Gifted Children: How to Broaden Their Horizons (page 2)
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Gifted children often lean heavily toward one area of interest, spending as much time as possible on one subject and ignoring another. While this is a normal part of possessing extraordinary talent, parents should push their whiz kids to consider other interests as well, says Barbara Swicord, the executive director of the National Society for the Talented and Gifted. If you are worried that your gifted child has "tunnel vision" for a certain subject, learn how to get her into a wider set of interests.
Know When to Push
Swicord says you should consider pushing, "if the child is getting bored with a current interest area, if a child is stuck on a problem that diversification might help unstick, if the child seems to be pursuing something because he or she thinks the parents or someone else wants that, or if he or she is pursuing something because of peer pressure rather than a personal interest.” Figure out what's motivating your child and then determine to leave her alone or to step in.
Allow for Risks and Mistakes
Kids who are working hard to be perfect at whatever is important to them oftentimes don't take risks because they are afraid of making mistakes. You may also be tempted to prevent these situations, but you shouldn’t. "I remind parents that if their children are always coming home with perfect 100 percent scores, they are not learning anything," Swicord says. Encourage your kid to take risks even within her current passion, and she will learn valuable problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
Find a Connection
You might be able to convince your child to think outside of her direct interest by making a connection between her focus and a new subject. Teachers can be great resources in figuring this out because they often have to consider ways to combine disciplines. A math whiz can read a book about the wisest mathematicians, a history buff can research how languages were created, a bookworm may find math elements within the plot of a book, and a science nut can learn how scientists have affected world history.
If you find out that she isn't turning in homework or is getting poor grades, check and see what the assignments are. “If it is repetitious, uninteresting, not challenging or otherwise boring, it is difficult to justify the waste of time for the student,” Swicord says. Work with the school to create a more challenging, individualized course of study that will engage your child's mind while teaching her what she needs to know.
Add a Challenge
“(Gifted children) need to have exposure to a rich learning environment with ample stimuli to feed active brains and provide fodder for thought," Swicord says. If your kid enjoys one subject over another, add the challenge of a personal project that introduces different facets to that subject. For instance, if she’s currently gaga for biology, find her a biochemistry book from the library or a news article relating to biology and ask her to write something about it.
Teach Goal Setting
Your kid may have set a goal of getting an A in a specific class, but sometimes deciding on the end result isn't enough. Challenge her to decide what she will learn along the way. "Parents need to learn to value and reward the processes of learning and creating, rather than emphasize the product or score or grade," says Swicord. The journey can be more important than the end result, so model your appreciation of the learning process.
Don't Hamper Excellence
In his "Manifesto for Children," famous education psychologist E. Paul Torrance advised, "Don’t be afraid to fall in love with something and pursue it with intensity. Know, understand, take pride in, practice, develop, exploit and enjoy your greatest strengths." Encourage and nurture your child’s passions and talents. But it's a balancing act. You also want to ensure that she has all the skills she needs to be successful in the future, even if they don't seem important to her right now.
Harvard University touts on its admissions website that it accepts two kinds of students: well-rounded and well-lopsided. It's okay if your child excels in one area of school more than others, but it's also important that she has a good grasp of the basics. You can expand her interests and get her to learn new skills with a little ingenuity and a lot of understanding.
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