By the time my son was four years old, he was a very fluent reader. He had already moved from the “learn to read” stage of reading to the “read to learn” stage. One day, a helper at his day care center commented on his reading ability and asked me how I had “trained” him. “Trained”? My initial reaction was “I didn’t train him. He’s not a seal!” I kept that reaction to myself and instead said what was true: “I didn’t do anything. He taught himself to read.” The comment always stuck with me because to me it represents what so many people believe: you can create a gifted child. No, actually you can’t.
If I had a nickle for every time someone suggested that I “trained” my son, pushed him, deprived him or his childhood or some other variation of the “you made that” idea, I’d have a lot of nickles. Keep in mind that I didn’t do anything to provoke those comments. I mean it’s not like I said to my son, “Hey, P, show those people how you can read!” And if I was talking to people about how to get my son’s needs met in school, my concern was with…well, getting his needs met in school. It was not to let others know how smart my kid was. If my son was reading at a 3rd grade level before he started kindergarten, it was kinda tough to talk about his needs without mentioning that fact.
So I got “pushy parent” kind of comment fairly often. I found that it is really hard to come up with the right response to such comments. In fact, it’s almost impossible. If you say you did nothing, no one really believes you. Actually, some people don’t even believe what you say about your child’s abilities. I got that disbelieving comment a LOT — comments like “kids that age can’t read.” That was the most common response from teachers. Trying to understand their view, I tried to explain that my son recognized words, sounded out new words, and comprehended what he read. I was told there was more to reading than that. Okaaaaaay. That’s what I do when I read, but what did I know?
Sometimes the only response I can come up with is an exaggerated “if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em” response. ” You shouldn’t push your child so hard. Let him be a child.” Okay. I can take away all his books and prevent him from reading anything, but that would pretty much mean I’d have to lock him in a dark closet, seeing as how he read literally anything with words on it, including trucks passing us on the street.
So now I have tackled the idea that gifted kids are somehow created, using that approach. If you have gotten those kinds of responses or are just tired of hearing about how anyone can have a gifted kid if they provide all the right opportunities, then have a look at my article “How to Make a Gifted Kid.” Perhaps it will make you laugh a little. It’s laugh or cry, right?
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