Going the extra mile: How to raise a gifted child

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How do you nurture giftedness in the young? Clued-in parents speak on how to raise a gifted child, sustain extraordinariness and make it all worthwhile.

There is no doubt that Pinoy talent is world class. Just look at our young performers and athletes, who have certainly made their mark in the international scene.

As we look forward to the upcoming Woobies Kid Idol Season 3 at the World Bazaar Festival 2015, we can’t help but wonder — will the next global sensation come from this year’s competition? Find out on December 12, at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

For the moms of our young talents, here are tips on nurturing their gifts from parents who’ve done so quite well.

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Tennis whiz kids Miko and Alex Eala bring pride and honor to their family and their country.

Siblings Miko and Alexandra Eala are tennis champions and world class athletes.  Miko, at 12, is the number one ranked player in the boys’ 14-and-under division in the Philippines and in Asia. Nine-year-old Alex, on the other hand, tops the girls’ 12-and-under division in the Philippines.

Without a doubt, these youngsters are talented and gifted. Giftedness, however, does not guarantee success. Moms and dads play a huge part in developing children’s unique abilities and in keeping them productive and fulfilled.

That said, here are some tips on how parents can take an active role in advocating and nurturing their child’s giftedness.

Raising a gifted child 101

Mommy Amethyst Araneta and son Sage.

Mommy Amethyst Araneta and son Sage.

1. Expose your children to subjects and interests outside their area of “expertise”

According to Carol Bainbridge, author and an expert on gifted children, while it is important that parents provide opportunities for their child to work on his interests and strengths, it is also important that he be exposed to new things.

She explains that children only know what they’re exposed to, so if “they’ve never been exposed to music, they may not know whether they like it or are good at it.”

This is exactly what teacher-mom Amethyst Araneta tries to do for her seven-year-old son Sage. Sage is a gifted pianist and while Amethyst supports Sage’s piano skills, she makes sure he is exposed to other instruments as well. She also encourages him to dabble in the arts, which helped him discover how much he enjoys drawing and painting.

2. Remember that you are still the adult

According to non-profit foundation Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), it is important for parents to play the role of guardian and authority figure in the family. Despite your child’s giftedness and even extremely superior intellect, your child should not be left to make decisions about their education and activities.

Not only does this undermine your authority and role as a parent, but it also puts undue pressure on your child who, no matter how advanced or high their IQs run, is still child. They need to be able to turn to their parents and family for guidance and protection.

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3. Surround your children with people who bring out the best in them

According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development when a gifted child is mentored by someone who they can easily get along with and “who is willing to share personal values, a particular interest, time, talents, and skills… the relationship can provide both mentor and student with encouragement, inspiration, new insights, and other personal rewards.”

Gifted pianist Sage is a protégé of Mauricia Borromeo, ex-chairman of the Music Education Department of the University of the Philippines’ College of Music.  Sage also belongs to a children’s choir and has a positive role model in his grandpa, who is a pastor.

4. Provide enriching challenges and learning opportunities

Gifted children expert Bainbridge points out that gifted children love to think about and solve problems, so provide them with ample opportunities to do so. These learning opportunities don’t have to cost a cent, though. For example, with toddlers, if they love science, you can  cook up a meal while explaining why vegetables get soft when they’re cooked or why cakes rise when they’re baked.

For tennis champs Miko and Alex, learning comes in the form of international competitions. Their parents say that attending these competitions give both children a broader perspective of various cultures.  In addition, they learn to fend for themselves during a match, develop strategies, adapt to adversaries, and gain rich character-building experiences from both winning and losing a game.

 

Click Next page for more tips on how to raise a gifted child.

how to raise a gifted child

Hansel Ang (on keyboard) jamming onstage with Promil Gifted Alumnus James Flores and Filipino music icon Joey Ayala.

5. Be involved

Psychologist and counselor Paula Hillmann notes, “Parents know their children best… Therefore, collaborative parent involvement is a vital component of successful education.”

It is one thing to simply drop off and pick up your children from their activities, but it is quite another when you stay updated with their progress, show your support in their endeavors, and engage actively with the people who influence them such as teachers, mentors, and trainers.

Eleven-year-old Hansel Ang is a classical pianist who was the lone young Philippine performer in the Gala Concert of the 5th  Asian Suzuki Conference in Taiwan.  On top of that, he holds a black belt in junior taekwondo and is a superb swimmer.

His parents home school him and root for him in all his musical and sporting events while ensuring that he is healthy and does not overdo his training sessions. Dad Henry also confers regularly with Hansel’s piano teacher and would remind his son of his mentor’s advice.

6. Love and accept your child unconditionally

This goes without saying for all children, but according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, “Unfortunately, because of their exceptional abilities, gifted children often get the message that they are loved and appreciated only for what they can do or what they produce – not for who they are…. Seek a balance between recognizing your child’s abilities and accepting who they are independent of their abilities.”

Rizza and Mike are extra supportive when Miko and Alex lose a tennis game.  “There will be many who will congratulate them when they win,” they say. “However, if they lose, we want to be there to help them process the emotional dip and to get them through it with new motivation to learn from their mistakes and work to further improve and be ready for their next match.”

Click Next page for more tips on how to raise a gifted child.

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7. Praise and encourage without pressure 

Psychologist and clinical professor Sylvia Rimm notes how gifted children, especially when they continue to excel, feel pressure to keep getting such high achievements. Consistent praise for those achievements can further the pressure that they already feel. On the other hand, when praise is lessened, they may feel that they are not meeting expectations.

To strike the delicate balance of praising and encouraging without pressure, Rimm suggests emphasizing to your children that you appreciate their love of learning over their grades, and that you admire how they are passionate about their interests and how they try to do their best in them – whatever these interests may be.

Amethyst admits she would be thrilled to see Sage embark on a musical career. But right now, her pianist son wants to be a pilot, a teacher, and an engineer when he grows up, and she promises to support him whatever profession he chooses.

Dad Henry has the same mindset with Hansel, pianist and athlete.  When asked what he would like Hansel to be as an adult, he readily states, “Whatever makes him happy, we will support him.” He also discloses that when Hansel was still very young, his doctor deemed him to be gifted and told the Angs to have Hansel tested.  But Henry and his wife opted not to follow the doctor’s advice to minimize the pressure and expectations on their son.

how to raise a gifted child

Family of achievers: (L to R) Alex, Dad Mike, Mom Rizza and Miko Eala

8. Make the journey fun and happy

According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, after all is said and done, parents shouldn’t forget to simply enjoy their children: “Even though gifted children have a remarkable intellectual capacity, it’s important to remember that they are still children… Encourage your child to embrace diversity and to develop his or her talents to make a positive difference. And, most of all, remember to laugh and explore the joy of living with your child. Childhood is fleeting – make the most of it.”

The Ealas plan their vacations around tennis tournaments.  And while it is true that Miko and Alex benefit significantly from traveling and from playing here and overseas, mom Rizza shares, “The most precious of all is our time spent together, bonding and making sure we enjoy their respective journeys and create a fun environment with beautiful memories that will last them a lifetime.”   

 

What are you doing to nurture your child’s talents?

About the author: Regina Posadas

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