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What is it like to raise an extremely gifted or brilliant child?
You Will Be Following Their Developmental Trajectory
Forget timelines and benchmarks, because they’re nearly meaningless. My son walked unaided at 8 months and said his first word at 27 months (before which he was utterly silent). It was “backhoe.” He read at 3 and when testing for kindergarten knew easily 30-40 dinosaurs along with their details, what era they belonged to, and — in many cases — how they were discovered (where, by whom/what team). But he could not identify his elbow.
They Get Scared Once They Realize The Adults Around Them Make Mistakes
Well, all kids do, but it happens earlier because they see that they’re the smartest one in the room earlier. He asked me in first grade if he was smarter than his teacher. I said probably, but she’s in charge. (She was a good teacher, in fact good enough to recognize that his spelling words should be things like “counterfeit” and “sufficient” despite being 6 — but it’s true she was not, herself, fast-thinking.)
Physical Hyper-Sensitivity Is Very Common
It’s real. Do not yell or push or try to get hypersensitive kids to act “normally.” Your job is to have them work with you to come up with acceptable solutions. I was hypersensitive to touch (particularly elastic) and sound. I am still slightly, but nothing like when I was a kid.
It Is Almost Guaranteed That Your Kid Will Deal With Bullying
There are too many differences in a brilliant kid for them to blend in. The best you can do is get them in a mixed environment that has a critical mass of other brilliant kids so they are understood and even admired for what they have, while still being able to refine how they relate to other kids with other strengths/weaknesses. In other words, they don’t have to only hang out with other smart kids, they can actually choose the smart-and-creative or smart-and-athletic any other number of existing high school subgroups.
By the time my son was in high school, he understood the concept that there are some kids for whom everything is really hard, and they work on their homework, and they get confused, and they don’t do well and they’re scared of what life will bring them because of it. But it took a long time to help him develop that perspective. There were kids who were smarter than he was, too. This is a good thing.
You Will Be Unable To Answer Your Kid’s Questions When They’re Relatively Young
You will have to let go of steering their intellectual growth, while not overcompensating by hovering too much over their emotional relatively normal development.
My son asked at age 9: “What’s an irrational number?”
I briefly explained it to him.
“So pi’s an irrational number?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He then burst into tears and wailed “Then how do we know how big a circle is?”
Yeah. Right. No clue. Good question.
By the way, books are a nightmare in late elementary through early middle school, once they read at college level but have the experience and interests of pre-pubescent kids.
Personally, I worked on emotional intelligence with him a lot (identifying his feelings and articulating what they are). As a parent, I try to be aware of the variety of challenges that other parents endure. My son’s childhood was harder than his teen years, which were actually easy and fun. Other people experience the opposite, and seeing me gleefully rejoice in my son’s easy times might not be cool.
There’s a bonus! A grown up intellectual brain in a young person? Hilarity will ensue, and all discussions can be had on an abstract level. Truly a fun person to be around.
Jessica Margolin is an expert in intangible asset assessment and valuation (non-financial currencies) and its applicability in community situations and in financial analysis. You can find more Quora posts here: