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How Do You Know If Your Child Is Gifted?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Hello! I am the parent of a six-year-old female. We live in S. Florida. I am having a problem with this word ,"gifted". I feel that it is being used too loosely to label bright child. It seems to me that everybody has a "gifted" child or knows of somebody's child who is in the gifted program. My daughter is not the smartest in her class and she struggles with certain assignments, but seems to figure out other things that I think she knows nothing about. I am not sure what my question to you is--only that I want the best for my child and I have to admit that it bothers me that everybody else's kid is "gifted" and mine is not. I recall being in elementary school in the fourth grade and there was a boy in my math class who was from second grade,-- that to me is gifted. Children who play instruments at an early age to me are gifted.

A: You and I both share a problem with the word "gifted" as it is used today. There seem to be as many definitions of the word gifted as there are experts in the field of giftedness. The term gifted began being used decades ago to describe children (or adults) who were very intelligent or highly competent in areas of academic achievement. Over the years, many parents wished to view any talent, creativity or academic success their kids had as "giftedness". Scholars argued that IQ was the most important variable in determining giftedness; other scholars said the bias in IQ testing invalidated any such assessments. Lacking a universally accepted "scientific" definition of giftedness many academics simply say something akin to "I know giftedness when I see it."

Rather than debate the usefulness and /or appropriateness of labeling kids as gifted in a school system (I think oftentimes the only beneficiary of the term is the parent's ego), I will tell you not to worry that your child is not in gifted classes. She seems, by your description, to be like most of us -better at some things than others. Encourage her, as I'm sure you do, to be as curious and confident of her own intelligence as she can be. Intelligence comes in many forms; in this country we tend only to measure it by grades on a report card. And we wonder why we don't "produce" or graduate more "stars" from our schools. Could it be we don't want to deal with talented kids who are bored and unchallenged in school and subsequently branded with a negative label? What do you think, Debbie?

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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