7 Essential Tools for Parents of GT Kids

7-essential-tools-for-parents-of-gt-kidsEvery parent can use these essential tools, and I can practically guarantee that if your child is gifted, you will face at least five of the issues the tools below help fix. In fact, I’ll give you your money back if you don’t. I have no magic ball, so how do I know? Because I see it literally every day. In the interest of full disclosure, I have suffered from them myself, and so have the GT kids who actually live in my house.

I did a SENGinar once on internal motivation, and there were too many questions to be able to answer. That was not surprising – parents of GT kids are often blazing their own trails on a daily basis. What is also not surprising is that the questions were not that different from each other. Most of the parents are facing the same issues. So here are seven tools you will need if you’ve got a GT kid in your family (or you yourself are recovering from Post Traumatic Gifted Kid Disorder. And yes, I know that seven is a symbol of perfection. That is purely circumstantial. Probably.

Tool #1: Negotiation. Use for: virtually everything.

Negotiation is the screwdriver of the GT parent’s toolbox. You will use it with schools as well as with your own child. So where do you get this tool? Unfortunately, it’s not just something you can print out. You’re going to have to do some reading and practicing. Here are some resources to get you started.

Inc. Magazine offers some basic tips on negotiation, and this is hands-down the best place to start. Read them here.

Business Insider has great tips, too. You can find them here.

If you’re willing to spend $4, you can buy How to Negotiate with Kids…Even if You Think You Shouldn’t by Scott Brown for a penny plus shipping.

The book often considered the gold standard on this topic is Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.

How to start? Find a friend or spouse with whom to practice. You can start small, negotiating what toppings are going on a pizza or how the Saturday morning chores will be divided. Let your child shadow you as you negotiate in business situations.

One area this may be necessary is the “Show Your Work” battle in class. Find some tips on that from one of my fave gifted heroes, Ian Byrd, here.

This one skill can change your life, and this is not hyperbole.


Tool #2: Rating Scale. Use for: Perfectionism

Perfectionists have hijacked the saying “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and sent it off in the direction of “anything I think I have to do I must do perfectly.” This is false thinking. Help perfectionists by teaching them to rate assignments, chores, and other must-do’s on a scale of 1 – 5.

A 1 is something that needs to be done, but needn’t be done that well  (taking out the trash, making the bed, practicing math facts for the billionth time [see Tip #4]).

A five is something that must be done perfectly (brain surgery, tightrope walking). Fives are things with little room for error. Very few things are fives, but you wouldn’t know that talking with a perfectionist.

Most things are about a three, and helping budding perfectionists learn to accurately rate tasks and allocate their resources of time, attention, and patience accordingly is a necessary skill.

My presentation on Perfectionism shares more explanations and ideas (be sure to download the handout).

The must-have book on this topic is Adelson & Wilson’s Letting Go of Perfect.

3. Tool: Zentangle®. Use for: boredom & stress relief

If there is a panacea for coping with boredom, this is it. Now, I have my own thoughts on boredom that are more complex than this, but if you’re looking for a simple tool anyone can do (I’ve taught it to four-year-olds), then Zentangle is right for you.

Designed by Rick and Maria Thomas, Zentangle is deceptively simple. The idea is that you fill small spaces with simple patterns. The inclusion of multiple patterns in the same design is what makes it beautiful (and look complicated, even though it’s not), and the repetition makes it soothing. Kids can do this in class while listening, and I believe it actually improves listening skills, as the brain uses the patterns being drawn to scaffold the ideas being heard.


4. Tool: stopwatch. Use for: coping with repetitive work

One reason we balk at undesirable tasks is that we lose our sense of time when we are engaged (or not) in tasks we don’t like. Simply timing how long it takes to do something can make it less daunting or undesirable. If you think I’m kidding, go time how long it takes you to fold a load of laundry or change your sheets. It is probably much quicker than you think.

When I meet a child/teen/spouse who procrastinates, balks like a donkey, or goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid a task, the first thing I do is insist that we time it. Once you know how long it really takes, a couple of things happen.

First, you realize that it’s not that bad. Really? I can change the sheets in seven minutes? That’s nothing.

Secondly, you have created incentive to try to do it even faster. What tricks could I use to make it only six minutes? Are there videos on YouTube about how to do this more quickly or effectively? (You’ll be surprised!)

A stopwatch can help kids become manufacturing engineers, seeking more efficient ways to run their cognitive assembly line.

Note: if your child has high anxiety, be sure to use the stopwatch as a tool to reduce, not add to, the anxiety. It’s not a punishment – it’s a get out of jail free card

5. Tool: mindfulness. Use for: boredom & anxiety

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment without judgment. That is a vast oversimplification, but the key elements are there. Researchers know that the root of boredom is the inability to pay attention, to stay present in the moment. Mindfulness helps with that. Reducing anxiety comes from the “without judgment” part.

And don’t worry – you don’t have to become a Buddhist to do it.

You can find a wealth of resources on the Emotional Health page as well as at Mindful.org.

A book I recommend is Mindfulness for Beginners.

My best friend, Patricia Bear, is a therapist in Eugene, Oregon, and the credit for this tip goes to her. She manages the Emotional Health page and has provided lots of free resources there.

6. Tool: executive function skill development. Use for: chaos (internal and external)

It looks like lazy with a little messy thrown in. That’s how I describe executive functioning issues with kids (and adults, really). Executive functioning is the brain’s ability to manage itself. Problems with executive functioning are often observed as disorganization (even in kids who love to sort and organize), but the executive functions extend beyond that.

You can learn the basics here or watch this short video

If that rings a bell, Late, Lost, and Unprepared is the book of choice if you are dealing with this issue. There are many other books on it, but they are almost all written for clinicians.

A great, free, and comprehensive list of resources is found here.

If you’re a teacher, some suggestions for helping children with executive functioning issues can be found here.


7. Cornell Notes. Use for: underachievement

If there’s a one-size-fits-all tool for GT kids, this is it. Cornell Notes (so named because they were developed by a professor at Cornell’s Law School) refers to a specific way to take and, most importantly, use notes.

Many GT kids struggle with knowing the specific skills of studying that, ironically, their typical learner peers have often mastered out of necessity. Cornell Notes are one of the strategies that can help, and I believe it is perhaps the most important.

The key is not only the layout, but also the evaluation and summary that is done. This forces learners to truly think about what they heard.

The layout itself makes studying for exams much easier.

As with so many things, the method is quick to learn, but you can spend a long time mastering it. I still use this method myself when I attend conferences, so it’s a great life skill for anyone.

Find out how to use them here.

or watch the video here (her voice is a little bit off-putting, but the info is good).

You can download a template here, but after awhile you don’t need one and can just draw your own with two lines.

This toolbox obviously does not contain everything you will need to effectively parent GT kids, but it is a start. The resources will lead you to other resources, and soon you will be a master craftsman.

So there are the 7 Essential Tools I think you will find useful. If you have others you can’t live without or have found helpful, I’m ready to take {Cornell} notes!

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