Have you seen the logic problems that have a grid and multiple qualifiers to help you fill in the chart? Billy lives in a yellow house that is next door to Charlie but does not have a basketball goal. Jenny lives one house away from a yellow house and has a fountain that splashes the basketball goal at her neighbor’s house.
What is the purpose? I’ll come back to that. First, let’s look at giftedness.
What is giftedness?
- Intelligence (IQ)
- Specific talents
Research has shown that giftedness changes based on age and development. (Worrell et al, 2017) For example, giftedness is primarily measured in potential for young children. We look at their intellectual levels, their imaginative ability, and foster that potential. As they get older (adolescents and young adults), giftedness becomes about achievement. Development of creative thought, discipline, motivation, and commitment are important. It is not enough to have potential, it is about what you DO with that potential. But what comes next? The final stage is the stage that many do not achieve – eminence.
Stages of giftedness
Most gifted and high achieving children go on to be high functioning adults. That is well supported in research. But what about taking it to the next step? The final stage of giftedness is eminence. This stage takes high levels of perseverance, creativity, critical thinking, and a desire to impact the world. Eminence is about ADDING something to the world. It is not enough to just be an expert, you need to leave a legacy!
Few gifted children reach this stage of eminence as adults. So this brings up the question: What can we do to change that? How can we foster the gifts in our children and help them strive to reach the top levels of their potential? And on the flip side: What keeps them from reaching eminence?
One of the schools I attended as a kid had a GT (Gifted and Talented) program. They tested kids and then if you qualified, you went to an extra GT class 3x per week. In this class, kids worked on logic puzzles, creative activities, and enrichment programs. It seemed like “playing” at the time, but in hindsight, it was a fabulously executed program. The puzzle I mentioned at the start was an example of what was offered. These types of puzzles teach a different way of thinking. It develops the skills of logic, critical thinking, and problem solving.
The classical model of education is another example I have recently been researching that focuses on different stages of development in children. Children start in Grammar school (approximately K-5) with a focus on knowledge, facts, and memorization. They then move to the School of Logic (approximately 6th – 8th) with the focus now moving away from simple memorization of facts and onto a focus on learning to analyze and understand what they have learned and start to think about why and how. Finally, they move to the School of Rhetoric (approximately 9th-12th) where the important stage is to learn to apply the knowledge they have gained. Communication, eloquence, debate, logic, and critical thinking are all encouraged at this stage. Dorothy Sayers was the first pioneer of the classical education model in 1947 and she observed,
“Although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think.” – Dorothy Sayers
So, what do we do?
To help our children find their potential, learn to achieve, and then move to eminence, we must focus on teaching them to think. Critical steps and areas where parents, educators and counselors can have a huge impact include:
- Critical thinking
- Creativity and imagination
- Overcoming obstacles / motivation
- Willingness to take risks
- Ability to handle criticism
At a very young age, we need to teach our children to play. Give them free rein and let them create, imagine, and produce wonders. One of the downsides to electronics today is they take away our need to create for ourselves. Some games encourage creation and building (I have a Minecraft addict), but many have you follow along in the imagination of someone else. It is important for children to use their hands to build and produce. Basic sets of wooden blocks can become castles, a horse stable, a beaver dam, a runaway train, or the Tower of Babel. The lack of defined boundaries gives the child freedom to use the blocks to create wondrous things.
Boredom also has value. Kids today (mine included!) are using electronics to fill up every spare minute and they have lost the ability to be bored. Boredom has purpose. Boredom encourages us to open up our thoughts and imagine options and create new things. To reach eminence, children must learn to use their minds to imagine what could be. Teaching our children to sit and think, to daydream and imagine, and to be bored will push them up that ladder of potential to something bigger. Something valuable.
Perseverance and overcoming obstacles are the next set of skills we need to teach. I have a presentation called “Not everyone gets a trophy” (I’ll try and get that one posted soon), but in a nutshell it is about allowing our children to experience disappointment. Facing small failures and disappointments when they are young builds up their perseverance and “over-comer” muscles. They learn to bounce back. They learn you don’t die when you fail or when you lose. If your child is going to become eminent and create amazing things, they better learn to fail!! Failure is a huge teacher and as parents we must not take that lesson away from our children or we make them weak. (I think there is a meme in that!)
Finally, taking risks and finding opportunity. When our children are very young, we hold their hands through these steps. We help them by giving them opportunities where we can. This could be lessons such as dance, a sport, or music, or it could be new experiences, field trips, or activities at home. They need to try out different things and find their passions. As they get older, they must start utilizing and building these skills on their own. Trying new things, risking embarrassment, stepping out of their comfort zone. As parents, we can teach this by doing it ourselves. Modeling the behavior we want is our biggest tool in most areas of development.
Become a risk taker and you will raise risk takers!
What opportunities are out there for you today?