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Successfully Parenting Your Gifted Child Using the SENG Formula

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1 Successfully Parenting Your Gifted Child Using the SENG Formula
Presented by Lori Comallie-Caplan, MA, LMSW

2 What is the current social and education climate?
Much ignorance, misinformation, and bias still exists about talented, able learners. Parent of gifted children are often criticized as exaggerating or being pushy. Parents of gifted children have very few resources for information. The research indicates that parents are extremely important, but may not be included by schools in developing programming or services.

3 Social-Emotional Issues for Parent Understanding
Asynchronous development Communication issues Motivation and Underachievement Discipline and self-discipline Understanding Intensity Perfectionism and Stress Idealism and Depression Sibling issues Perfectionism The potential for misdiagnosis of gifted children

4 Starts early…

5 Never ends…

6 Asynchronous development means a child may:
Be physically six years old Have the reading level of a 12 year old Have math capabilities of a 9 year old Have writing abilities of a 6 year old

7 “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)

8 Communication: The Key to Relationships
“The worst part about being gifted is the loneliness….I struggle with difficult issues like religion, morality, philosophy, and politics, and there simply isn’t anyone I can talk to. I have to deal with things all by myself.” (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, “Communication: The Key to Relationships.” p. 37).

9 Communication Tips Find a Way To Say Yes
Just Listen, Actively listen – Special Time “I” Statements Be Curious Rather Than Confrontational Be aware of what you model We say things we would not say to another adult (“killer statements”) We often model yelling, lack of acceptance of others, poor problem-solving Avoid sarcasm; ridicule; gossip Communication cannot be forced; create the climate Active listening is communicating Accept the feelings (though not necessarily the behavior) Avoid "killer statements" Modeling a relationship; "I" statements ("When you...I...") Barriers to communication (fast pace of life, television, newspapers, computers, etc.) Self -disclosure begets self -disclosure Special times and special places enhance communication Emotional temperature readings

10 Motivation School is a place where I am forced to go every day for 13 years and told to sit quietly while an adult repeatedly teaches other kids things which I already know or don’t ever care to know. I am expected to rote-learn all manner of trivia in order to get good enough grades to be allowed to go to another place called “university”--which to me just looks, sounds and smells like more “school”…. And you ask me why I’m not “motivated”?

11 Motivating the Gifted Child
Start where the child is Anticipatory praise Recognize the child's needs; goal-setting Encouragement, not criticism Importance of personal relationships Praise the process, not the product Frequency of praise is more important than amount or duration

12 Discipline and Self Discipline
Set limits, but avoid power struggles Give choices wherever possible (Freedom within limits; the “V” of love) Set the fewest limits needed, but enforce those you set Be realistic and consistent (difficult in blended families) Check signals with your teammate (family huddles) Try not to overreact (“doomsday limits”) Use “natural consequences” wherever possible It can be difficult to do, but… Allows you to be sympathetic & supportive “The school of experience is a hard one, but…” Particularly avoid inconsistent punishment

13 Discipline and Self Discipline
“Take the wind out of the sail”(It’s better than the alternative!) Remember that discipline is not the same as punishment Punishment only tells you what not to do Punishment harms the relationship Don’t over-control and don’t get over-involved (confluence and enmeshment) When do you push? How do you know when to step back? Don’t value the child only for achieving and producing result

14 Discipline and Self Discipline
Expect competence and focus on success Children live up, or down, to our expectations Create success experiences, but be like a good coach Use “I admire” Catch them doing something Start with their areas of interest; then branch to yours Use anticipatory praise

15 Intensities - Overexcitabilities
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.“ Pearl S Buck

16 Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration
Posed the hypothesis that in order to achieve a state of self-actualization, self-realization, or self-understanding, it would be necessary to experience a state of cognitive and emotional dissonance, or… Dr. Dabrowski believed that before a person can become fully integrated and self-aware, it would be necessary to DIS-integrate due to internal and external conflicts involving, “increased mental excitability, depressions, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority and guilt, states of anxiety, inhibitions, and ambivalences…[because] without external and internal conflicts, without maladjustment to actual conditions [it is not possible] to achieve adjustment to a higher level of values (to what 'ought to be')” (Dabrowski, 1964) t is and what ought to be.

17 Overexcitabilities, Personality Traits, and the Gifted Person
“Overexcitabilities are inborn intensities indicating a heightened ability to respond to stimuli. Found to a greater degree in creative and gifted individuals, overexcitabilities are expressed in increased sensitivity, awareness, and intensity, and represent a real difference in the fabric of life and quality of experience. Dabrowski identified five areas of intensity-Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. A person may possess one or more of these.” (Lind, 2002)

18 Psychomotor OE “…a heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system. This Psychomotor intensity includes a "capacity for being active and energetic" (Piechowski, 1991, p. 287), love of movement for its own sake, surplus of energy demonstrated by rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physical activity, and a need for action (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). “When feeling emotionally tense, individuals strong in Psychomotor OE may talk compulsively, act impulsively, misbehave and act out, display nervous habits, show intense drive (tending towards "workaholism"), compulsively organize, or become quite competitive. They derive great joy from their boundless physical and verbal enthusiasm and activity, but others may find them overwhelming.

19 Strategies to help the Psychomotor OE Child
Allow time for physical or verbal activity, before, during, and after normal daily and school activities-these individuals love to "do" and need to "do." Build activity and movement into their lives. Provide time for spontaneity and open-ended, freewheeling activities. These tend to favor the needs of a person high in Psychomotor OE. Provide a fidget. Children who display a high degree of Psychomotor OE may benefit from focused physical activity when they are “percolating”. Once the child reaches the peak of his or her frustration it will be necessary to let them crest and come down the other side. SO, Take preventative measures when your child begins to percolate in order to help them gain control of the situation A large coffee can full of warm dry beans through which the child runs their fingers until they calm down A fast run out of doors in a safe place A pass to holler and scream in private for a proscribed amount of time Be sure the physical or verbal activities are acceptable and not distracting to those around them. This may take some work, but it can be a fun project and beneficial to all.

20 Sensual OE “Sensual OE is expressed as a heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. “They have an increased and early appreciation of aesthetic pleasures such as music, language, and art, and derive endless delight from tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and sights. But because of this increased sensitivity, they may also feel over stimulated or uncomfortable with sensory input. When emotionally tense, some individuals high in Sensual OE may overeat, go on buying sprees, or seek the physical sensation of being the center of attraction (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991).

21 Strategies… Whenever possible, create an environment which limits offensive stimuli and provides comfort. Provide time to dwell in the delight of the sensual and to create a soothing environment. Avoid the use of fluorescent lighting in the home Ask for input about clothing, fabrics, toiletries, and cleaning products. Any one or more of these things may cause your child to act out in frustration Choose your battles!!! Arguments about the seams on socks, the color, style, or fabric of a pair of slacks, or the way “the tag drives me crazy” are not worth the frustration they can cause for a child with sensual OE

22 Intellectual OE “Intellectual OE is demonstrated by a marked need to seek understanding and truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). “Other characteristics may include relishing elaborate planning and having remarkably detailed visual recall. People with Intellectual OE frequently love theory, thinking about thinking, and moral thinking. This focus on moral thinking often translates into strong concerns about moral and ethical issues-fairness Those high in Intellectual OE have incredibly active minds. They are intensely curious, often avid readers, and usually keen observers. They are able to concentrate, engage in prolonged intellectual effort, and are tenacious in problem solving when they choose. on the playground, lack of respect for children, or being concerned about "adult" issues such as the homeless, AIDS, or war.

23 Strategies… Show how to find the answers to questions. This respects and encourages a person's passion to analyze, synthesize, and seek understanding. Provide or suggest ways for those interested in moral and ethical issues to act upon their If individuals seem critical or too outspoken to others, help them to see how their intent may be perceived as cruel or disrespectful. Carefully monitor the television shows, including the nightly news, your child sees Support your child’s intense curiosity in a topic with trips to the library, yard sales, book stores, museums, talks, etc., but within reason according to the needs of other family members Be understanding and supportive when your child’s interest suddenly shifts to an entirely new topic. Moral ethical issues concerns-such as collecting blankets for the homeless or writing to soldiers in Kosovo. This enables them to feel that they can help, in even a small way, to solve community or worldwide problems. Give poker chips, pennies, or buttons to your child to ‘buy’ question and answer time when you are too busy to be patient Take the time to acknowledge their frustration with the ideas or comments of their peers, and then help them to find a more patient way to respond or interact Role play

24 Imaginational OE “Imaginational OE reflects a heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). “They find it difficult to stay tuned into a classroom where creativity and imagination are secondary to learning rigid academic curriculum. They may write stories or draw instead of doing seatwork or participating in class discussions, or they may have difficulty completing tasks when some incredible idea sends them off on an imaginative tangent.” (Lind, 2002)  Often children high in Imaginational OE mix truth with fiction, or create their own private worlds with imaginary companions and dramatizations to escape boredom.

25 Strategies… Help individuals to differentiate between their imagination and the real world by having them place a stop sign in their mental videotape, or write down or draw the factual account before they embellish it. Help people use their imagination to function in the real world and promote learning and productivity. For example, instead of the conventional school organized notebook, have children create their own organizational system. Teach mental discipline with regular study times and regular play times. Stick to them Ask for accommodations that allow your child to show his or her learning in alternative ways Be consistent and insist on accountability If your child ‘embellishes’ too often and inappropriately, draw their attention to it so they can learn when embellishment is okay and when it is not Role play with your child

26 Emotional OE “Emotional OE is often the first to be noticed by parents. It is reflected in heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others' feelings, and strong affective expression.” (Piechowski, 1991) “Emotionally overexcitable people have a remarkable capacity for deep relationships; they show strong emotional attachments to people, places, and things.” (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977). Other manifestations include physical responses like stomachaches and blushing or concern with death and depression (Piechowski, 1979). They have compassion, empathy, and sensitivity in relation-ships. Those with strong Emotional OE are acutely aware of their own feelings, of how they are growing and changing, and often carry on inner dialogs and practice self-judgment (Piechowski, 1979, 1991).

27 Strategies… Accept all feelings, regardless of intensity. For people who are not highly emotional, this seems particularly odd. They feel that those high in Emotional OE are just being melodramatic. Teach individuals to anticipate physical and emotional responses and prepare for them. Emotionally intense people often don't know when they are becoming so overwrought that they may lose control or may have physical responses to their emotions. Be straight up and honest about your own struggles with emotional OE if you have it But if we accept their emotional intensity and help them work through any problems that might result, we will facilitate healthy growth. Help them to identify the physical warning signs of their emotional stress such as headache, sweaty palms, and stomachache. By knowing the warning signs and acting on them early, individuals will be better able to cope with emotional situations and not lose control.” (Lind, 2002) Look for resources in the community to help you parent your emotional OE child if you feel helpless Reach out for help from professionals who are experienced with gifted OE. They can be invaluable especially during adolescence Don’t encourage your child to be a whiner, but at the same time, allow them to FEEL what they need to feel. Emotional OE can be very intimidating to others. It will be necessary for your child to recognize that he or she engages at this intense level Your child will benefit greatly from a close relationship with a teacher at every school he or she attends. You may need some downtime or support, especially if you have emotional OE

28 Perfectionism and Stress
“Parents of perfectionist gifted children may worry that they have created the perfectionism by expecting too much. … Perfectionistic children show an inclination quite early in life to compare themselves against the high standards they set…For these children perfectionism seems to be an inborn temperament.” A child’s inborn tendency towards perfectionism can be reinforced by parents who model perfectionism. As parents, we have great influence over whether our children’s perfectionism will be healthy or unhealthy.

29 Stress Management Some perfectionism is healthy
Teach positive self talk Model positive self -talk Confront “stinkin’ thinkin’” Teach stress management skills outside of crisis times Teach Children to ask “is this my problem?” Teach children to say NO. Use humor to induce perspective

30 Idealism, Unhappiness and Depression
Gifted children are often frustrated in their idealism and vision of how things should be. High ideals result in feeling of obligation (pressure) to make contributions to the world Sense of time pressures/limitations (can’t fit in everything they want to do). They are exposed to internal and external stresses that could make them more at risk for unhappiness and depression. Some are unhappy and depressed. But on the other hand, gifted children are resilient and often are better at coping.

According to James Webb, Ph.D. in A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, “This kind of depression is not a single-occurring event; it does not go away after a person experiences it. Once existential issues are brought into conscious thought, they must be continually addressed; you cannot return to a time when concerns did not exist.” (Page 161). Very likely among highly gifted Issues of meaning, purpose, and belonging Feeling alone in an absurd, meaningless world Existential awareness without insight

32 Three essential ingredients
Help them feel that someone else truly understands their feelings, feel that their ideals are shared by others and that they are not alone, and join efforts with other idealists in ways that can impact the world.” Listening: Listening is the most important gift you can give to your child. Listening lets him know that he is worthy of your time. Listening can help your child to work through his feelings about the ephemeral nature of life and the lack of control that he has over so many events. Listen from your child’s point of view. Listening lets him know you understand his feelings. Touch: Whether in giving or receiving, touch is as essential to human survival as is food. Infants deprived of touch, even when they are getting adequate nutrition, will fail to thrive. Elders isolated by loss of partners and friends become depressed not only because of the absence of social interaction, but also because of the simple loss of being touched. We calm our pets by stroking them, we greet each other with a hug or a handshake, and we soothe our children by holding them. No other form of connection is as powerful and universal as touch. Hugging your child as often as you can tells that not only do you love them; but that you understand them and you are in this world together. Touch takes away those feelings of loneliness and isolation. Humor: Remember that your sense of humor is a gift that you can give to your child as often as you want to. Humor helps us cope with depression in several ways. One, it draws our attention away from our frustrations. By focusing our energy elsewhere, humor can diffuse depressing feelings. Laughter releases the tension around even the heaviest of matters. A good reminder about the value of humor comes from the book Do It! Let's Get Off Our Buts by Peter McWilliams. He says, “As we're playing this game of life, something occasionally reminds us not to take it all too seriously.’Enjoy yourself,' it says, 'you'll never get out of this alive.' It's called humor” (page 484). What an excellent reminder for everyone! Share in the cause: Whatever the issue your youngster finds frustrating and helpless to do anything about, help him find a way to take action, even in a small way. One mother helped her child who was concerned about the soldiers dying in the war, helped her son to find a soldier he could write to. This child went on to connect other children and soldiers as pen pals. Another student who was concerned about the pollution in the world organized a local park clean-up. Join in your child’s cause and not only will you make an impact on your child, you will make an impact on the world around you.

33 Peer Relationships Needs like minded peers with similar interests.
May require several different peer groups May not have many friends, but the friendships they have are long-lasting and often intense Bright children have high expectations; may lack tolerance for others Leadership or bossiness? Ask? Is my child spending time along because of a lack of social skills Is s/he afraid of rejection Does s/he truly enjoy time alone

34 Strategies Provide structure Avoid over-scheduling
Change bossiness into leadership Avoid comparisons Use bibliotherapy

35 Sibling Rivalry Use special time Set limits Foster a safe environment
Describe rather than compare Minimize your involvement Don’t take sides Teach sharing and problem solving Use the coat on the floor example

36 Tradition Breaking Most traditions fall somewhere between habit and meaningful purpose. Traditions signify our values and provide comfortable predictability, because of this traditions have strong emotions associated with them and we dislike it when they are challenged.

37 Strategies Help your child understand the costs
Confronting or leading, avoid the push back Help your child be true to himself Recognize your own beliefs, evaluate your own traditions Keep communication open Be prepared for your child to challenge traditions

38 Lessons From People Who Became Eminent
From Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of More Than 700 Famous Men and Women(Goertzel, Goertzel, Goertzel, & Hanson, 2003) Homes usually were full of books and stimulating conversation Their families valued learning, and the children loved learning As children, most of them disliked school and school teachers

39 People Who Became Eminent
Findings from Cradles of Eminence(continued) These children learned to think and express themselves clearly All had learned to be persistent in pursuing their own visions and goals Many had difficult childhoods Poverty Broken homes Physical handicaps Parental dissatisfaction Controlling or rejecting parents

40 People Who Became Eminent
Findings from Cradles of Eminence(continued) Their parents held strong opinions about controversial subjects Their parents, particularly mothers, were highly involved in the lives of their children, even dominating The parents often were pressured by others to have their children conform to mediocrity

41 Wrapping it up… The goals for your child should be that they have:
The capacity to work and to love An ability to set their own priorities, goals, and directions A tolerance for frustration; tolerance of ambiguity; future mindedness Achieved a sense of values for humankind, including honesty and courage Resilience and the ability to relate to others in a give and take way Discovered their learning passion and have a commitment to explore them (A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children; Smart Girls; Smart Boys; and The Shelter of Each Other)

42 Remember…. Remember the importance of your relationship
Remember that there is a long time between when the seed is planted and the tree bears fruit. Remember that you must take care of yourself. When your battery is run down, you have nothing left to give.

43 Final thought… Try to see difficulty and challenge, at whatever intensity, as an opportunity for DIS-integration and growth. Ask, “What is causing this conflict?” before reacting in anger or frustration

44 Recommended Readings A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children(Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007) Children: The Challenge(Dreikurs& Soltz, 1991) Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of More than 700 Famous Men and Women(Goertzel, Goertzel, Goertzel, & Hansen, 2003) Dr. Sylvia Rimm’s, Smart Parenting: How to Raise a Happy, Achieving Child(Rimm, 1996) Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers(Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan1982) How to Behave So Your Children Will Too(Severe, 2003)

45 Recommended Readings The Optimistic Child(Seligman, Reivich, Jaycox, & Gillham, 1995) The Resilience Factor(Reivich& Shatté, 2002) The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families(Pipher, 1995) Siblings without Rivalry(Fabert& Mazlish, 1998) Smart Boys: Talent, Manhood, and the Search for Meaning(Kerr & Cohn, 2001) Smart Girls: A New Psychology of Girls, Women, and Giftedness.(Kerr, 1997)

46 Web resources SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) NAGC (For parents) - Council of Exceptional Children Gifted Talented and Gifted Division HOAGIES Gifted Education Page (for parents)

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