Bulletproofing Gifted Kids: 7 Strategies that Every Teacher, Counselor, and Parent Needs to Know
What I want most for my babies is an independent, can-do mindset with a healthy dose of capacity for failure and recovery, no matter what the world throws at them.
As parents, it’s our job to protect our children as they enter this world of danger and risk, isn’t it? We are given this miracle bundle, helpless and completely dependent upon our protection and nurturing for survival. Our hearts burst with joy from the very first cries in the delivery room to their first wobbly steps, past their first loves (and heartbreaks), through graduations, and on to achieving the (impossibly) perfect lives of their own. Our imaginations skyrocket as we dream of who they will be, where they will go in life, and how they will worry and terrify us during their adolescence. We walk every step alongside them, always guiding, loving and protecting them, striving to make them bulletproof.
As educators, we clearly recognize the trust that parents have handed to us. And as educators who recognize that not all students are the same; that some have cognitive abilities beyond that of the average student. With those cognitive differences come a host of other unique social and emotional needs as well.
Educators and parents are on the same team. We both dream of our kids’ futures based on who they are today. We recognize the potential and will do our very best to provide the “roots and wings” that each needs. However, that’s much easier said than done.
The reality is, we can’t bulletproof our kids.
While we yearn for our babies to grow into grounded independent thinkers and doers, to become people who are smart and strong enough to weather the harsh realities of life today and still thrive, we recognize that’s a pretty tall order.
So while these may not make them bulletproof, here are 7 basic strategies we can keep in mind as we move toward a more realistic end goal.
1. Attend schools that champion authentic learning
In today’s world, our kids must have schools that provide real life learning instead of test prep. We must advocate for Project / Problem / Inquiry Based Learning at all levels that provides an integrated approach for mastering beyond simply basic skills. Life doesn’t come at us in 42- minute increments, one subject at a time. Neither should the environments that are preparing us for life. As educators and parents, we are in the best positions in own schools to ensure this happens. If preparing children for their futures is our goal, shouldn’t our schools and classrooms look and feel more like real world environments? Shouldn’t the work?
2. Consider digital citizenship as a major factor in life preparations
While engaged in these authentic learning environments, students will be using the tech tools of today, so we must help them keep their futures in mind. Parents and educators can be strong guides in developing essential skills such as learning how to communicate online both professionally and personally. Students who spend time purposefully crafting their digital footprints will be well-versed in using the Internet for Good works, balancing personal and professional privacy needs in today’s world. Are you ready to help docent your children and teens through this process?
3. Multiple mentors for multiple needs
Navigating life is rough work for anyone and as it’s been said, it can take a village to raise a child. We can help our kids surround themselves with people who understand their unique characteristics and needs. Spiritual, cognitive, emotional mentors can help counsel our children in good and in stressful times when they might turn a deaf ear to us. Additionally, mentors can be wonderful teachers for a variety of passion areas. So who’s on your kids’ mentor team? As they get older, are they having the opportunity to select mentors for themselves?
4. Intense passion or well-rounded generalist
When given the opportunity, our gifted children can come up with a wide variety of interests. While some may have a different area of passion each month, others may focus sharply in one area for several years. Well-rounded is great for some, but pushing well-rounded on others may be a needless distraction as they plumb the depths of possibility. It’s ok. Would the world be better off if we’d have worked for a well-rounded Einstein, Mother Theresa, Mozart, or Goodall?
5. Plenty of time to play
Overscheduling our kids’ time might be the bane of 1990’s middle class culture. Somewhere we decided that to have any downtime in the day was dangerous and unsafe. We might want to consider unstructured time, the merits of “boredom,” and a potential correlation with imagination. It’s at least worthy of a thoughtful discussion, isn’t it?
6. Struggles are vital
It’s inevitable that kids will struggle with peers, learning, obstacles, and even themselves. And it’s vital that they experience struggle to learn they can prevail. Kids must go through the pain in order to develop the skills to overcome, adapt, or change as the situation requires. While it’s painful for us as parents and teachers to experience right alongside them, we must learn how to balance independence with intervention.
7. Security and love are the foundation
As we’re growing up in this world of smart risk-taking on sometimes shaky ground, we need to know there are people around who love us for the crazy selves that we are. When the world seeks to make us all equals, we must help our gifted kids be strong to stand up, stand out, and not be part of the level playing field. To help others for the betterment of us all.
The reality is that we can’t protect our children from all the scuffs of life, so we have to help them be strong enough to protect themselves. Having practiced real life while still under our watchful eyes, not only can they grow, but also recover when the world hits them with what it has.
Ginger is an Education Consultant specializing in Project/Problem Based Learning, gifted and high-ability learners, and technology integration at ESSDACK, in Hutchinson Kansas. She has been a gifted facilitator and advocate at the local, state, and federal levels for 11 years, as well as being a classroom teacher for 18 years. She also serves as the New Media Specialist for Advocates for High Ability Learners (AHA-Learners).