How NOT to Tell a Child He/She is Gifted

how not to tell a child "You're Gifted"

I’m a big believer in gifted identification. Both I and my colleague Ian Byrd have written about it. Once a child is identified, you’re going to have to tell him/her.

Like most things, there’s a right way to tell a child he/she is gifted, and a wrong way. In fact, there are many wrong ways.

Here’s a list of the top ways NOT to tell a child he/she is gifted:

Wrong Way #1: The Get-Out-of-Studying Free Card

Parent: Guess what? You’re gifted! That means that you won’t have to study and you’ll still get good grades.

Child hears: If I have to study, then I’m not really gifted.

Wrong Way #2: The “You’re Welcome” Self-Congratulatory Way

Parent: Well, it looks like you’re gifted just like I was. I guess it’s nature after all.

Child thinks: Thanks?

Wrong Way #3: “Now You’ll Be Getting All A’s”

Parent: Being gifted means that your report card will be an uninterrupted column o’ A’s. Let the 4.0 begin! Honor Roll, here we come!

Child thinks: No pressure.

Wrong Way #4: “Don’t Tell Anybody”

Parent: You know, a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of some people being gifted, so it’s probably best if you don’t mention it to anyone.

Child thinks: Got it. Ridin’ the Shame Train.

Wrong Way #5: “Everything Will be Easy Now”

Parent: Being gifted means things will come easier to you than to others.

Child thinks: Ever tried working in a group?

Wrong Way #6: Silence.


Child thinks: Wonder what’s going on? I wonder what I did wrong?

Wrong Way #7: Comfort in Ignorance

Parent: We got this letter that says you’re gifted. I don’t have a clue what that means, actually. So, moving on…

Child thinks: If you don’t know, who does? Couldn’t I just go to Hogwarts?

Wrong Way #8: The Pressure Cooker

Parent: The tests show you’re gifted, so we went ahead and enrolled you in a PSAT prep class. It meets right after preschool three days a week from 4pm – 9pm.

Child thinks: Can we just go back to where you read me stories?

Wrong Way #9: The Indirect Method

Parent (to another adult within child’s hearing): Yeah, we found out Max is gifted. Such a shocker! I mean, he’s so much less, you know (makes nebulous hand gesture), than Sam. Anyway, it was a surprise, I’ll tell you. Hashtag dark horse.

Child thinks: I hate my brother, and I’m a loser.

The Right Way?

Curious about the right way to tell a child he or she is gifted? Stay tuned for next week’s article. I’ve got a script for you.

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