CONSIDER HIRING A COACH FOR YOUR GIFTED CHILD
Gifted children generally learn better, faster, and more than their same age peers. They will also retain what they learn because of their excellent memory skills. I believe the best way to learn is one to one from a parent, mentor, or tutor. A personal coach, often associated with adult clients, would be an ideal person to work with a gifted child and their family, particularly if that coach was knowledgeable and experienced in gifted education. Gifted children have a number of life skills to learn, weaknesses to overcome, and strengths to enhance as they prepare for adolescence and adulthood. Parents also learn the skills their child needs as well as various gifted education issues that arise as their child progresses through their years of education.
In my experience, to be successful in life, children should learn skills in the social, emotional, communication, thinking, executive, work and technical areas. Important social skills include listening, friendship, leadership, respect, cooperation, caring, and group decision making. In the emotional area, vital skills such as problem solving, self reliance, responsibility, risk taking, honesty, loyalty, positive attitude, stress management, practical judgment, and understanding strengths and weaknesses are needed. A third area of need is in the communication domain. These skills include attending, speaking and writing clearly, presenting ideas, expressing thoughts and feelings, avoiding degrading comments, conflict resolution, honoring commitments, and being trustworthy. For gifted children, thinking skills are highly developed but not always used to their full potential. These children can learn to be creative, curious, investigative, open to new ideas, flexible; they can also learn to look for evidence to support thoughts, and to avoid negative and irrational thoughts. A fifth area is executive skills. Even though a gifted child may have excellent thinking and academic skills, they will not perform well in school or life situations without good executive functioning. These skills include time management, planning ahead, organization, task initiation and completion, routine scheduling, monitoring, shifting, working memory, and goal setting. A final area of need would be in the work and technical skill areas. These skills include being self directed, reliable, thorough, disciplined, working hard, following directions, accepting challenges, respecting work quality, and knowing computer skills.
The above list of life skills can be overwhelming for a child to learn, particularly because many of them are not formally taught in classrooms. Furthermore, parents, in their efforts to teach these skills to their children are not always successful. Nearly all gifted children are uneven in their abilities and will have weak skills in certain areas. Parents and teachers who try to teach to the child’s weak areas often do not succeed. At the same time, strengths of a gifted child are not fully developed and should be enhanced so their potential is fulfilled. At this point, parents should consider a coach, particularly one experienced and knowledgeable about gifted children.
Coaching has become one of the best techniques that adults and children use to live life to the fullest. Coaches work with a child and their parents in weekly sessions on what they want or need in their personal skills. Goals are identified and the coach will work with their client to do more than they may have done on their own. The coach will give clients support, strategies, tools, and structure to accomplish more and produce results more quickly. Since coaching focuses on the present and future in an action oriented manner, it is different from psychotherapy or counseling. Thus, the gifted child is not labeled with a mental health disability nor is that child coming in to solve a problem or improve their behavior. The best examples of coaching are in sports - all professional athletes use a coach to perform at their best.
It is unfortunate that so many gifted children learn so little in school. Most of what is taught in a typical classroom has already been mastered by a gifted child so that these repetitions actually interfere with new learning and cause more stress for them. Each academically gifted child needs at least several hours of accelerated curriculum on a daily basis, not just a few hours a month. Gifted children learn best and at a much faster pace, according to research, on a one to one basis, face to face, than average students. Coaching has no limit on what can be taught so that a gifted student and their family can decide and then prioritize what they would like to learn. I believe the high priorities for gifted children would be learning life skills, strengthening their high ability skills and improving their weak areas.
There are unique issues faced by gifted children that are not problematic for their normal classmates. A major problem is the lack of intellectual stimulation both in and out of the classroom. This issue is related to the constant problem of frustration and boredom with repetition. Peer relations are sometimes difficult because a gifted child’s peer group is more similar to older children or other bright children. Some gifted children will hide their abilities and skills in order to fit in socially but this does not work to their advantage in peer relations. Furthermore, they miss out on scholastic opportunities. Other issues that gifted children often face include being overwhelmed by their environment or others’ needs, relentless self criticism, perfectionism, intensities and sensitivities, introversion, slower paced parent or sibling, societal or self expectations to be a superhuman, and isolation. A coach would be able to help with any of these issues.
In hiring a coach for your child, parents will benefit from that coach who can also provide help for parents. The better informed parents of gifted children are the more opportunities their child will have being successful. The parent has a number of roles to play and issues to resolve as their child progresses through school. The information role would include who and when to talk with school staff on accelerated programming and options, how to prepare for a follow up on a parent-teacher conference, how to pick out good schools, teachers, and/or programs for your child, what further assessments and services would be helpful, how to advocate for your child, and how to learn about local, state, and national resources for gifted children. Coaching parents about what to say and do when school staff promises gifted accelerated services but are unable to deliver them has been helpful to overcome parental disappointment. Also, if your child is considered twice exceptional, you will need additional services and information pertaining to both giftedness and disability. Your child will often model your behavior so, if you display benefits from coaching, your child will learn them as well.
There has been some resistance to hiring a coach for gifted children. One objection has been to wonder what to work on. However, the improvement of life skills as well as working on strengths and weaknesses should answer that question. Another objection is about paying the coaching fee. However, parents budget a great deal of money to raise their child so, when they consider value, they will usually see great value for the benefits from coaching for both the child and parents. Busy schedules are also a deterrent but coaching can help with both time management and stress reduction. One reaction, when a family has concerns, is to take no action and just put up with or tolerate the situation even though this approach takes up a great deal of energy, causes stress, and results in missed opportunities.
Based on the benefits of coaching gifted children, it would be wise for parents to consider hiring a coach at various times in their child’s life. Gifted children are able to reason extremely well, learn quickly, and retain important life skills. As a parent, we want our children to be happy, successful, capable, and skilled all through their life. We spend much time and money to raise our children appropriately but we can always use help along the way. Unfortunately, some parents remember painful memories and problems arising from not getting their high ability needs met during childhood. However, both parents and children want their talents to be well developed and their high potential fulfilled.