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.