Goodness of Fit: The Challenge of Parenting Gifted Children
As a counselor and family therapist who has spent more than 20 years working with gifted and talented children and their families, I was excited when asked to discuss the challenge of parenting the gifted. I was reintroduced to how complex and substantial the challenge is of parenting the gifted child. In my practice I provide counsel and support to parents daily. What the parent brings is a host of differentiated needs, issues, and struggles that can’t quite be solved with marginal everyday solutions or a quick fix. Parenting a gifted child requires the same level of differentiation as we can hope to find educating or counseling the gifted.
I have found that defining and understanding the challenge of parenting the gifted is a daunting charge. With such an array of issues, where a parent begins can itself be a challenge. Sometimes parents want to let go and hope for the best, while others may cling to their fears and overmanage their child’s life. Reaching a balance for the parent of the gifted is complex. The parents in this case may benefit from a differentiated model tailored to their child.
The Gifted Identity Formation Model
The Gifted Identity Formation Model (GIFM) was developed with this process in mind. This differentiation model is designed for parents, counselors, and individuals to address the complex needs of the gifted. Presented here are sections of the model to conceptualize and explore the challenge of parenting the gifted and provide practical means to address the challenge. The basis of the model is to provide a framework to assist in meeting the differentiated needs, what I have termed a goodness of fit, a term borrowed from the research literature. The challenge comes into play when a parent has to find the right fit to meet the exceptionality of a gifted child. Goodness of fit results when there is a match between the differentiated needs of an individual and what is provided or available to meet those needs leading to a fulfilled potential and content self.
The four constructs in GIFM are Validation, Affirmation, Affiliation, and Affinity. I refer to these as the underpinnings or processes involved in meeting needs and forming one’s identity. In this case we are exploring gifted identity and creating a goodness of fit.
The first construct, Validation, is the process of corroborating exactly what giftedness is for the child, knowing more specifically how the child is gifted, and what vulnerabilities come along with that giftedness. So, to have a valid self as gifted, whose needs are met, requires knowledge and assessment that is more than just an IQ score or having a label attached. This is a critical piece for parents, to have an appropriate view or complete profile of the child’s giftedness. This may involve extensive testing and assessment and an ongoing process of recognizing your child’s uniqueness. Validation is the first step in meeting needs.
Affirmation is the process that involves the challenge, effort, and enrichment (e.g., acceleration programs, advanced study, supportive frameworks, and mentoring relationships, etc.) of the child’s gift(s). This approach fits with the child’s gifts and takes into account the vulnerabilities associated with that giftedness. This also could be referred to as a matched challenge.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for Gifted Children. ©2008 National Association for Gifted Children.
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