your child’s gift of intelligence doesn’t equate to not teaching them about the important things God wants them to learn. If anything, teaching them to develop that gift in a way that they can use it to bless others is directly in line with God’s teachings.

    Now, if you’re talking about parents bragging about their children, obviously you want to keep that in perspective. I just don’t think putting a child in gifted classes and recognizing that God gifted them with a higher intelligence than other kids is somehow sinful and out of line with God.

    1. Jason,
      I was hoping in this post to relate the fact that I do think your child being in the right classes or school is important, but not as important as we tend to think. I say, for example, “Does that mean that He [God] doesn’t care about the details of our kids’ lives, including how stimulated, challenged, and engaged they are with their world? Of course not.”

      I also acknowledge in the beginning of the post that intelligence is God-given and should be treated as such.

      And to be fair, I never, never, said putting a child in a gifted class was a sin or “out of line with God.” I would never say that because it simply isn’t true.

      Again, I said in the post that I do encourage my children in their learning, but I am careful to not place too-much or sole emphasis on those things. i always want to defer to God. For instance, my daughter asked me why it is that she is a genius (no lack of self-esteem there, huh?) to which I replied “Because God made you smart so that you can help others and tell people about Him” and at the end of the day, that’s all I care about.

  6. My son is verbally gifted. He’s three, but he’s got the vocabulary of at least a five or six year old. I think it’s easier to teach him complex concepts of kindness and the like because he’s got plenty of words to understand it or explain it. I’m grateful for that! I try not to brag on him—and I don’t really have to, since as soon as he opens his mouth, people can tell he’s a great talker—but deep down I’m glad for it because it keeps my toddler frustration level down. :)

    1. Rachel,
      That’s a great example of using a child’s natural ability, intellect, or talent and refocusing it on God and what God desires of us–teaching your son to be kind and recognizing his ability to understand complex concepts because of his verbal aptitude. And man can I relate on the toddler frustration point. My daughter spoke 3 word sentences at about 10 months. My son, on the other hand, only uttered a guttural grunt until he was over the age of 2. Frustration was abundant–for both of us. But now that he’s 3, he won’t shut up.

  7. Gifted kids entertain me for about 0.5-1.7 mins depending on the skill in question. Like that kid who knew like 7 different languages – holy cow?! But I always end up to the same question within seconds. “So… what do/will they use if for?” Most of the time, they don’t do any good with it, by good I mean use it to improve another person’s life (you know… be a blessing and stuff). It most goes toward making them (by them I mean their parents) lots of money through media. Also, if your kid can’t make you money doing it, they’re not that gifted.

    I might be burned at the stake for that one (parents can be vicious), but meh, I’ve said worse things.

    Gifted children are over-hyped, teaching kids to use what they’re good at to help others and helping others using that oh so fabulous gift should be celebrated. Awesome at math?! Solve mathematical mysteries! Awesome at Biology?! Cure AIDs! Awesome at spelling!? Invent new words! Ok… maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I think my point’s been made.

  8. Loved this, Nicole. As a preschool director I get so TIRED of hearing parents how tour say how smart their child is. They are little sponges, they learn so fast and it’s amazing what they interesting and what their unique talents are. It is usually the parents of the truly gifted that don’t tell us, wanting us to figure it out on our own. I constantly ask my child, who is in kindergarten, “were you a good friend today? how were you kind today?” I would so much rather have that developed. He’s got a smart mommy and daddy…he’ll be fine academically. :)
    PS…We need to get together sometime.

  9. Let me first preface that, as you know, we have a “gifted” son. (Although the jury is still out, because he is a “boy” after all and even though I am a dad and was once a boy too, even I can’t explain some of his actions). And let me also preface that my response below is not directed at you personally but instead to your question in general.
    “Your kid is gifted….who cares?” As Christians, we should always care.
    As with any conversation there are so many dynamics involved that we can’t just have a “canned” response every time that someone says their child is “gifted”. Some of the things that we need to take into consideration are the context of the conversation, our relationship with the other person, the other person’s relationship with God, etc. Once we take all of this into consideration then we are able to respond as God wants us to.
    If the context of the conversation is one in that the other parent is “bragging” about their child’s accomplishments (i.e. the “world” view of success), then I agree with you, my first response is who cares, there are more important qualities that we should be “bragging” about and instilling in our children. But we also need to be looking deeper than that.
    Perhaps the more important questions that we should be asking ourselves are: “How does God want us to respond to that specific person at that specific time, both externally and internally”? Should our automatic response be “who cares”? Or should we instead help the other person realize that “world success” doesn’t matter when it comes to eternal life and then we should also ask ourselves, as Christians, are we a living example in the way we raise our own children?
    Easy enough, right? But now let me take some time to respond to the same question in a different context. Let’s instead look at how we should respond to the parent who humbly tries (and let me re-iterate “humbly tries” as we parents all like to brag now and again) to explain that they have a “gifted” child and the questions, struggles, misperceptions, joy, and excitement they deal with on a daily basis.
    Let me talk about our son Josh for example. Although Jen and I could tell early on that Josh was advanced in some areas, he was behind in others so we just chalked it up to everyone matures at a different pace. One of the first times that it was communicated to us that Josh was “different” intellectually was in pre-school (age 3). A couple of months after moving up to his new class the teacher met with us and told us that she thought he might be having seizures because he was “spacing out” in class. As parents we were a little freaked out to say the least, but after assessing the situation and getting some a more “qualified” medical opinion we were able to determine that Josh was not having seizures, he was just bored. Needless to say it was time for us to look for a new school that was more “advanced” intellectually.
    How should we respond to these situations? Who cares? Or should we instead put our arms around the parents and help them through the fear that something may be medically wrong with their child and then support them in their decisions for what they decide is best for their child?
    After much research and conversations with other parents with kids we determined that a Montessori School was a better “educational” environment for Josh. Needless to say I was very skeptical at first. I based this on my own misperceptions of what a Montessori School was. The biggest factor being that I thought Montessori was a school that was built for parents that wanted their kids to “excel” in their education. Although there are some situations where I could see this was true, this was not the case for Josh. We will never forget the day when Josh (age 4) was so excited when he asked Jen “Mom, did you know that the sun is a big ball of gas?” and that he couldn’t wait to bring the solar system book home to show us everything he was learning.
    How should we respond to these situations? Who cares? Or should we instead share in the excitement with the parents and help encourage the joy of the child and to help the parents instruct them that God created the amazing universe to share with us?
    Unfortunately, Josh’s school closed down after one year and with very little notice we had find him a new school. At this point we also had to take into consideration whether to enroll him in another Montessori school or try to early enroll him in a “traditional” school. The biggest issue was that Josh’s birthday falls 2 weeks after the cutoff in Arizona for enrollment in Kindergarten. So again we dealt with the questions of what was the best environment for Josh. We decided to send him to a different Montessori school and as usual, Josh (now age 5) excelled. The funny thing was that when we enrolled him, we had told the owner of Josh’s background and after she met with him for her initial observation, she understood him completely. She was also able to help us to start to really understand what “gifted” truly meant.
    It was also during this time that the economy started to go into the tank (during which I eventually lost my job). Jen and I couldn’t really afford pay for his school so we had to decide whether or not to pull him out. We met with the owner and she told us to not worry about the money. She knew that Josh was in the right place and that she would help us. Talk about a blessing from God.
    At the end of the year Josh participated in the standardized testing for their Kindergarten class (keep in mind that technically he was still not old enough for Kindergarten). When we met with the owner to go over the results she couldn’t stop praising Josh. (Hopefully this doesn’t come across too much as “bragging” but I am a proud papa). Josh’s test results were off the chart. She said that she had only seen scores like Josh’s every 5-6 years or so. Jen and I were truly amazed at the special “gift” that God had given us responsibility for.
    How should we respond to these situations? Who cares? Or should we instead give thanks to God for the different people that he puts into each of our lives that go out of their way to help us? And should we also recognize that all children, regardless of who their parents are, are “gifts” from Him and that we should help each other protect and guide them?
    Over the past year and a half (and another two schools) we are still learning about what having a “gifted” child is all about and what is the best educational environment is for him. We continue to have our own questions about whether Josh is truly “gifted” or “intellectually advanced” or whatever other labels the world uses for kids like Josh. When we talk about Josh to other parents, even our closest friends, we do our best to downplay the situation as best we can or even try to avoid the conversation altogether. Our biggest reason is because we do not want others to think that we are those type of parents that only want to “brag” about how “smart” their kid is or are only trying to push him academically for our own selfish reasons.
    How should we respond to these situations? Who cares? Jen and I only know that this is God’s plan for Josh and hopefully we as his parents living in “the world” can stay out of His way.

  10. What about teaching your child to be kind and sit next to the poor “gifted” kid at lunch? Apparantly he could use a little of the love of Jesus.

  11. I’m not much of a fan of the “gifted” label myself, partially because it does not even come close to describing the complexities and challenges of raising this kind of child and partially because of the response that it elicits from other parents such as yourself. To your point, there are probably more parents that use this label as bragging rights but here is my view point that I hope my bring a different perspective.

    Let me go out on a limb here and say that if you are referring to the group of parents who seek to get their child in a “gifted” program because they see it as an exclusive group of the intellectual elite that they demand to have admittance for, then I am right there with you sister!

    But what about the group of parents who have no other term to use to describe their child?What about those parents that are desperate for help, that are fearful about the fact that their child reads, can articulate and conversate at a 3rd grade level when they are only 5 but still throw themselves on the floor and have temper tantrums like they are 3? Yes, we have all passed them in horror in the grocery store. All children have asynchronous development, but it can become exponential for a “gifted” child and for their parents.

    Who cares? I do.

    You see, if I had a child who was learning disabled or outside the norm in some other fashion and I wanted to talk with you and ask you to pray for me as a parent, you would. Happily and probably without judgement. With compassion? Yes. Perhaps even pity? If we are being honest with ourselves, then maybe a little as we look at our own healthy “normal” children and feel somewhat relieved. If I went to you for guidance and love as a friend and fellow christian, you would offer to pray and you would sincerely be concerned about the choices I made for that child so that they could receive the same intellectual stimulation and social and emotional development as any other child of God.

    Substitute the term gifted and you can begin to feel the eyes rolling and the emotional walls going up. But here’s where I agree with you, God does care about so much more than just their intellectual needs! Read up on HoagiesGifted.org or senggifted.org and you will find a rich collection of articles that describe some of the many challenges that parents faces in raising kids like this. Maybe you will be surprised to learn that “gifted” people, particularly those that go unidentified have higher risks of suicide, are more likely to become high school drop outs and experience more rejection as a population than other children and adults. These are not kids that are just “bright,” for those the system serves them fairly well, these are kids who are “different.” The fabric of their experiences are qualitatively different than others because accompanying their intellect is often emotional intensity and sensitivity, divergent thinking, and other factors that mean that they do not always have a lot in common with similar aged peers.

    Even if you never told them they were smart, which I don’t believe you should praise intelligence. Even if you never let them know they wear a “gifted” label or they were never placed in classes that identified that label to themselves or their peers, they will still quickly be able to describe to you and question those differences on a daily basis. They will naturally, like any of us, gravitate towards any person that will accept them for who they are. Differences and all. Because let’s face it, the “gifted” kid is probably the annoying one in the room. I know I was.

    And that’s the part that stings is that when you are scared or need to talk to a close friend or confidante about whether you are making the right decisions or if you are completely ruining your childs’ life. You know, those incoherent moments of panic and irrationality that we are all plagued with. Those moments of self doubt. Well try being the parent of a “gifted” child because it is a very lonely place to be. Nobody wants to hear you talk about it because all that THEY hear is how great you think your son or daughter is and how apparently intellectually superior you purport them to be. And you said it. They don’t care.

    But your wrong Nicole, God does care or he wouldn’t have made kids like this. He cares that if your kid is bored, he will be the one that the teacher secretly can’t stand and all the kids deride. Or maybe it will just be that well meaning Christian teachers will brand your inquisitive and often abruptly questioning child “disrespectful” or his immature behavior “selfish.” Or maybe he will end up on an IPP, or misdiagnosed with a behavioral disorder and ployed with drugs to make him less of a bother to the class or the teacher. I’m pretty sure that God cares about every child of his, “gifted” or not.

    Perhaps what has been missed here by those parents pushing to get their kids in to gifted programs etc. is that good “gifted” programs are a lifeline for children that need to be in them not an acceleration for parents pushing to raise the next prodigy. Certainly there are those. For most it is knowing that there are teachers who have been given additional training and coping mechanisms to help these kids reach their potential, to keep them engaged in school instead of becoming hopelessly disillusioned, and best of all provide an environment and peers that foster their social and emotional needs so that they can have friends, find acceptance and feel reassured that they belong……and that someone cares.

    1. Michelle,
      Firstly, thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to explain and offer insight on this issue. Secondly, thank you also for bringing up some of the problems you mentioned that the gifted struggle with. I honestly had no idea. I went and did some further reading as a result.

      I will say though that I never said God doesn’t care. (Yes, the title of the post says “who cares?” but it is meant to be provocative and encourage people to read.) In fact, I say in the post that God does care about your child’s stimulation and engagement, for example. I also state that God very often uses someones intellect to bring glory to Himself. But here is the distinguishing point that I make in the post: God does care about a gifted child or one’s intelligence, but He cares more about their character. I stand by that statement.

      Take the apostle Paul for example–If we are working on the the basis of simply IQ and academic ability, Paul would have been considered “gifted.” He said of himself that he was a scholar among scholars, a zealous Jew, profoundly versed in the scriptures. However, God chose to focus on Paul’s character at that time, blinding him to get his attention.

      The Lord then used Paul’s intelligence and knowledge of the scriptures to glorify Himself. I believe the Lord cares greatly about our abilities. He made us. However, I think when we start using labels like “gifted’ many times it places undue pressure on parents and children to perform or live up to some unrealistic standard.

      I happen to also just have a big problem with labels. I think labels, whatever they are, can be alienating and/or create cliques or elitist attitudes. God certainly doesn’t label us. And while we’re at it, lets just say what we mean? Why do we use the term gifted when what people really mean is genius. Than say “genius.” it makes things much clearer. Although from what I’ve read, gifted is an IQ of 130 or above and genius is an IQ of 140 or above generally. {sigh}. There are just so many categories to stick people in…

      There is an article by the New York Magazine called “The Myth of the Gifted Child”, which really addresses the kindergarten admissions tests in NY and how useless they are, stating that intelligence is actually much more fluid than we tend to realize. They don’t say gifted children don’t exist. They say that it’s often pointless to determine this fact at the age of 4 or 5. However, one of the deans of a gifted school in NY is quoted as saying this, and I think he sums up my thoughts perfectly:

      “…no matter how cheerfully we do it, no matter how many lollipops we hand out to de-stress the process, young children are extraordinarily discerning. They absorb their parents’ anxiety about it, they absorb the kinds of judgments people are making about them. So there’s a process of organizing kids in a hierarchy of worth, and it’s beginning at an age that’s criminal.”

      All this is not to say that gifted children do not struggle with their own unique set of circumstances. This post, however, was directed at parents who use the term “gifted” as a catch all for any smart kid. Also, for the parents who neglect a child’s character in pursuit of intellectual superiority.

      Thank you again for your comment and for shedding light on this issue from a personal standpoint. I do appreciate your input. Blessings.

  12. I totally agree with what you are saying here. And as an education major, I realize the difference between a truly gifted child and a smart child that is labeled “gifted” by their parents. (The actual gifted children being way more rare than the labeling parents would lead you to believe.) From your post I feel like you are talking more about the kids that the parents are trying to pass off as gifted for bragging rights. This drives me crazy.

    My daughter has always been smart. Not gifted (and I don’t think I want to handle a gifted child, it seems that it would be a difficult thing to navigate and keep the child’s best interests in mind), but smart. I have always hated how other people react to that. Even when she was a baby, people at church would compare how many words she knew to how many words their child knew. I hated that.

    Now my daughter is in kindergarten and the competition between parents amazes and disgusts me. It doesn’t help that she goes to a magnet school that you have to test to get into, but I did that not for bragging rights, but because I wanted to keep her from being bored. I didn’t feel like it would benefit her to sit in a class and learn about her ABCs all day when she can already read.

    The thing is, her school still isn’t for actual gifted children, it’s just for children that can work at a faster pace. They have the same curriculum as the other schools, but they work faster so they can have time for more art and music and other enrichment activities. I feel that the school is a good fit for her so far, but I guess I was a bit naive when it comes to what I expected from the other parents. I didn’t expect them to be judging each others children on their grades at such a young age. I didn’t expect them to push their kids so hard in kindergarten.

    I am doing my best to teach my daughter that her character matters more than her grades. Every morning when I drop her off at school I remind her to listen to the teacher and do her best, but I also tell her that I love her no matter what and it’s okay to mess up. (She is already getting the message from everyone else that messing up is a huge problem.) Then I tell her to be kind to everyone, no matter who they are, and to show them God’s love. Often she’ll tell me, “Mommy, if I see someone that doesn’t have a friend, I’ll be their friend.” To me that means more than good grades.

    Yes, I do want my daughter to do her best in school. But I want her to do HER best, and not someone else’s. She may not be able to do something as well as one of her friends, but if it’s the best she can do, that is fine by me. I don’t expect her to be perfect. I don’t expect perfect grades. I’m trying to teach her to look at people’s character and hearts instead of their clothing or their brains. This isn’t easy at a school where all the rich kids seem to be (and we are so not rich – not even close), and the parents are constantly comparing.

    I don’t have all the answers, and sometimes it is hard for me not to get caught up in the comparison game, but I’m really trying. Like today she came home and told me that she knows all the sight words that she’s been studying since school started. We “celebrated” with pizza not because she knows them all, but because she worked hard and didn’t give up when she was having a hard time learning them. I’m trying to keep the emphasis on character. I hope I’m doing it right…

    Sorry for the long comment. Apparently I have more to say on this subject than I realized. Maybe I should blog about it. :)

  13. I think you have too narrowly defined the term gifted and made an unnecessary distinction between giftedness and character. If you only consider a child gifted if they can get all A’s and do well on standardized tests you have a too narrow view of what gifted is. Is a person gifted academically a better person then one gifted musically, mechanically, etc? All gifts are from God in whose image we are created. By celebrating the gifts in each other we uplift the one who gave those gifts. Obviously, we are not talking about parents who want to talk about a child’s gifts because they want to look better. We want God to be exalted so we recognize his work in each of his creations. As for giftedness vs character, it is not a matter of which is more important. A person who tries to be kind, good, nice, etc in their own strength or for their own reasons is no more effective than one who is only self-focused. Just as we use God’s gifts to show his creativity, we live out the fruits of the Spirit he is developing in us to show others his love. You may be right to say that developing character in our children is a lost priority, but to fix that we don’t need to sacrifice developing their God-given gifts.

    1. Jeffrey,
      Well said. To clarify, I personally tend to think of “gifts’ that the Lord gives us as spiritual gifts. Outside of that, intelligence, for example, I consider a talent. The Bible doesn’t refer to any gifts other than those distributed by the Holy Spirit, i.e. shepherd, evangelist, teacher etc. I state in the post that God can and does use a person’s intelligence for His glory. However, the parents I’m referring to are those who tend to exalt their child’s smarts or academic performance above anything else. And to your final sentence, I never said that a gifted child’s abilities need to be sacrificed in order to exalt the Lord. Instead, I suggest that their giftedness not be placed on a pedestal in place of developing character. Children can surely have and use both–giftedness and character–I just desire to see the latter prioritized.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  14. Wow, a lot of discussion here! I’m sorry I’m late to the commenting party, but I just discovered your blog (and love it!).

    I think it would have been easy for me to fall into the child comparison game but God threw me a curve ball by giving me two amazing, but developmentally delayed boys – one of which continues to persevere through multiple disabilities. His efforts to do even simple things like open items, color, or talk show his determination and positive attitude that I hope he continues to have as a man.

    When you have a child who is disabled, you don’t focus on test scores or keeping up with the Jone’s child, because, well, you can’t – you’d lose every time. Instead we focus on God’s plan for Corbin’s life. It’s not about how many accomplishments he can rack up, but his heart that counts and how he uses his life to impact others. And that’s a goal we hold up for our other son as well. Seeing through the world’s definition of success and realigning our thinking to what really matters has been the greatest gift we could have ever received.

    Life is not about academics, success, wealth, or popularity – it’s about so, so much more. I’ve seen hundreds of people rise and fall under the world’s decree of “success”, left with not much more than heartache, regret, and bitterness. I’m not saying education is bad, or wanting the best for your children is bad, or money is bad – I’m not saying that at all. But what I am saying is let’s not forget what is most important – their hearts.

  15. I loved this! Education is so important to me and, even though my son is only 18 months old, I am constantly thinking about things he should be learning and giving him activities to help him succeed in school. I don’t want him to struggle. I don’t have a career for him picked out or anything, but education opens up doors and I want him to be prepared. That being said, what you wrote really helped to take some of the pressure off of me. I like what you said about emphasizing what’s important to God. I will still give my son the opportunities to learn and the tools it takes to succeed in his education, but maybe I can learn to not obsess over it the way I have been.

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  17. I am quite late at joining in on this conversation, never the less, I feel strongly in support of Michelle’s comments. I have been on a significant learning curve since my dd was ID’ed as being “gifted”. I truly wished I had read up on the common difficulties and qualities much earlier! It would have saved me from making mistakes.
    Although I agree that it is important to foster GODLY character in our children, learning how to lean on GOD, modeling and encouraging the use of words that reflect LIFE rather then self-doubt is essential for both the gifted child and parent. The ‘labeling’ of this population has helped me and will help others in truely understanding the unique struggles of gifted children and adults and therefore serves as a tool for gaining a clearer picture of their needs for more effective prayer and support. There is little support for this population despite their needs due to politics and without identification there would be even less.

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