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Relationship between Giftedness and Passion

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q:  I'm Mom to two wonderful children, aged 7 (girl) and 5 (boy). My girl is above average when it come to examinations (at least 90% and above), she could read all levels of Peter and Jane by 5 years old, goes for tuition twice a week. Other activities include learning to play the piano (beginners level) and swimming. She also likes to procrastinate and is generally quite lazy (she'll get anyone to do anything for her, e.g. get the maid to wear her socks, bring an empty cup to the sink or even order her little brother around if she can get away with it, especially when I'm not around). I believe that she's very talented and has potential. I don't really bug her with revision as homework takes up a lot of her time (she's in the Chinese medium) plus she's slow at getting it down - yes, procrastinate! 

As for her piano practice, it's a chore for me as I have to sit down with her every time and make her do it. But she can play quite well after playing a song once or twice. The question is, how do I get to make her responsible and take an interest in what she's doing? She's very bright and inquisitive, but how do I find out what she's really good at and nourish this "talent". I'd also appreciate if you can guide me on how to keep up with her excellent results in school.

As for my son, he's quite an artist. He can sit down and draw for e.g. spiderman, with the web on the face clearly lined and proportioned. He's even able to draw spidey's hand in action ready to shoot the web. He used to draw Power Puff girls a lot with facial expressions, like angry, happy or sad. But ask him to sit down and read, he's lost and won't sit for long. His sis at this age was reading comfortably. What he's able to read are books from school which he has memorized. He won't be able to read the same word from another book.

I'm not sure if my children are gifted or if this is what you had in mind when you gave us the chance to post a question. But I'd appreciate if you can help me out.

p/s: I guess I should let you know that my husband and I are separated though he sees them everyday, if he's not out of town on business. They were also separated from me for about 3 years when the marriage broke down. They only came back to stay with me a year ago. They were very attached to me despite the separation and still is. Thanks.

A: Your daughter sounds like an achiever and a very busy little girl! I don't think she is really lazy. As parents, we need to understand that if a child is gifted, s/he would do anything that has a purpose and is meaningful to them. If they don't see an end reason for doing something, they might very well just not do it or do it sloppily. Your daughter may be good in piano but may not be interested in it, hence finds excuses to get away or procrastinate. You must remember that gifted children operate with intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic. Only then you will see good results. I believe you may not be looking at laziness with regards to your daughter, perhaps more so a response of disinterest in the task she is asked to accomplish. My suggestion, please don't push her to do something she may not have interest in. One would need to have passion for something to be exceptional and you need to find out what that is for your daughter. Since she is 7 already, I believe you may be able to talk to her and find out what she likes. Allow her to indulge in activities that interests her. If you are not for it, rationalize with her. Gifted students are believed to have a high power of reasoning and would respond well to rationalization rather than order. To help her keep up with her good performance at school, make learning fun and exciting for her. You may want to learn with her, ask her questions from her lessons (in a way to show her that you are not too sure and need her to explain), play educational games with her, understand her difficult areas and seek help if you are not sure.

As for your son, he appears to have mastered some rather fine and essential psychomotor skills at a young age. He may not be as fast as your daughter in terms of his reading ability, but you must understand that each child has different developmental stages. Also, you may want to check if there is anything that may have contributed to his reading problems, perhaps a condition called dyslexia (which can be treated). Check with an educational psychologist to rule out any other possibilities. If any reading disability has been ruled out, perhaps he needs help in a different way to read. If he enjoys drawing, help him learn and recognize words in a drawing manner. You may need to consult a reading specialist to help him.

Family issues more often than not affect children, especially young ones. The separation may not have been good for them (looking at the time span) but I believe you are trying hard to make things better as a family. You need to do this continually to give them the confidence that they are loved no matter what. The fact that their father visits them regularly helps and it would be good to include him in their educational pursuits. Gifted children have heightened sensitivity and may be more prone to socio-emotional difficulties as they would expect perfection in most of the things. You have a tough job and may have to put in additional effort, but I believe you will be able to support them well and from your letter, you are doing a great job!


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