Monday, December 17, 2012


Each individual is accountable for his or her own actions; however, society is responsible for not teaching a generation how to be personally responsible. It's okay to let your kids fail and teach them how to overcome. It's okay to let your kids be sad and teach them how to be resilient. It's okay to let your kids go without and teach them how to be resourceful. And, it's okay to let your kids have problems and teach them how to solve them.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gifted or Bright Child

Many parents wonder if their child is a high achiever or truly gifted.  The following list (compiled by Janice Szabos) provides a wonderful guide to help you as you assess your child.
Some Things to Consider...

Knows the answer.
Asks the questions.
Is interested.
Is highly curious.
Is attentive.
Is mentally and physically involved.
Has good ideas.
Has wild and silly ideas.
Works hard.
Plays around, yet tests well.
Answers the questions.
Discusses in detail, elaborates.
Top group.
Beyond the group.
Listens with interest.
Shows strong feelings and opinions.
Learns with ease.
Already knows.
6-8 repetitions for mastery.
1-2 repetitions for mastery.
Understands ideas.
Constructs abstractions.
Enjoys peers.
Prefers adults.
Grasps the meaning.
Draws inferences.
Completes assignments.
Initiates projects.
Is receptive.
Is intense.
Copies accurately.
Creates a new design.
Enjoys school.
Enjoys learning.
Absorbs information.
Manipulates information.
Good memorizer.
Good guesser.
Enjoys straightforward, Sequential presentation.
Thrives on complexity.
Is alert.
Is keenly observant.
Is pleased with own learning.
Is highly self-critical.
By Janice Szabos

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Teaching Advocacy

Advocacy is “the act of arguing in favor of something -- an idea, cause, or policy.”  (NAGC)  Each of us, then, is an advocate every time we stand up for our beliefs, hold our ground in a discussion, or express a point of view in defense of an issue.  So why is advocacy, in general, important for parents of gifted children, and why is it important to teach our children to be advocates?  According to the State of the Nation in Gifted Education (2011):

12 states require districts to hire gifted and talented administrators, but only 4 states require them to have certification in gifted and talented education.
Since the last State of the States report, 14 states have reduced state funding for gifted education.
20 states do not monitor district programs for gifted and talented students.
The only federal program for gifted students was cut in 2011, taking away every federal education dollar from the learning needs of our nation’s most advanced students.
Only 6 states require all teachers to receive pre-service training in gifted and talented education.
Only 5 states require annual professional development for teachers in specialized gifted and talented programs.
Only 7 states permit students to enter kindergarten earlier than the state cut-off age.
Only 8 states have state policies that specifically permit academic acceleration; the rest leave the decision to the local school district.

In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics tells us that the average elementary school classroom size in the United States varies from a low in Vermont of 17.0 to a high in Michigan of 25.1 with an average class size of 20.3 (2008)

Given all of these facts, it is clear that gifted children are not guaranteed an educational environment in which they can flourish.  It is imperative that both parents and children are able and willing to speak up for what is necessary for these children to receive an education commensurate with their abilities in a safe and nurturing environment.

When it comes to advocating for gifted education, parents may advocate for programs, for children’s inclusion in those programs, and for services. But, it is important also for children to learn to self-advocate rather than reporting every situation to the parent who then can step in to solve the problem.  Consider:

Rescuing your child repeatedly causes anxiety because it sends the message to your child that he is fragile and cannot advocate for himself. (Marano, 2004)
Children do not learn life skills like self reliance, sharing and conflict resolution when parents hover. (Strauss, 2006) If the child learns to rely on a parent to rescue him every time he is unhappy, he will not learn the skills necessary to develop a sense of self-efficacy and independence.
Parents are not always around when an issue arises.  Students are on the front lines.  If they know how to request a different book, explain what they know, and understand when doing so is appropriate and when it is not, they will probably be successful at navigating the waters of childhood.
It is a lesson that they will employ in a myriad of situations throughout their lives.  How many adults are unable to approach an employer to discuss a promotion?  How many adults are hesitant to tell a friend that something the friend is doing is hurtful?  How many young adults frequently call mom and dad asking for advice on issues they should be able to handle themselves?  Teaching children while they are young to know what is important to them and to respectfully fight for it is critical.

Teaching the gifted child to distinguish what is worth fighting for is not always easy.  Their sense of justice, their propensity toward overexcitability, and their ability to synthesize facts, analyze a situation, and arrive at a logical solution often before the decision-maker can be stumbling blocks.  Additionally, all successful advocacy depends, in part, on relationships built over time that engender trust.  Sometimes built-in credibility speeds the process, but generally it takes time to develop a trusting relationship between advocates and decision makers.  (NAGC 2011)   If a child is to advocate for himself, then, in academic or social situations, he first needs to establish a trusting relationship with those involved.  He can do this by employing a strategy that utilizes specific tools:

(1) know your facts;
(2) know your audience;
(3) know your preferred outcome, and;
(4) maintain a respectful attitude.

If we are going to teach our young children to advocate for themselves, we need to first teach them what that means.  It does not mean whining about homework because you already know how to do the work, or complaining about an assigned project being too simplistic.  It means knowing what you want, assessing the situation to ascertain whether or not your desired outcome is feasible, thinking about the best way to approach the person who can make the decision, and arming yourself with evidence to support your position. It means being careful not to let extraneous issues distract you from your intended outcome.  It means choosing your issues wisely rather than railing against every perceived injustice that is aimed your way.

Complain or Self-Advocate?

As a parent, you could role play situations in which a child would have a choice whether to simply complain or to self-advocate for a desired outcome:

The class is studying pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.  The teacher has assigned The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George.  Johnny has a real interest in pilgrims and has already read that book.

 (complaining) “I already read that book, teacher.”
 (self-advocacy) “I already read that book, teacher.  May I please go to the library and find another book to read on the pilgrims?”

The teacher begins a lesson on the basic needs of farm animals, including shelter and living spaces.  Susie has visited her uncle’s farm every summer since she was born.

 (complaining) “I know all about this already.”
 (self-advocacy)  “I know all about this already from visiting my uncle’s farm.  Would you like me to bring in some pictures and video to share with the class?  I could interview my uncle and ask him for some fun facts that aren’t in our textbook.”

David played baseball last season but wasn’t very good.  Wanting to get better, he attended a summer camp and really practiced hard.  The next season, disappointed to have him on the team, his new coach decided to bench him for the first game.

 (complaining)  “I hate baseball.  I never want to play again.”
 (self advocacy)  “Coach, I know that I didn’t play very well last season but I went to summer baseball camp and I have been practicing really hard.  Could I show you what I can do now?  I want to help the team to win, not sit on the bench.”

Julie’s younger sister is playing with Julie’s favorite toy and Julie doesn’t want her to damage it.

 (complaining)  “Give it to me!”  Julie grabs the toy, making her sister cry.
 (self-advocacy)  “You don’t want to play with that old toy.  Here’s another one that is way more fun.  Let’s play with it together.”  She then gently takes the toy and plays for a few minutes with her sister with the new toy.

Anywhere from 60% - 90% of students in the general population had been bullied, and around 20% of students were bullies. (Peterson & Ray, 2006)  By eighth grade, 67% of gifted students had been victims of bullying, 16% defined themselves as bullies, and 29% had violent thoughts.  11% of bullied gifted children respond with violence.  (AP/MTV, 2009)

(complaining) You call me names because I’m smart.  Well, you’re stupid.
(self-advocacy) You call me names just because I’m smart.  Well, I’m smart enough to know that the names don’t mean anything.

In some schools, adults (e.g. administrators, teachers) become the bullies by repeatedly telling children who are gifted that giftedness does not exist, does not matter, should not receive any special consideration, and children who are gifted should not receive any services. (Cross, 2001)

 (complaining)  “It’s not fair!  I know everything and school is boring.”
 (self-advocacy)  “I know that I have a lot to learn, but I do already know what we’re studying.  May I please go to the library and get a book on the subject to read quietly while the class learns about it?”

If we diligently model behaviors for our children that show them how to respectfully and politely express their needs, we will be leading them down the path to independence with the ability to achieve their dreams and fulfill their potential - academically, socially, and emotionally.


AP-MTV (2009). A thin line: 2009, AP-MTV digital abuse study. Retrieved from

Cross, T. (2001). The many faces of bullies. Gifted Child Today, 24, 36-37.

Fertig, C. (2008). Overprotection of gifted students. Prufrock Press Gifted child information blog @

Jacobsen, M.E. (2009). If only I had known: Lessons from gifted adults. Duke TIP, Digest of gifted research. Winter 2009.

Marano, H.E. (2004). The pressure from parents. Psychology Today. March 1, 2004.

NAGC (2011). Executive summary. State of the nation in gifted education: A lack of commitment to talent development.

National Center for Education Statistics (2008).   Average class size for public school teachers in elementary schools, secondary schools, and  schools with combined grades by classroom type and state: 2007-08.  Retrieved from

Sword, L. (2001). Psycho-social needs: Understanding the emotional, intellectual and social uniqueness of growing up gifted. Retrieved from

Strauss, V. (2006). Putting parents in their place: outside class. The Washington Post, March 21, 2006.  Retrieved from

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heterogeneous Classrooms

     In our zeal for political correctness, we have hurt everyone (the children and, by extension, the adults they will become).  Children know in a heterogeneous classroom who is coasting and who is struggling.  We may pretend that by "mixing" all of the children into one class we are saving their feelings but, in reality, we are making it harder for all of them.  The children who learn faster are often bored and angry, sometimes being misdiagnosed with ADHD or behavioral problems.  The children who are struggling often feel like failures by daily comparison to their more advanced peers.  
     In "the olden days", when children were grouped by ability, there were leaders in all classes.  Children learned at a pace commensurate with their ability and felt successful.  How can we possibly consider what we have done to be progress?  Just look at our national statistics compared to students in other industrialized countries.  The United States is falling behind - and it isn't for lack of funds.  In my opinion, it is because we are setting all children up for failure. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Behavioral Foreshadowing

     As I was watching “The GoldenGirls” today, Rose said that when she was scared, her mother would sing to her.  Thinking that it was some calming lullaby, Dorothy asked, “What did she sing?”  Much to everyone’s surprise, Rose began singing “Over there, over there, send the word, send the word over there that the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, the drums drum drumming everywhere.  So beware so beware.  Send the word send the word over there.  We’re coming over.  We’re coming over, and we won’t be home ‘til it’s over over there.”  
    This made me think of the songs that calmed my own children.  For one it was sitting in the rocking chair gently rocking as I sang “Irish Lullaby” and “Unchained Melody”, “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Silent Night”.  For the other, it was marching up and down the hallway singing “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”  Gentleness soothed one while rhythmical movement soothed the other.
    What calms your children?  We all come to know each child as an individual, know what is reassuring to them as infants.  As they grow, though, sometimes we forget that those instincts for calmness, movement, loud or quiet sounds follow them.  The same child who was calmed by quiet, soothing lullabies grew to be a peacemaker in the family, calmly discussing everything, understanding everyone’s point of view.  Discipline for him was a rational discussion of the rules and consequences.  It worked because it suited his personal style.  I discovered this one day when  he had angered me and I spanked him on his fanny.  He looked up at me through clear, three- year-old eyes and asked, “Mommy, do you feel better now?”  Never again did I spank him.  The other child, the baby lover of rhythm, grew to be first a drummer and then a guitarist and singer.  Rhythm continues to be a part of his life.  Rational discussion never worked with him as discipline.  He needed shock and awe - metaphorically.  An occasional harsh “No” and pat on his fanny was all that modified his behavior.  
    So, as your children grow, remember to look back to those first cues of the sights, sounds, tastes, touches, or smells that soothed them.  The people they were foretell the people they will be.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Photographic Project

   Several of my friends who live all over the world have been conducting photo projects for the past couple of years.  We choose a 30-day period of time and the goal is to take a single photo each day for 30 days.  We post the photos on a Facebook page created for each project, accessible only by those who are taking part in the project.  Each person posts each day, critiques others’ photos, asks questions, and provides information on photos and photo subjects.  During the several projects in which we have taken part, we have learned about faraway lands, local customs, nature, environmental issues, geography, history, and each other, to name a few areas about which members have informed us.  
    How do we decide what we will do?  As we are setting the parameters for each new project, we decide by consensus what our focus will be.  Will we simply take pictures of whatever strikes our fancy?  Will we assign different subjects for each day?  Will we establish a general photographic subject for the 30 days and see how many ways we can interpret it?  Over the past two years, each of us has asked others to join us, expanding our circle of friends and adding new perspectives.  We have learned each other’s favorite subjects - trees, flowers, children, animals, architecture, rain, skies, storms, etc.  
    Okay, so this is the background.  But why am I telling you about this project here?  I am describing the project because it would be a wonderful activity to introduce to your children, whether you are thinking of involving your own children or a class of children.  Creative kids would really enjoy this outlet for their creativity, and they don’t need an expensive camera.  In fact, I would not recommend getting them an expensive camera.  After all, they are children and it probably will be lost or broken at some point.  In fact, some of the most interesting photos we have seen in our photo project have been taken with telephone cameras and even those single use cameras we often get at weddings.
    A few things to remember if you decide to undertake a 30-day Photo Project with your children:
  1. Discuss what sorts of pictures will be taken - will you assign a topic each day (flower, tree, favorite toy, etc.) or will you give children carte blanche?
  2. Be willing to take cameras on outings to fun places where photo subjects may be (park, playground, lake, ocean, pool, zoo, museum, backyard, etc.).
  3. Set up a separate file for digital pictures so that you can keep track of pictures that are being taken.  
  4. Critique photos each day.   Ask questions such as: (a) what appealed to you about this subject? (b) why did you take the photo the way you did? (c) did you consider other subjects for today? (d) is there anything you would like to know about your subject? (e) what can you share about your subject to teach others?
  5. While the project can be fun with one or two children, the more the better.  Maybe you can persuade a group of parents and their children to take part.  
  6. You can establish a Facebook page that is only accessible to its members where your children’s photos can be posted and where they can comment on each other’s pictures, ask questions about them, and learn.
  7. Make sure that children understand the parameters of what is acceptable to you and the other parents in terms of photographic subjects, types of comments, how to critique without hurting anyone’s feelings, what constructive criticism is and how to provide it.
  8. Be willing to step back and let your children take the lead, selecting their own photos.  If they are to learn from and enjoy the project, your job is to provide technical assistance, perhaps research lessons, but to let them be the creative directors.
  9. Maybe you and the other parents would like to create your very own photo project so that you can model how to select a subject, different ways to look at something, how to provide that constructive criticism, and how to provide information about your photo (uploading youtube videos, articles, or photos from websites to further explain your own photo).
  10. HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Do As I Do Not Just As I Say

     Children learn by observing those adults in their lives who are important to them.  A baby watches its mother’s face intently for cues.  A toddler will reprimand a little friend with, “No.  No.  Don’t do that,” something the toddler hears often as he or she explores the world.  
     Back in 1954, Dorothy Law Nolte was onto something when she wrote the classic poem, “Children Learn What They Live.”  A book by the same name later appeared (1998) with the subtitle: “Parenting to Inspire Values”).
     Research tells us how important modeling is to children, yet many parents think that they can tell their children to do one thing while they, themselves, do the opposite.  Even the best parents have inadvertently said or done something that models negative behavior.  After all, parents are only human.  
     The difference between a positive and a negative role model, however, is using adult negative behavior as a positive reinforcer for your child.  It is okay to say to your child, “Mommy just lost her temper and said a bad word.  That was wrong.  Sometimes Mommies do wrong things.  But I know it was wrong and I am sorry.  I will try not to do that again.  I tell you what: if you hear Mommy say that word again, it is okay for you to give me a time out, okay?”  By so doing, what could have been negative modeling becomes an opportunity for positive modeling.
     You’re probably saying, “Oh, sure.  Every time I slip up and say something I shouldn’t I’m supposed to turn around and apologize to my child?  Are you crazy?”  No, I’m not.  You would be surprised how easy it is to do.  As someone cuts you off in traffic and you get angry and curse at the driver with little Tommy in the backseat, it’s pretty easy a few minutes later when you calm down to look in your rearview mirror and simply say, “Oops.  Mommy should have had more patience with that driver, huh?”  By so doing, you are not sending mixed messages.  You’re not telling Tommy to have patience with his little sister, while you don’t have to have patience with another driver.
     As Kirstie Spiers Neumeister said in Perfectionism in Gifted Children, “Children need to observe their parents and teachers taking on challenges, making mistakes, and experiencing failures once in awhile. This is how they will learn to appreciate mistakes and failures in a constructive fashion, rather than feeling crippled by anxiety and self-blame.”
     So the next time you mess up in front of your child, try acknowledging it.  You might be surprised by your child’s reaction.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stop To See The Rainbows

A colleague today referred to a quote by Mohandas Gandhi: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”   This quote made me think of all of the gifted children (and adults) I know who are proud of the speed with which they can do everything from reciting the alphabet to finishing a crossword puzzle.  Children are bombarded by speed tests in school, applauded for finishing their homework quickly, and praised for reading a book in record time.  But what are we doing to children by instilling this sense that speed is good?

One result of our “need for speed” is that children are not given time to truly think about what they are doing, to learn from it, to expand on an idea, to question its validity, to relate it to something else.  When we focus on how quickly we can accomplish a task, the task becomes meaningless.   The joy of the journey is removed, replaced with a need to reach the destination.

When my children were small, they jokingly referred to my attempts to help them to see the value in the journey as “stopping to see the rainbows” rather than “taking time to smell the roses” because whenever I would spot a rainbow, I would stop everything so that we could marvel at its beauty.  If I was driving, I would pull the car over to the side of the road.  If we were outside playing, I would stop the game while we gazed, contemplated, and discussed the rainbow.  These rainbows were symbolic for me.  They were an opportunity to impress upon my children how important it is to stop sometimes and really notice your surroundings, to see the beauty in the world, to slow down.  A short time ago, my sister and I drove from Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts to attend a flower show.  The drive only takes 2 hours; however, our return trip took us more than six hours.  The destination was not our joy.  It was the journey.  We rambled around Boston, visited Cambridge, saw a sign for a restaurant that evoked memories of childhood and veered off the road to eat there.  We chatted about a store we had read about somewhere in southern Maine and simply left the highway to find it, stopping to ask people along the way for directions.  When I told my sons about this adventure, they laughed and one of them said, “So you stopped to see the rainbows, huh?”

The next time your child reads a book quickly and you are very proud of that fact, take a few minutes to ask about the story.  Discuss the characters, the plot, the ramifications of the protagonist’s actions, how the story would have been different if a single event had changed.  You can do this with any child at any age and any type of book.  I remember having long discussions one day with my young child about the “Little Engine That Could.”  

It is important for children to learn their Arithmetic facts, and if they enjoy reciting them quickly, let them do it.  But when they are finished, make sure that they understand what they just did.  What are numbers?  What is multiplication?  What is addition?  When did they start?  Why are they important?  Does everyone use the same system?  Why?  Why not?  If we impress upon children at a young age that speed is not the goal, but true understanding is the goal, perhaps education will be more meaningful.

In this fast-paced world, where speed seems to permeate everything we do, try to slow down sometimes, if not for yourself then for the message it sends to your child.  There truly is more to life than increasing its speed.  Make sure you stop to see the rainbows.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Strategies for Helping Your 2E Child to Focus
When working with twice exceptional (2e) children, teachers and parents discover many ways in which to adapt activities or instructions so that the children can be set up to succeed.  A few of the ways that I have observed over the past few years are:

  • Placing colored cloth “shades” over fluorescent lighting.  This softens the lighting and soothes many children.
  • Playing music in the classroom or during study time at home.  Sometimes what adults might consider a distraction actually helps these children to concentrate.
  • Providing movement breaks is beneficial to concentration.  Letting children get up and move around periodically helps them to focus.
  • Offering positive affective messages during lessons or study time provides encouragement that the child is trying.  These messages should be very specific, not “You’re doing a great job” but “I really like the way you are forming your letters.”
  • Allowing the use of “fidgets” helps many children to pay attention.  By physically manipulating something (squishy ball, koosh ball, small toy, small stuffed creature, etc.), the child’s mind can concentrate on a task more easily.
  • Allowing some children to type papers or to dictate them rather than hand write can produce astounding results.  Sometimes a child is considered to be a non-writer or a parent may have great difficulty getting a child to begin writing a paper.  Allowing the child to type it or dictate it may solve this problem.
  • Alternating instruction from quiet desk work to physical activity to small group work to whole class instruction, with very little whole class instruction, can really benefit some 2e children.  Similarly, at home, alternating the types of tasks you ask your child to do can really create a more cooperative child: sit still and read for 20 minutes then take out the trash then help to cook dinner then sit still at the table may make each of those tasks more palatable for the 2e child.
  • Creating “games” for lessons can help many 2e children.  Observing a class that was having difficulty writing with details, a teacher asked the class to stop writing and to draw simple monsters.  They giggled and laughed and drew their monsters.  She then asked them to write instructions for someone else to draw them.  They learned that details are important. In another class, students were learning about circles. They were loud and not paying attention to the lesson.  Rather than get frustrated, the teacher said that they were going to drop the lesson for the day.  Instead, they were going to make stained glass windows to hang up in the classroom window.  She had them draw large circles and then plot points, label, and color with markers.  They ended up with stained glass windows and had a lot of fun learning about radius, diameter, and chords. 
  • Providing countdowns to transitions is key to cooperation with 2e kids: “5 minutes,” “3 minutes,” “1 minute,” ringing of bells to transition to the next activity all help the child to make those transitions.  One parent tells her children that when they need to leave a playground or beach or pool or someplace else where they are having a lot of fun and do not want to leave that they do need to leave but she will make time for “favorite thing time” at which point they are allowed to do their favorite thing one more time before leaving.  They know that after “favorite thing time” it is time to leave.
  • Asking children to gauge their understanding by showing thumbs up, thumbs middle, or thumbs down sometimes helps children to express their level of approval in a non-verbal way.  One family uses this technique with meals, television choices, movie previews, and other family decisions.
  • Allowing children to listen to audio books as they follow along with the reading sometimes helps 2e children to focus on the story and improves their reading proficiency.
  • Introducing some 2e children to yoga can help them to release extra energy and to focus.
  • Proving aerobic balls for 2e children to sit on while reading, writing, eating, watching television, or doing just about any activity can provide stimulation and movement which frees them to concentrate better.
  • Allowing children to chew gum in class at school and while doing homework can help them to focus.
  • Accepting work in written or verbal form can be helpful to 2e children.  This assumes that a parent or teacher is okay with the fact that knowledge is key, not format.
  • Announcing dance breaks periodically can relieve stress and wake up the mind and body.  One teacher frequently senses the need for movement and will call out “dance break,” put on music, and allow the class to dance for 3 minutes.  She dances along and everyone laughs and has a good time.  When dance time is over, everyone gets back to work.
  • Giving instructions both verbally and in writing can help some 2e children.  Children pay attention in different ways and if you find yourself saying, “I asked you five times to do that” perhaps you would have better luck writing down your requests either on a white board, a chalk board, note pads, or some other means available to you.  One parent writes on sticky notes which she attaches to doors, mirrors, toilet seats, backpacks, etc.  The child sees the notes and is reminded of what it is that he is supposed to do without her repeating herself.

All of these ways (and more) are examples of things you can do to help your child to be more focused. Please share your own ideas for helping your child to focus on the task at hand.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


As a parent of a gifted child, you already know that your child is hyper-sensitive in some way.  Put a shirt with a tag on the child and listen to wails of “It doesn’t feel good.”  Go shoe shopping and plan to spend hours finding the pair that feels right, looks right, or sounds right.  Cook a meal and listen to comments about the texture, color, or taste of food.  Whatever the area, parents do need to be aware of their children’s heightened sensitivities.  Dabrowski spoke of these sensitivities as “overexcitabilities” in gifted children.  These take on many forms that you probably have noticed. Gifted children tend to have more than one of these intensities, although one is usually dominant.  Be prepared to accept and foster their uniqueness.
o Often misdiagnosed as ADHD since characteristics are similar
o Rapid speech
o Impulsive
o Talks a lot
o Has nervous habits
o Very competitive – even when it doesn’t matter
o Has difficulty sleeping
o Needs to multitask
o Complains about seams in socks
o Complains about tags in shirts
o Doesn’t like the feel of wool or some other fabric
o Doesn’t like loud noises
o Gets sick from a certain smell
o Hates to walk barefoot or loves to walk barefoot
o Enjoys textures of certain foods and detests other textures
o Has a love of beauty – sunsets, flowers, music, writing, art
Emotional (Take everything personally, get hurt feelings easily)
o Extremes of emotion 
o Anxiety
o Feelings of guilt and sense of responsibility
o Feelings of inadequacy and inferiority
o Timidity and shyness
o Loneliness
o Concern for others
o Heightened sense right and wrong, of injustice and hypocrisy
o Strong memory for feelings
o Problems adjusting to change
o Depression
o Need for security
o Physical response to emotions (stomach aches caused by anxiety, for example)
Intellectual (easiest to recognize as giftedness)
o Deep curiosity
o Love of knowledge and learning
o Love of problem solving
o Avid reading
o Asking of probing questions
o Theoretical thinking
o Analytical thinking
o Independent thinking
o Concentration, ability to maintain intellectual effort
Imaginational (able to imagine situations in both positive and negative lights)
o Vivid dreams
o Fear of the unknown
o Good sense of humor
o Magical thinking
o Love of poetry, music and drama
o Love of fantasy
o Daydreaming
o Imaginary friends
o Detailed visualization

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teach Children Not to Bully
     A friend posted something on Facebook today that made me stop and think.  We really need to teach our children to put themselves in others' shoes before passing judgment on them.  Children can be mean.  Bullies can harm children for life.  Try reading these situations to or with your child and discussing them.  Teachers could discuss them with their classes also.

  • The boy you punched in the hall today committed suicide a few minutes ago.
  • That girl you called a slut in class today? She's a virgin.
  • The boy you called lame?  He has to work every night to support his family.
  • That girl you pushed down the other day?  She is abused at home.
  • That girl you called fat?  She's currently starving herself.
  • The old man you made fun of because of his ugly scars? He fought for our country.
  • The girl you made fun of because she cried in class?  Her mother is dying.
  • The boy you laughed at because he was reading haltingly?  He doesn't know how to read because his parents don't speak English.
  • The boy you beat up today? His father beat him up again when he got home because he had not stood up for himself in his fight with you.
  • The girl you called stupid? She is studying for several hours every night trying to be the first in her family to go to college.
  • The boy you refuse to pick for a team at recess? He has nobody to play with and would be a loyal friend if you would include him.
     As a parent, you can make up your own scenarios as appropriate for the age of your child. 


Thursday, March 29, 2012


How do we teach our children to forgive?  When they may be faced with bullying, teachers who will not challenge them in school, being picked last for the team on the playground, unkind taunts of other children, or a multitude of hurts, how do we teach them that they need to forgive the perpetrators or carry the pain with them for a lifetime?  Maybe the above quote is a great way to do it.  Maybe we teach our children that to forgive lets us gain peace instead of carrying around the pain.  It doesn't mean that what the person did was okay, it just means that we are not going to give that person the power to hurt us anymore.  We instill in our children a sense of self worth and the feeling that no one has the power to diminish them.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Children Learn What They Live
We all know that children learn what they live, but how much do we think about that in our day to day lives?  Do we think about it when we become outraged by a fellow driver?  How about when we tell a friend on the phone that we have to go because the doorbell rang - and it really didn't?  Are we thinking about it when we watch television shows containing lots of violence or sexual content?  Are we even thinking about it when we become exasperated and scream at our children?  How can we remember to teach our children subliminally the lessons we want them to learn in life?

  • We are only human.  If we make a mistake and act in a way we would not want our children to act, we can calmly explain that the behavior was wrong - that even Mommies and Daddies make mistakes sometimes.
  • If we act toward our children or someone else in a way that we would not want our children to learn, we can apologize to the person we have offended, teaching our children that when we hurt someone apologizing is the right thing to do.
  • If we are tempted to tell a white lie to someone because it's the easier path, we can either not do it or explain to our children why we did it and help them to understand that sometimes we need to respect others' feelings and not say or do things that will hurt them.
  • If there is a television show that we would like to watch that is not appropriate for our young children, we can either not watch it, record it to watch it later, or give our children something to do in another room while it is on.  There is no reason to expose young children to gratuitous sex and violence.  
  • If we want to teach our children to be good sports, we can teach them that is okay to cheer for our team, but not to boo the other team.  Positively cheering someone on is encouraging.  Booing someone is unkind.
  • If we want our children to learn to be of service to others, we need to be of service to others.  Bake something for the holidays for a shelter with your child, shop for holiday presents for the down-on-their-luck family with your child.  Make blankets for the homeless with your child.  Clean out your child's toy closet with him and suggest that he go with you to donate the toys he no longer enjoys for children who will appreciate them.  Ask your child to go with you when you take outgrown winter coats to a shelter.  There are innumerable ways you can serve and provide that example for your children.
  • Sit and read in the evening instead of parking in front of the television.  Talk about your book or magazine or newspaper, exhibiting enjoyment in what you are reading.
  • Practice random acts of kindness: compliment someone who appears to need a pick-me-up, hold a door for someone, stow groceries in someone's car, take a shopping cart back to the store for someone, ask someone sitting alone to join you, smile and say hello to strangers, take the neighbors' newspaper up to their door for them.  Just do something nice every day for someone and let your child see you doing it.
Mostly, just remember that your children are watching you and listening to you.  How often do you hear something you have said or see something you have done come out of them?  If you truly want to teach them to be responsible, caring adults, keep in mind that they are paying attention not just to what you tell them to do, but to what you do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Turning Wishes Into Goals
Often our children (and we) hope that something will happen, but we never seem to form a plan to advance that hope to a goal.  As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said in the early 1900s, "A goal without a plan is just a wish."  So how do we help our children to create those plans that change their wishes to goals?  One way is to actually write the goals down and think about ways to achieve those goals.  Teachers do this in school,  asking children to set out goals at the beginning of a school year, but we often don’t think to do this as parents.  Following is a form you may use to help your child figure out a few plans.

Following are several wishes you may have or do have.  Select three (or more) of them and see of you can devise a plan to achieve them, thus turning them from wishes to goals.

1. I hope I get a good grade on this test.
2. I hope school won’t be boring today.
3. I hope I get to school on time.
4. I hope I get my homework finished tonight.
5. I hope today will be a good day.
6. I hope I don’t get into trouble today.
7. I hope I don’t lose anything today.
8. I hope I remember to give the note from my teacher to my parent.
9. I hope I can pay attention in class today.
10. I hope: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Personal Responsibility

“Mom, it’s all your fault.”
    How many times have you heard your child exclaim that something is all your fault?  He didn’t get his homework done.  She was late for school.  He received a bad grade.  She didn’t make the team.  Somehow, it is all Mom’s fault.  What I am wondering is at what point did Mom decide that she would take responsibility for her child’s successes and failures?  And how did we not teach our children a sense of personal responsibility?
    Today a friend told me a story about her college-aged daughter who had a report to do for school.  She was having a difficult time settling on a topic and called her mother for suggestions.  The mother, always willing to do whatever she can to help her child, offered a suggestion.  After considering her suggestion, however, she told her daughter that it might not be a great idea for a number of reasons.  Flash forward a few days.  The report is now due the following day.  The Mom is out of town.  The daughter calls her in a panic to bemoan the fact that she just cannot find enough information about the topic her mother suggested and now has only a few hours to complete the report.  Somehow, it is all the mother’s fault that she has not completed the report.
    So how does a child gain a sense of personal responsibility and what can we do as parents to teach it?  One important thing is to provide challenges for them along the way and allow them to fail.  That may sound unfair to parents who do not want to see their children unhappy or struggling; however, without challenge a person cannot learn how to overcome disappointments or failure. How about some specific scenarios?
  1. You tell your toddler to put his toys away.  He does not do it.  20 minutes later you walk into his playroom and he tells you that he couldn’t do it.  What do you do?   Do you simply put the toys away yourself because it is easier than arguing?  Do you raise your voice and start berating the child for not doing what you asked him to do?  Do you offer to help him put the toys away?  Do you keep him company while he puts the toys away?  Personally, I think that either of the last two choices work to develop responsibility, but the last choice is best.  Offer to keep him company while he puts the toys away and encourage him by praising his efforts.
  2. Your primary school child has a project to do for school.  She waits until the night before it is due and then complains that she can not get it done.  What do you do?  Do you tell her that it’s late and she needs her sleep; she should go to bed and you’ll finish it for her?  Do you raise your voice and start berating the child for not starting on the project sooner?  Do you offer suggestions and help her to finish the project?  Do you sit down to read a book and let her give it her best shot at the 11th hour?  Again, Letting her know that you are not deserting her but not bailing her out either is the best solution.  She needs to learn that taking responsibility for her lack of action has led her to this uncomfortable position.
  3. Your child forgets something at home (lunch, band instrument, homework).  He calls you and asks you to bring it to him.  Do you immediately take it to him?  Do you get upset and wonder how he can be so forgetful?  Do you tell him that it is his responsibility to remember to bring his things to school and that you will not take it to him?  As difficult as it is to do, the best thing you could do is to refrain from taking it to him.  He will not starve if he misses one lunch.  He may be sad to miss band and will probably remember his instrument the next time.  He may be  embarrassed if he doesn’t have his homework but will probably remember it the next time. 
  4. Your child has a piano lesson and the instructor tells her that she has not practiced enough during the previous week.  When she gets into the car she blames you for not making her practice.  Do you tell her that you will make sure she practices this week?  Do you get upset with her and tell her not to blame you?  Do you explain that piano is her activity and that practice is a part of the activity and she is responsible for doing it?  Do you offer to help her make a schedule for practice and then hold her accountable for sticking to it on her own?  I think the last two would work just fine.  The important thing is to help her to see that it is her responsibility to do what it takes to succeed - if success is her goal.
  5. Your son has soccer practice and he is playing video games.  You tell him that it is time to go to practice.  He does not move.  Do you tell at him and nag him until he gets in the car?  Do you remind him a couple of times and then go about your business?  Do you tell him that you are not going to nag him but that it is his responsibility to go to practice and that he has five minutes and then you will not take him?  By choosing this last choice you are giving him a few minutes to consider what you have said, letting him know that it is his choice, and reminding him that he has a responsibility to the team to be there.  If he then chooses not to go, you can remind him that it was his choice and he will have to live with the consequences - not playing in the game, having the couch angry with him, or having his teammates annoyed that he wasn’t at practice.  Note:  if you say that he has five minutes and that you will not take him after that, DON”T take him if he emerges 10 minutes later, ready to go.

    The bottom line is that to teach personal responsibility a parent must start teaching children at a young age.  By “saving” them and “bailing them out” throughout their childhoods, we ensure that they will become adults who blame others for their failures rather than taking charge of their own lives.