4 Life Lessons To Teach Your Gifted Kids (and one for you to learn, too)

Life lessons to teach your gifted kids- and one for you to learn, too

My oldest child turns 21 in one week and I’ve been reflecting back on a lot of childhood memories recently. So, when the request came in to blog for Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on “lessons learned” along the gifted journey, I kind of chuckled to myself. If we measure ourselves by how many “A’s” we get on the first go-around of “tests” we encounter as parents, I would be no where near the head of the class.

Parenting gifted children can be filled with intensities: The need to know. The need to learn. The need to be right. The need to fight for justice. The need to do things independently.

By the end of many days, especially during that 4-8 year old range, I would find myself just needing a little peace and quiet – especially trying to go to the bathroom with the door closed *without* a running monologue about string theory on the other side.

When you first start out on the gifted journey, you find much to learn about educational advocacy. Achieving the right educational fit can often help resolve many other issues you might find yourself facing with your kids.

All the same, I’m going to gently suggest that too much focus on academics isn’t always the best choice for gifted children. Yes, there’s much to learn in life, but not all of it comes from books.

Life Lessons Worth Learning

Learn to Climb Trees
Unplugging and tuning into nature provides so many benefits for kids – beginning with learning how to self-soothe when you’re not bombarded by intellectual stimulation. (In other words, it teaches your kids to not rely on you to be their 24/7 conversation partner or playmate.) Throw in a big old oak tree or some monkey bars or even a curb that you can walk like a balance beam and the potential for learning is endless. I’m talking about risk-taking and resilience. Yes, I say, absolutely, let your 5-year old physics prodigy risk a skinned knee in order to taste the sweet glory of standing 10 feet tall in a tree that they’ve climbed on their own.

Learn to Fail
You read that right. Set your gifted kiddos up to see what it’s like to work hard and not come out #1. I’m not suggesting that you sabotage your child’s self-esteem or find ways to break their spirit. Developing a work ethic does not come by getting top grades in your accelerated class, without ever cracking open the textbook and reading it. If you have a budding perfectionist on your hands, then it’s likely they’re not going to appreciate this. But, the life lesson here is not about humility. On the contrary, the point is two-fold. First, people oftentimes choose hobbies not because they want to win a world title in that field, but for the more simple fact that they enjoy the past-time. It’s okay to be mediocre. Learn how to be at peace with just being okay. Second, learning to try-try-again is important for when your kiddo needs to work towards improving a personal relationship or even battle depression. Face it, even if you follow the textbook rules for making an apology, a friend might not accept it. Giving up on the first try is probably not the best choice, if that friendship means a lot to you.

Learn to Laugh
With so many important jobs to be done before you can save the world, it can be hard to slow down and find humor in the everyday. Especially if you have a highly sensitive little one, it can be hard to laugh-out-loud without their feeling laughed-at. I challenge you to try it, though. Start by finding a way to gently giggle at a silly mistake you’ve made in front of your family. In my family, there are those of us who still stumble over simple arithmetic. Instead of getting upset, we just say, “Oh yeah. I be gifted in math!”

Learn to Honor the Geek Within
Giftedness runs the gamut, but unfortunately, we sometimes get stuck thinking in stereotypes. Is my kid really gifted if they stink at math? Sure, my son is a science whiz but he can’t play chess to save his life. My 10-year is starting calculus, but she still can’t read sheet music and she sounds like a 5th grader playing the piano. The bottom line is that the higher the level of giftedness, the less likely your child will be universally gifted. Give yourself permission to be proud of your kiddo. Even if they’ll never be in the running for a major scientific discovery, they’re still amazingly smart kids with a whole lot of other great qualities. And, without your approval, your little one will have a hard time growing up thinking they’re good enough and worth liking.

Learn to Get Your Own Life
This lesson is for you, mom and dad. Yes, you’re the parent. And yes, without you, your child may flounder in a public school without challenging accommodations. But, see if you can answer this question honestly: When you get together with friends or family, do you only talk about your kids and their achievements? If you said ‘yes’, then I mean this seriously and sincerely: Get a life. You are an interesting human being in your own right. You have your own range of gifts and talents (beyond being a chauffeur). Take back a bit of your life and allow yourself to have your own interests, again. Get reacquainted with your spouse. Go out for coffee with a friend and talk about something other than your children. Those teen years are coming soon enough. Don’t let yourself get caught in an empty nest with your own wings having been clipped.

Trust me, after this ride, you’ll want to soar and enjoy the freedom of being your own big person, again.

What have you learned along your Gifted Journey that
you would share with new parents?

Proud to be a contributing author to the Hoagies Gifted August 2015 Gifted 101 Blog Hop. Visit Hoagies Gifted to read more about this topic from other bloggers.



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.

8 thoughts on “4 Life Lessons To Teach Your Gifted Kids (and one for you to learn, too)

  • August 1, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Thank you for your wise advice. I especially like the advice about the need for parents to enjoy their own lives. Well done!

  • August 1, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Great advice, especially about keeping it in perspective. Playing outdoors, learning to fail, recognizing that we are all multidimensional – these are all important lessons to learn and convey to our children. Thanks.

  • August 1, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    As another mom who is seeing the light at the end of the raising-a-gifted-child journey, I want to emphasize how correct you are in telling us to “get a life.” I can attest that this is an easy, but painful pitfall to fall into. I stumbled in headfirst when I became overly dedicated to helping one of my kids reverse his underachievement and the emotional damage caused from a teacher who totally didn’t get gifted kids. I worked so hard to help my child recover from this for two years, and now that everything is hunky-dory for my child, I am the one who finds myself without a social life! This is one to remember for sure! Thank you for a wise and on point post!

    • August 1, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Hugs to you, Celi – and to all the other parents who find themselves in a similar situation of suddenly realizing that things have turned out okay for their kids, yet their own social lives are a bit lacking. I hope each day brings you back closer to yourself and to finding that which makes you happy.

  • August 1, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    I appreciate these suggestions, particularly the climbing trees and learning to fail. But they’re all important. Love that: “Get a life.” Yeah!

    • August 1, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      To be fair, I was once that mom who talked about my kids and all my parenting woes. That was a hard learned lesson, for me.

  • August 4, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    What great reminders of lessons we must teach our kids! Gifted kids are so much more than intellect, and we have to remember that. Thank you for sharing!

  • August 13, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I love this! Sharing, Alessa… such a great post, filled with wonderful lessons. 🙂

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