My kids are smarty-pants. Ridiculously intelligent. Off the charts! How intimidating for a parent! But I have learned much from corralling the precocious little Einsteins around my house. Raising gifted offspring is a daunting task, and not always a pleasant one.
Sometimes a "smarty" can develop into a "smart aleck."
On Brie’s first birthday, she knew seventy-two words. She never shut up. By the age of two, Brianna was reading. One sweltering July afternoon, we were sitting in the crowded Tucson airport (which smelled like feet) waiting for a flight. Brie, nineteen months, happily fixated upon a pampered Chihuahua perched in a pink pet carrier next to her stroller. The pet’s owner, a jovial “grandma” type, decided to strike up a conversation with our toddler.
In her sweetest baby-talk voice, the lady pointed to the alligator on Brie’s romper and purred, “Honey, do you know how to say ‘gator’?”
“It spells IZOD lady,” Brie replied matter-of-factly, never looking up from her cheese sandwich. The amiable traveler was so shocked; she picked up her precious puppy and scurried away to the newsstand. Suddenly I realized that parenting Brie would be an adventure.
Brie’s schoolteachers were flummoxed. They didn’t know what to do with her. Mrs. Chastain suggested we promote her to second grade and skip first grade altogether. They gave Brie special projects, and educators poked and prodded her like a lab rat. Such scrutiny was exhausting and often humiliating for her.
Arguing with my daughter was like facing off with a smooth-talking district attorney in court. Brie always wanted to have the last word. She was never satisfied with the four most important words any Mom can say: “Because I said so.”
However, our little egghead needed love, training and discipline like any other child. Before I relate some helpful hints God gave me about raising our Brie, let me tell you about Bronwyn, her baby sister.
Brainiacs come in all shapes and sizes. Bronwyn, whip-smart like her sibling, decided to keep her brilliance hidden. She got tired of competing with her Sis and was sick of our church members fawning over Brie. So Bronwyn decided to rebel.
We moved out of the parsonage to a home of our own when Bronwyn was four. Daddy and daughter were driving home when my four-year old looked my husband square in the eyes, and inquired,
“Daddy, you were the boss of the old house, right?”
“Of course, Bronie. Why do you ask?”
“Because I’M going to be the boss of the new house!”
And she spent the next fourteen years determined to do so.
Bronwyn used her cleverness to be the charismatic ringleader. She played the Pied Piper to any "rat" who would follow her. Our church school had a very strict dress code. Bronwyn managed to pilfer a copy of school regulations and read the fine print. Attire had to be modest, but there was no clause about shoe choice. So Bronwyn started a revolt. One Monday morning, she marched into science class wearing over-sized, fuzzy bunny slippers. Mrs. Bates immediately sent her to the principal. My daughter whipped out her copy of the by-laws and informed the principal that she had every right to wear her “bunnies.” The principal, too shocked to reply, shook her head and sent her back to class. Thus ensued the “bunny rebellion.” Students everywhere pulled out their bedroom slippers and padded to school.
The girls couldn’t be more opposite. Brie thrived on acquiring accolades like Honor Society, Student of the Year and Good Citizen awards. Bronwyn just got bored. School was much too easy for her. She had incredible musical talent, so she began conducting her school orchestra in seventh grade. She sang like an angel and played several musical instruments, but slept through math and science because they were not challenging.
Finally, she decided that the only new frontier would be an exchange student program. Bronwyn hopped on a plane to Germany and spent the year studying Russian and physics in German. She went straight to college after her junior year and finished college in three years.
Well, there you have it. A dynamo and a fireball under the same roof. So what did we learn raising two gifted kids?
- Don’t ignore your gifted child's needs. Intelligent children often appear self-sufficient, but they need love, acceptance, affirmation, approval and encouragement and TIME like any other child.
- Just because your children are smart, doesn’t mean they are WISE. Proverbs teaches that wisdom and fear of the Lord are essential to good parenting.
- Discipline must be firm and consistent. Don’t let your child manipulate you. They can and will “work the system” because genius can morph into mischief in a moment’s time.
- Make home a safe haven. Help them feel NORMAL. Some of their peers feel jealous and treat them unkindly. Some of their teachers are intimidated and treat them like aliens from another planet.
- Be an example. Show them how to love God deeply. They may know all the answers in Sunday School, but they learn loving Jesus from you.
- Help them find their path. Society will pull them in so many directions. Help them to find God's will and to say "no" to the obligations people pressure them to do.
- Be on the lookout for brain chemistry issues that can plague the highly intelligent. I know countless bright minds that suffer from bipolar disorder, autism, Asperger's syndrome or ADHD. These conditions are highly treatable, but don't ignore symptoms if they appear.
- Pray for them earnestly. "To whom much is given, much is required." Great potential provides great opportunity-to make a positive impart on the world, or to misuse such gifts to their own ends.
I still take loving and meeting the needs of my grown-up girls very seriously. And I thank God that He entrusted them to my care!