Jefferson Middle School GT

Tips for Parenting Gifted Students

Tip 1 = Being Different is Ok

Entering the teenage years is tough for any adolescent. But for the gifted, it can be even tougher. In the article "20 Tips for Nurturing Gifted Children," Bertie Kingore shares that gifted children can feel disconnected from age level peers who interpret them so differently. Additionally, the article "Helping Adolescents Adjust to Giftedness" shares that "the power of peer pressure toward conformity, coupled with any adolescent’s wavering sense of being predictable or intact, can lead to the denial of even the most outstanding ability." Finally, Growing Up Gifted shares that especially for girls, the pressure to conform is great.

How can you help? Help your son or daughter appreciate the differences in others and his/herself. Provide a safe space to allow your child to just be. Encourage him or her to find friends with similar interests and aptitudes, such as participating in an enrichment activity during the school day or after school. Finding that you "aren't alone" is often enough to accept that you are different from most of the group. Finally, let your child know that it's really all right to be different!

Tip 2 = Let me be

Jane Hesslein wrote in her article "What Your Kids Want You to Know" that her students needed "time" after school to not think about school. One student stated, "When I get home from school just let me relax because my brain has been working hard all day." In the article "20 Tips for Nurturing Gifted Children," Bertie Kingore states that gifted learners, like all children, need love, friendship, standards of behavior, time management skills, and free time.

How can you help? Give your child some space before you ask about his or her day. He or she may need some down time right after the school day ends to recharge batteries. Provide opportunities for him or her to explore other interests through enrichment activities and sports. Often these activities are a release from the pressures they may feel during the school day.

Tip 3 = Competing Expectations

According to "Helping Adolescents Adjust to Giftedness" by Buescher and Higham, "Adolescents are vulnerable to criticism, suggestions, and emotional appeals from others." Parents, teachers, friends, and siblings all have their own individual ideas about what your son or daughter should be, could be, or will be. Sometimes these ideas conflict with the ideas of your child. Further, the greater the talent your child has, the greater the amount of pressure placed on your child. Growing Up Gifted shares that acceptance, belonging, and self-esteem are a critical concern to adolescents. Gifted adolescents often experience conflict between their achievements and their peers.

How can you help? Practice open communication with your son or daughter to lessen the external pressure placed upon him or her. Teach your child to build, clarify, and share personal values, which should be the foundation for future choices as he or she moves on to high school (and college).

Tip 4 - Show that you care

The special talents of your gifted son or daughter must be appreciated and valued by you. Arlene DeVries describes in her article "Appropriate Expectations for the Gifted Child," traits that can be annoying to parents are often the traits that make them highly successful adults. Bossiness or Leadership? Excessive Questioning or Curiosity? Stubbornness or Perseverance? Perfectionism or Task Commitment?

How you can help? In the article "20 Tips for Nurturing Gifted Children," Bertie Kingore shares several key ways to show your child that you care:

  • Appreciate them for who they are, not who they might become
  • Validate your child's worth and goals and encourage passion for learning
  • Actively listen
  • Practice patience
  • Maintain a sense of humor!

Tip 5 = Respect me by listening more

Jane Hesslein conducted some informal research with her 5th grade gifted students and shared it in her article "What Your Kids Want You to Know." She summarized some of the responses under the theme Respect Me. Some of the ideas shared by Ms. Hesslein's 5th graders include:

  • "When I say something, don't shoot it out of the water right away."
  • "If something I do or like seems stupid, let me be. If you say it’s dumb then I feel bad."
  • "How am I going to prove I'm ready when you never let me try?"
  • "I am different from you."

How can you help? In the article "20 Tips for Nurturing Gifted Children," Bertie Kingore states that parents should work to understand their child's message and feelings instead of responding with a barrage of questions or an opinion. Instead, ask your child to explain his or her viewpoint, clarifying their ideas when needed. Growing Up Gifted also states that parents need to "Listen, listen, listen." Careful listening lets your son or daughter know that what they think is worth understanding.

Tip 6 = Praise the effort, not the ability

You likely praise your son or daughter all the time. All those "atta-boys," "way to go's," and kuddos about smarts are ways to let your chid know that you care and that he or she is doing a great job. But are you using the right type of praise? In the article "The Power and Peril of Praising Your Kids," Po Bronson references the work of Carol Dweck, author of Mindset. In her book, Dweck's researchers studied the effects of different types of praise on 5th graders. All students were given the same series of fairly easy puzzles. One group of students was praised for their intelligence and were told they were really smart at this activity. The other group of students was praised for their effort and were told that they must have worked really hard. After completing the first round of puzzles, the students were praised and given a choice: either to pick a similar set of easy puzzles or a set of harder puzzles. Of those praised with effort, 90% of students chose the harder puzzles. Of those praised with intelligence, a majority of students chose the easy puzzles. As Po Bronson stated, "The smart kids took the cop-out."

How can you help? Praising the effort rather than the intelligence is a shift in your thinking and speaking. But based on the research presented, it is well-worth your concerted effort. Carol Dweck stated in her work: “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.” Encourage your son or daughter by praising the effort, rather than the ability. Ask your child about Mindset; all of our math teachers have been talking about this in their math classes this year.

Tip 7 = Persistence pays off!

Do you ever hear your child say, "I can't do it" or "It's too hard" or "I quit?" In the article "Developing your Child's Habits of Success in School, Life, and Work," author Arthur Costa talks about the importance of developing the skill of persistence. He states that children can often give up when the answer is not immediate. They lack the ability to analyze the problem and develop a strategy to solve it.

How can you help? Remind your child of previous success to solving tough problems. If one method doesn't work, encourage him or her to try a different method. Recognizing examples from tv, movies, or books is a good way to show examples of successful persistence.

Tip 8 = Flexibility

Does your son or daughter think that his or her way is the only way to solve a problem? Is THEIR answer the only right answer? Successful people must consider other points of view. Arthur Costa discusses this idea in the article "Developing your Child's Habits of Success in School, Life, and Work." Gifted children often avoid ambiguous situations and have a need for certainty. However, as children become more flexible in their thinking, they consider another's point of view.

How can you help? Share how you handle situations when you work with someone who is not flexible. Have your child to paraphrase solutions offered by others. Encourage your child to evaluate the pros and cons of each method before making a decision; they may change their mind based on convincing data, argument, or rationale.

Tip 9 = Encourage Creativity

Successful people are creative. But did you know everyone has the capacity for creativity, if that capacity is developed? Creativity isn't just being an artist or a musician. Creativity is also thinking outside of the box, examining problems differently, and working towards new solution. Creative people take risks and make mistakes, but use those mistakes to improve. Arthur Costa discusses these ideas in the article "Developing your Child's Habits of Success in School, Life, and Work." Costa shares that children often need help tapping their creative potential.

How you can help? Ask your child to find connections between two or more unrelated objects. Provide opportunities for your son or daughter to explore creativity and take risks. Value originality and appreciate the mess and mistakes as learning opportunities. Jefferson has ways for your child to be involved creatively - check out Lego League or our LEAP after school programs.

Tip 10 = Reading is Learning

Does your child have access to a wide variety of reading material? In the article "Appropriate Expectations for the Gifted Child," it states that "parents who fill their homes and teachers who fill their classrooms with books, magazines and software on a variety of topics and of varied levels of difficulty are providing an excellent resource for children." Biographies can provide mentorship through career exploration. A fantasy can provide a moment of escape, stress relief, or even an avenue for creativity. Explore a wonderful adventure with your child through reading aloud which is stressed in the article, "The Importance of Being Early." Although you likely read aloud to your child when they were young, even teens enjoy hearing books read aloud and this gives you a great opportunity to re-establish emotional bonds.

How can you help? Besides the school library, your child needs access to many different books and genres. Visit the public library and have your child sign up for a library card. (Check out the Dubuque Carnegie-Stout Library website here: Visit a local bookstore and have him or her choose a book to add to his/her collection (RiverLights is a wonderful locally owned option). Books make great presents! Finally, check out other libraries at the local colleges (University of Dubuque, Clarke, or Loras) or the National Mississippi River Museum.

Thomas Jefferson Middle School Gifted Opportunities

Get involved in these enrichment opportunities! Listen to the announcements and sign up with Ms. Weber.
  • Mock Trial (Sept-Nov)
  • Lego League (Sept-Dec)
  • Young Citizen's Forum (Dec-Feb)
  • MathCounts (Nov-Feb)
  • Talent Show (Dec)
  • Musical (Jan-April)
  • Jazz Band (year-round)
  • Symphony Orchestra (year-round)
  • Hillhawk Helpers (year-round)


Helping Adolescents Adjust to Giftedness - Thomas M. Buescher and Sharon Higham

20 Tips for Nurturing Gifted Children - Bertie Kingore

What Your Kids Want You to Know - Jane Hesslein

The Power and Peril of Praising Your Kids - Po Bronson

The Importance of Being Early - Ken McCluskey

Appropriate Expectations for the Gifted Child - Arlene DeVries

Developing Your Child's Habits of Success in School, Life, and Work - Arthur Costa

Growing up gifted: developing the potential of children at school and at home

Barbara Clark - Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers - 2013


Meet Ms. Weber

Michelle Weber is Thomas Jefferson Middle School's GT Facilitator. She has been a member of the Jefferson family for the past 13 years, the last 5 have been as instructional coach / GT facilitator. Please contact Ms. Weber with any questions.