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Above Average Developmental Milestone

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I'm a mother of a 3 years and 7 months old girl. My daughter is called to be smarter than all kids we knew in her age. At her school they set her in a higher grade than her age. She asks a lot of questions, concerned about all things like why comes tomorrow? And day and night and the whole globe? She speaks and uses vocabularies like adults. She can twist words and sentences to convince me and my husband with things very brightly that we believe she has to work in sales :). She is so much aware without our help by the words with different syllables ( for example: she told me lets play a game I say mo- and you say it  stands for mother and so on) and also she knew that letter M in her name is the same in mum and Manar (my name) ...etc... She picked letters and made her name Lama but just "Lam" and she couldn't find the L as it was lost so she turned the number 7 to make the L....I was surprised once that she can draw in details me and her father with the fingers, mouth, nose, veil....etc..... Also many and many other stories but I don't want to take much of your time.

Is this normal for her age? Because I don't want to put her in higher expectations?

A: The fact that she has been accelerated at school and based on your description, your daughter is certainly developing at a faster pace in comparison to her peers. So, simply answering your question, it is advanced for her age. Therefore, at this stage, parents play an important role in helping to nurture her advanced gifts.

What is crucial at this point is to give her as much stimulation as possible. If she is not given enough stimulation, she may burnout so it is good that you are aware of her cognitive needs and seeking for more understanding of your child. Having an advanced child and more importantly, maintaining her gifts to further advance can be very challenging for parents. However, your little one is very fortunate as the school acknowledged her needs and accelerated her instead of holding her back.

She appears to have a good vocabulary - have you introduced her to the world of books? If not, provide her with many books - perhaps have a book corner at home. It does not have to be expensive. Use the local libraries so she gets access to a variety of different reading materials. You would constantly need to provide her with a variety of materials that would interest her. Variety is the key here - advanced children need to be challenged and would get easily bored with repetition (which would have happened at school had she not been upgraded). Different ways of learning is also essential - expose her to different kinds of exposures to allow exploration and discovery. These children are very curious and love to explore. At preschool, as she is ahead of her peers and doing well, teachers may feel that she does not need much help and can be quite independent in learning. However, this may cause them to literally exert minimal mental effort - which eventually causes boredom. This is where she needs help at home.

Good activities equates to a variety of activities that challenges and stimulates her. Activities in school may be monotonous and suitable for the majority. For an advanced child, you may need to put in much more effort. For e.g., if she learns about insects at school, different activities can include learning further with an encyclopaedia, going on a nature trip to actually see real insects (do adhere to safety measures here), getting toy insects, getting a movie/documentary on insects, watching YouTube videos- all used to teach her in depth in a much more interesting manner. The same can be done with any other subject. The more you use her senses, the better.

It is very natural for parents of above average children to be concerned about pushing their children versus challenging them. One way of understanding whether you are pushing or challenging them is your personal motivation. If your interests are generally to enable the child to get good grades and excel at school, you may be pushing the child without even realizing it. These children, if pushed rather than challenged, may lead to burnout and eventually mediocrity in life. Giving more difficult tasks is not the same as giving more challenging tasks. Children can get bored with more difficult work of the same kind, which is not challenging. Therefore, difficulty levels should be increased gradually with more challenging and interesting tasks.

Note that your daughter may appear interested in everything initially but at some point may appear to be less interested. This is normal - such children may not be interested in everything you may want them to do that you feel may help them with learning. This is just natural, which is why a variety of educational exposure is crucial here. If one does not work, another may probably do the job. As parents, we need to guide and show some direction to our children, but pushing may not show results. Bear in mind that advanced children are children after all and may not know what is best for them. So parents need to help here - but to force the child to do something s/he is not interested in (and appears more like the parents' interest rather than the child's), even after a variety of teaching methods may imply that the child is having some problems grasping the concept or is just not her/his cup of tea. This is when parents need to move on and allow some space for the child. After all, loving and accepting the child as s/he is the best that any parent can do for a child.

Based on your description, it is definite that your little girl has above average abilities so for now, just nurture that ability to the best that you can. Here is wishing you a very happy parenting journey!


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