By Rachel Bertsche, Writer | Yahoo Parenting
Photo by Thinkstock/Getty Images
Every parent likes to believe her kid is gifted. The other day, my 14-month-old daughter looked at an outlet, shook her finger and said “no, no, no,” which I’m certain means she already understands electric currents and their repercussions on the human body.
According to James T. Webb’s “A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children,” there are specific traits that mark a gifted child (though it seems none of them include a learned fear of outlets, too bad).
Some -like unusual alertness- can be spotted as early as infancy.
Others emerge in preschool: self-taught reading and writing skills, imaginary playmates, excellent memory.
Still others, like unusual sense of humor, are open to interpretation.
Signs of genius might also include an unusually large vocabulary, intense feelings and reactions, a sense of justice at an early age, daydreaming, highly developed curiosity, and a tendency to ask probing questions.
But are geniuses born to it, or can they be made?
Most experts agree that there’s no one formula to ignite genius, but there are ways to encourage these traits in your children, should they exhibit them at an early age. And doing so is vital.
A recent study in the journal Psychological Science found that exceptionally gifted students often get lost in the classroom because the curriculum can’t keep up with their rate of learning, and teachers focus on students who struggle rather than those who excel. These obstacles resulted in missed learning opportunities, frustration, and underachievement, the researchers say.
This is where parents come in.
The first order of business: pay attention.
”Parents can help children find their true element by taking cues from the child,” Kathy Nilles, Parent Services Manager at the National Association for Gifted Children, tells Yahoo Parenting.
That means tuning in to your kid’s strengths and interests and helping them find ways to explore those areas.
And remember that this is their moment, not yours, so just because you regret giving up the cello in third grade doesn’t mean your little one needs to pick up where you left off.
“We as parents should not relive our own childhood dreams -or force children to take on the interests or activities we want for them,” says Nilles.
Be careful, too, not to write off any interest or passion as too unusual or advanced. If your child mentions she wants more, increasingly difficult, homework, don’t laugh and tell her to enjoy her youth. Instead, help her find the next challenge.
“A common myth is that parents of gifted young people are pushing their children, when in reality these children are often leading their parents by asking for more challenge to match their intellectual needs,” Julie Dudley, Director of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development in Reno, Nevada, tells Yahoo Parenting.
“For example, if a child is hungry for knowledge in mathematics, science or music, parents can seek out mentors, tutors or online learning resources.”
The good news: Even if your child isn’t a true genius, there are steps you can take to encourage him to be his most productive self.
In “Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids,” authors Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster offer a checklist of what they call “brain-building experiences,” including reading aloud, visiting museums, taking walks in nature, and creating art projects.
But just as important as these activities is time for reflection. Talk with your children about what they learned, how it connects with what they already know, and what they want to do, see, or learn next.
Tonight, my daughter and I will be discussing electricity, lightning and Benjamin Franklin. You never know.