Book Recommendation For Raising a Gifted Child
February 14, 2014 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Looking for specific recommendations for books on raising a gifted child.

We have a number of challenges in raising our 7-year-old son. He has a number of issues including really low self-esteem, a 140 IQ (this is not a surprise - Mrs. Plinth and I are both in the same range as are our siblings) and a sister with severe developmental and cognitive disabilities. Where things show up is that he has a really strong Catch-22 approach to work (whether it's school or extracurricular activities like sports) - if it's trivial, it's not worth doing and if it's hard, it's impossible and not worth doing. For what it's worth, he's likely to have an IEP (he already has a 504), with regards to his behavior.

His behaviors are hard to manage. For example, we have tried the nurtured heart approach with him and while it worked tremendously well for his sister, it was a total failure for him. Likely because the approach set off his bullshit meter (which is pretty damn sensitive). He also appears to be aware of the process around him. For example, his sister has been in a bit of a backslide in terms of how she's been doing her own personal care. He asked me what was wrong and his response to me was, "you know she's probably just acting out for the attention, right?"

Looking for suggestions on books that can help us help him become the brilliant child we know he is and for him to believe in himself.
posted by plinth to Human Relations (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any answers but I'll be watching other people's answers closely. My daughter is similar. It's kind of comforting to hear that somebody else's supersmart kid is kind of a pain in the ass - everybody else's smart daughters around here seem to be perfectly behaved, while the doctors keep peering at mine and going, "....ADHD? Spectrum? Anxiety?"
posted by missrachael at 10:09 AM on February 14, 2014

Instead of diving into books about raising a gifted child, my suggestion is to read up on caring for a kid with a chronically ill/demanding sibling. Just my opinion, having been a gifted child with a chronically ill sibling, but I think that your daily family dynamic is a more fruitful place to focus your energies than his IQ. A few quick items here, here, and here. At 7, he may be more concerned with being wanted and being normal than with being brilliant.

If he's as smart as you think, any 'approach' that brings with it a whiff of a premise that he is the problem will probably backfire. He can probably smell that a mile away. I don't know anything about The Nurtured Heart approach other that what I've just read on Wikipiedia, but it sounds to me like it tries to manage negativity and "choose" positivity. Your kid might need it to be ok to be negative before he can move on to something else. Good luck.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb et al is kind of the gold standard right now. Somewhat dry, but certainly comprehensive. Amazon thinks it's out of print (it isn't) so you might have to order from the publisher, GPP.

Carol Fertig's Raising a Gifted Child is good for concrete tips on things to try regarding school fit, nurturing different types of talents, etc.

I have heard good things about Christine Fonseca's Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students but haven't personally read it.

If he is really out there academically, High IQ Kids from Free Spirit Publishing is a good resource, but it is definitely aimed at the 99.9%, college at 13 type.

(Sorry for the lack of links - phone posting - but they all have multiple reviews on Amazon.)
posted by Flannery Culp at 11:08 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not a book, but a website: Hoagie's Gifted Education, at

Hoagie's has a list of books.
posted by merejane at 11:13 AM on February 14, 2014

Are you telling your kid that he's gifted? You haven't discussed his IQ in front of him have you? Did you tell him his IQ score?? Because all of that is basically how you create a kid who refuses to try anything that challenges them.

Here's an article that talks about it:

Praise effort. Never praise some random number pulled out of a manufactured test.

And if I found out my parents were posting my IQ score online and talking about it, I would be mortified. Just fyi.
posted by Dynex at 2:42 PM on February 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was going to say exactly the same thing as Dynex because when I read " it's impossible and not worth doing", the first thing I thought of was the child may have learned that he's smart and therefore should be able to understand things without effort and if he doesn't then those things are impossible.
posted by Dansaman at 3:05 PM on February 14, 2014

Wanted to echo Dynex and Dansaman. I was (am?) a gifted kid, and on top of this, I was raised in the self-esteem-y '90s. I can't thank my parents enough for not being really overt about it with me... They praised me for a variety of things including grades/schoolwork, but never followed advice from several teachers at parent-teacher conferences to be really "So, you know you're really (smart/special/whatever), right?" with me. I got enough positive feedback from school/teachers/other family members/so on, and was already aware I was different/"special" due to the way I was being treated. I imagine based on your post that he's also aware, even if he's taking it in a different or undesirable direction (bullshitometer, acting out, etc.).

The Catch-22 you describe is all too familiar. Even going into my teens and early adulthood (AKA "right now"), I really struggle with convincing myself to do things that I know I will not be great at right away, even if I recognize that those things will be beneficial and/or fun. I urge you to praise your son for trying new things, especially new things that are pretty far out of his comfort zone, and for failing and being OK afterward and trying again.

I know this may conflict a little with your low self-esteem description, when it may feel right to praise him for all sorts of stuff, as often as possible. I'm not a parent and don't know your kid, so I'm not sure what the right answer for balance is here. Just some things to consider.

FWIW, I also think the suggestion to look into books about raising a sibling of a chronically ill/disabled sibling is a good one.
posted by jorlyfish at 3:42 PM on February 14, 2014

I found Gifted Children: A Guide for Parents and Professionals really helpful, as well as Parenting a Gifted Child: The Authoritative Guide from the National Association for Gifted Children.

What has really helped my kids, though, is a therapist who is specifically experienced with working with gifted kids and familiar with the perfectionism, problems with lack of effort, anxiety and so on that can be so common among that group of kids.
posted by not that girl at 4:33 PM on February 14, 2014

"Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" is a great book. A gifted kid can be tricky, because their words sound mature beyond their years, but their emotions probably aren't. To me his catch-22 approach to work sounds like it might be based in anxiety -- if you don't have a lot of experience with failure it can be anxiety-producing to try. That's just my impression though -- whatever it ends up being, this book is great at helping you help your kids with their emotions.

Oh, and I was poking around and found your Open Letter to Big Y and it sounds like you guys are amazing parents!
posted by selfmedicating at 8:23 PM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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