No one wants a child who is a “behavioral problem”.
You get glares out in public, peppered with some nods of sympathy. On bad days you count down the hours until your spouse gets home. You doubt your sanity. You doubt your parenting skills. You doubt your belief in your very self as your child finds buttons to push you didn’t know existed.
You want answers.
Why is your child this way? Is it you? Genetics? Did you zig when you should have zagged and now created the five year old snowball – rolling down the mountain-side at increasing speed until it becomes an out of control juggernaut destroying everything in its path.
I lamented these very issues with my good friend Mia last Saturday. She looked at me, dead serious and said words she’s mentioned before but I brushed off as wishful thinking.
“Your son is gifted. I’ve been reading about gifted kids and he fits most of the signs.”
For some reason this time, her words hit home.
Could The Tackler be gifted?
What the hell does “gifted” mean anyway?
Googling “gifted” resulted in more questions than answers. There isn’t a widespread consensus on what it means, only generalizations.
Many websites list traits of gifted kids (taken from giftedkids.about.com – I’ve italicized the ones my son is very strong in), such as:
- Very Observant
- Extremely Curious
- Intense interests
- Excellent memory
- Long attention span
- Excellent reasoning skills
- Well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis
- Quickly and easily sees relationships in ideas, objects, or facts
- Fluent and flexible thinking
- Elaborate and original thinking
- Excellent problem solving skills
- Learns quickly and with less practice and repetition
- Unusual and/or vivid imagination
Social and Emotional Traits
- Interested in philosophical and social issues
- Very sensitive, emotionally and even physically
- Concerned about fairness and injustice
- Well-Developed Sense of Humor
- Usually intrinsically motivated
- Relates well to parents, teachers and other adults
The site goes on to add:
- Extensive Vocabulary
- May Read Early
- Reads Rapidly and Widely (my son does, if by “read’ you mean has a head in a book even though he doesn’t technically know how to read yet).
- Asks “what if” questions
- Enjoys learning new things
- Enjoys intellectual activity
- Displays intellectual playfulness
- Prefers books and magazines meant for older children
- Skeptical, critical, and evaluative
- Asynchronous development – (See any post on his behavior…)
The problem is, don’t most children fit at least half of this list? Or am I wrong?
I look at the list they have for infants and think about my son when under the age of two – he fits most of the characteristics:
- Number and letter recognition early (before 18 months),
- Counting obsession (he could count to ten in english, spanish, and german at when he turned two, and even higher in english),
- Spatial relations (at fourteen months old, he would cry if we turned left out of our neighbor, but not when we turned right – right went by the fire station),
- Required constant stimulation
- Alert even as infant
- Strong desire to explore, investigate, and master the environment (he defeated the child locks on the cabinets in less than a month – at 14 months old; he hated the inability to explore on his own, and the more mobile he became, the happier he was).
- Perfectionism (he refused to draw until he was four and half – insisting we do it instead – because he lacked the motor skills to draw the images in his head)
Short of shelling out money to have my son tested, the idea my son is gifted remains just that – an idea.
But is it normal for a five year old to spend two and half hours exploring Google Earth and then have to drag him away from it, resulting in an almost-meltdown because he wasn’t through exploring?
Are markers typically used as building materials?
Or blocks used as “drawing” materials?
To most outsiders, it is as though he suffers from “Oh! Shiny!” Syndrome – unable to focus on anything for any length of time. It reminds me of when he was a baby – the more activity around him, the happier he was. He hated lying down – always had to be upright where he could see.
But his focus when captured, is intense. He can’t read yet, but he spends at least an hour a day studying his books. Often the same books, over and over again. Ninety percent of them are nonfiction – about volcanoes and earthquakes, weather, the human body, space, geography… That is just his alone time with the books – it doesn’t even take into account when we read with him.
He surprises me at least once a week with his out-of-the-box thoughts, stories, or projects – and I consider myself at least moderately creative.
Could his acting out behavior be a result of boredom? Or just lack of discipline?
Even after writing this, I have no idea if my son truly is “gifted” – because he lacks any savant-like ability. He could just be “bright”.
To me, they are arbitrary terms developed to try to fit people into neat boxes – although since “gifted” takes so many various forms, it is a nice sized box. I only want to know because that box can help me increase the chance my son will continue his love of learning and exploration.
My biggest fear is someone stamping out the joy, the spark lighting him because standardized tests don’t care about ingenuity.
I just hope I find the right environment for nurturing his creativity and imagination, the right teacher to encourage and challenge him.
I hope martial arts will give him the ability to focus on more things – not just those he is interested in.
Or kindergarten could prove to be a nightmare.