A gifted child – a cause for concern?
Psychologies: They say that all children are born capable. If so, what are they (more precisely, all of us) capable of?
Alexander Wenger: Any child who is born healthy, without a medical pathology, has what Alexei Nikolaevich Leontyev called “the abilities of the human race.” He is able to master the speech, learn to perceive music and play it in his voice (that is, sing), play musical instruments, draw. Each child can potentially master any mass profession. Everyone is able to successfully engage in public life.
I’m afraid that parents mean something different when they say: “My child is capable.”
For each of us, “the abilities of the human race” are developed to varying degrees. Like Orwell, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” So it is here. Anyone can be taught to sing (run on skates, ski), but this skill is easier for one, and harder for the other.
These are individual differences. Persistent occupations and training everyone is able to achieve medium-high results in mastering some kind of business. And not everyone will achieve outstanding results.
Does this require particularly high abilities, giftedness?
Yes, and they come in two types – general and special. General abilities are important for almost any activity.
Is it the ability to concentrate, think analytically?
That’s right. Still – good memory, intelligence, critical thinking … And special abilities are important for any particular activity. For the artist, this is the ability to create a holistic image. For an actor, the ability to subtly and accurately express experiences.
Is giftedness a particularly high level of development of these abilities?
Some scholars think so. But perhaps this is another way of seeing, thinking. Say my youngest son was mathematically gifted, and the eldest son is simply capable. The difference between them is 5 years. I let them both solve the problem. Soon, the youngest gives an answer. I ask: how do you understand this? But he cannot explain: well, that’s how it is. A little later, the senior solves the problem, but he, unlike the younger, can explain the way.
Learning the technique is more likely to ruin the giftedness and turn the child into a craftsman
Gifted people – no matter how old they are – with great difficulty tell how they got to something. Einstein in his diaries describes that he imagined a physical task as tension and relaxation of various muscles. To solve the problem is to bring this into a kind of harmonious state. When equilibrium is found, the problem is solved. But to describe the way in words is almost impossible.
Parents are sometimes so subjective and biased towards their children that in each of their actions, drawings, and movements of thoughts, they are ready to discern the beginnings of giftedness. How to understand whether it is gifted, and how should this talent be developed?
I do not think that it needs to be developed. It is necessary to promote the development of the child himself, not his giftedness.
Giftedness is more a matter of anxiety and anxiety for parents than a cause for joy. As Kozma Prutkov said, “a narrow specialist is similar to flux, its fullness is one-sided.” Such children are doomed to one-sided development, their socialization is often impaired, i.e. ability to easily communicate with others.
If the child, for example, draws well, the parents will be taken to a tourist club, he will make friends there and learn to communicate. But will he not lose time there, instead of mastering the skill of the artist?
Any creative person needs impressions. Campaigns will give the gifted child a new vivid experience, which he then reflects in the drawings. It probably makes sense to focus on one direction, but we still don’t know how. Teaching technology is more likely to ruin the giftedness and turn the child into a craftsman. Indeed, its most important component is originality.
Remember the “Portrait” of Gogol? When the gifted artist Chartkov began to paint portraits in a certain manner for the sake of earning, he very well filled his hand. But when he wanted to write a real picture, he could no longer do this: the hand itself went along the usual path. This happens especially quickly with children: having mastered the standard technique, they with great difficulty do something of their own, original.
When to begin to master the skill?
It depends on the type of activity. Say, ballet requires an early start, and in art it is worth teaching the craft no earlier than 11-12 years, when the child has already accumulated what he would like to express. Musicians also have to master the technique of setting hands very early.
But I am convinced: the child’s emotional acquaintance with music (painting, dance) should begin earlier than mastering the craft. From the first months of life it is useful to listen to music, later to improvise in dance, draw, sing. But the technique should appear later.
When exactly? I would be guided by the upper bounds of age, which are indicated by professionals. Now, if the teacher says that it’s too late to start learning to play the piano after 7 years, then I would rather bring a child to him at 6.5 years old, and not at 4.
But how do parents understand what the child is inclined to? It is impossible to try all kinds of activities while the child is small?
Why, this is possible. The preschool child has a limited set of activities. He draws, plays toys, sings, actively moves, climbs hills and stairs, dances, plays musical instruments – some kind of pipes, piano. All this is quite affordable.
But if, say, there is no piano, and parents are far from music?
In this case, the child is unlikely to develop musical abilities. Even if they are naturally laid. The atmosphere that surrounds the child is crucial. It happens that the family is far from music, but there is a wonderful music director in the kindergarten. He will note good hearing and a sense of rhythm of the child.
But still, parents themselves must be interested. Do not look indifferently at the drawings of a son or daughter, but rejoice at them and praise especially successful ones. It’s definitely not necessary to praise the bad, but there’s no reason to scold them either. Even an adult has the right to fail.
And now, let’s say a child tries to do all this, and something he does is especially good. His drawings make a clearly strong emotional impression. He is very flexible and agile, expressively sings or plays music. In this case, it is advisable to enroll him in a good school or club where he can develop these abilities.
This is where the “flux” begins to grow, because all the efforts of teachers are aimed at growing genius.
Parents of any gifted child face a dilemma: to direct him along the path of high achievements or aim at “simple human happiness.” While the child is small, this choice is left to the parents.
And if it is made in favor of high achievements, I can advise dads and mothers only one thing: to take a minimal part in the child’s professional development. And do everything else as much as possible. To captivate with sports games, art, cooking, if the child is intellectually loaded. And vice versa. And let trainers and educators do the profession.
Is it obligatory to send a gifted child to a special school?
To a child with high general abilities in a regular school everything is too easy. He does not form persistence in achieving the goal. Therefore, when he leaves the university and begins to engage in a profession, he gives up. Indeed, in any work there is a lot of routine that requires perseverance. Faced with failure, a person thinks: “Apparently, I have chosen the wrong sphere of activity.”
A gifted person differs in that he comes up with something new, unusual, seemingly “wrong”
He receives a second education, sometimes a third, and at work again a failure. Man loses faith in himself. According to international data, only 3-5% of gifted people realize their high abilities in adulthood.
What happens to the remaining 95%? Among them, the percentage of marginalized people with alcoholism and drug use is very high. They perceive their life as completely uncomplicated. Indeed, in childhood a high level of expectations was formed.
What can parents do to prevent their child from falling into these 95%?
Find the same circle, section, school, where it will be difficult for him. If this is not possible, set yourself the tasks of increased difficulty. And besides – to focus it not on a formal assessment, but rather on the process of activity and on the result. After all, a gifted person differs in that he comes up with something new, unusual, seemingly “wrong”. And therefore, external evaluations are often negative.
And what is the percentage of generally gifted people in society?
It depends on the criteria that we apply. Usually called 1% of the total population.
Does it make sense for parents to test their child to see how gifted he is?
This is not required. It is enough to be attentive to the child. If he does something better than most other children, find a way to realize these abilities in a special school. And at home, continue to engage in harmonious development, focusing on social skills, the ability to build relationships with people.
Children do not always wake up to the love of what they do well. For example, a child draws wonderfully, but he is primarily interested in football. In this case, give it to the football section, but still try to instill interest in drawing too – find an enthusiastic teacher, write in a good art club.
However, a gifted child, most likely, will not have to instill interest. Because children, like adults, love to do what they do well. The more obvious the abilities, the more willingly the child does this. Parents can only support him and celebrate his success.
About the expert
Alexander Wenger – child and family psychologist, doctor of psychological sciences, professor of the department of psychology at Dubna State University, author of several books, including Psychological Consulting and Diagnostics (Genesis, 2004) and Clinical Development Psychology (co-authored with Elena Morozova, Yurait , 2017).
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