Parenting Gifted Kids

I’ve been reading James Delisle’s book Parenting Gifted Kids lately. I confess I am a touch disappointed. I like his attitude toward giftedness, kids, and life, but so much of the practical information in the book is about school.

Delisle is a school teacher, so perhaps that’s why, but it’s interesting to see how much of the challenge of parenting gifted kids seems to be dealing not with your children but with the school. This is how it seemed to me, about 2 years ago — why, when my 6-year-old is unhappy and uncomfortable, am I giving all my energy to the school? Wouldn’t we all be happier if I gave all my concern directly to Violet instead? (Two years later, answer = “YES!”)

Nonetheless, Delisle seems to get one of the central paradoxes of dealing with gifted kids: we focus so intently on giving them an appropriate education, when academics and intellectual acuity are really only one piece — the easiest piece! — of what giftedness entails.

Thus in the chapter on over excitabilities (OEs) he cites OE researcher Michael Piechowski:

. . . OEs are not a supplement to the gifted child’s personality, but they are the true essence of it. Just as one hand enfolds the other to create a cocoon of warmth, the OEs, when combined with heightened intelligence, create an individual who is capable of both great insights and profound compassion; it becomes hard to distinguish whether the genesis of one’s enriched abilities is in the head or the heart.

I feel a touch nervous about typing that out — the danger is that the idea of “OEs” either pathologizes giftedness or sets gifted people apart as superhuman. This is far from what Delisle is saying, and far from what those who live with highly gifted kids would want to say.

Apart from urging parents to persevere in their ongoing battles with the school system, Delisle main point is to urge compassion and understanding in parents. Don’t burden your child with your expectations. Make it OK to fail. Make it OK to be a regular person — gifted people are no more required to become famous, rich, or powerful than anyone else.

Though I am still left seeking more specific thoughts about parenting with OEs, the more practical discussions of the real meaning of “just let them be kids” — let them be themselves — were good reminders.

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8 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Uncategorized, Why Homeschool?

8 responses to “Parenting Gifted Kids

  1. Catana

    Pace Piechowski; after all, he’s a professional and I’m not, but the genesis of those abilities is in the head. He’s one of those who turn Dabrowski’s ideas into a kind of pop psychology that makes it easy for people to find giftedness where it doesn’t necessarily exist. I really wish there was some way to bring his book back into print so the distortions could be exposed. But you might take a look at this site: http://members.shaw.ca/positivedisintegration/
    Bill Tillier, the site’s owner, is much more of an expert on Dabrowski than his popular interpreters.

  2. shaun

    Wow — thanks for the link! Very interesting stuff. I wish I had more time to give to it, but I will mark it for another time.

    My primary interest in OEs is simply finding a way to cope with all the intensity in this house — some of what I have read elsewhere (probably from Davidson or SENG?) has at least allowed us to get off the “what wrong with her/me/us?” thing.

  3. knittingthewind

    Have you read Mary Sheedy Kurckinka (I’m sure I’ve misspelled at least one of those names). She wrote a book about intensity that is my absolute parenting bible, to the point where I’ve informed my dd’s godparents about it, just in case!

    I’ve always felt that giftedness isn’t just in the head, that it is something that encompasses the whole person, but in some biochemical way I don’t have the education to explain.

  4. adsoofmelk

    Well, to be honest, I think a major part of “the problem of giftedness” is genuinely “a problem with school,” and given that most people aren’t homeschooling (therefore, suggesting that most gifted students are public-schooled), DeLisle’s approach makes practical sense even if it’s frustratingly incomplete.

    Mostly, I think the problem IS with school, when — let’s face it — they can be generally so unhelpful, so rigid, so unwilling to educate except according to bureaucratic lockstep.

    Sorry…(wiping foam off mouth and stepping off soapbox). I do see where you’re coming from, though.

  5. We have always homeschooled and I think the biggest “problem” with have an EG/PG child is how other people react to her and figuring out what I can say, what I can share.

    I can be a social and talkative person and I sometimes need to think out loud and I appreciate having another parent to bounce ideas off of. Sometimes it is lonely having a child that you are not allowed to talk about.

    As for OE’s. I certainly have them and I think I have mostly come to terms with them. In fact I have grown quite fond of them. It helps me be more understanding of Z’s OEs, though not always.

  6. adsoofmelk

    Jane, you said, “Sometimes it is lonely having a child that you are not allowed to talk about.” MAN, is that ever true.

  7. OEs and sensory issues we are familiar with 😉 Actually, some of the issues we are having are probably made more intense by the OEs.

  8. Kit

    Well both Piechowski and Tillier were students of Dabrowski, albeit at different times. They disagree as to whether OE’s mean giftedness. Possibly Dabrowski wavered on that. Certainly he seems to have considered that people who are not intellectually gifted can have OEs. I tend to think of OEs as meaning a nervous system set on high – and that can work in a way that goes with giftedness or it might not.

    I think the main thing is that when you read Dabrowski you find he didn’t think OEs should be simply accepted and accommodated. He thought of them as the goad that pushes the individual toward higher level functioning, or what I can only think of as virtue. So perhaps we as parents should be helping with that push. Yes, understanding that they hyper-react to certain things. But also helping them find ways to deal with, correct, and self-regulate in positive ways. Make sense?

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