Gifted kids are intelligent, clever, resourceful, sometimes brilliant, talented, insightful, creative, and in moments inspiring. This is a blessing and a curse for parents. While watching your 4-year-old create the Eiffel Tower out of legos or reading your 11-year-old’s first novel is really something, gifted children can be difficult to parent. Some of them are like little lawyers with a logical retort to every comment you make. They can be manipulative and cunning in their attempts to get their way. They also can be very black and white in their thinking. “My opinion is correct. Everyone else is wrong.” In their teen years they may even take on very firm political and global opinions based on the most recent comments on reddit (or whatever they believe is an accurate source of information).
Whatever your child’s IQ, I can guarantee one thing…
They are not wise. This is why even the smartest kid still needs a parent. DaVinci said, “Wisdom is the daughter of experience.”
Wisdom comes with experience and years lived. These clever little children have not had the experience of losing everything they have worked so hard for due to a depression or recession. They have not experienced having a college education and not being able to find a job for years. They have not lived through wars and lost friend after friend in battles fought on foreign lands for reasons not well understood. They have not watched the evolution of a global economy or how technology has radically changed our lives. They do not truly understand the complexities of our political systems and delicacies of foreign relations. They do not understand what it means to stand in line for bread or how hard it is to earn a living. They have no perspective. How many times have they tried and failed? They have not lived long enough to realize how little we understand about anything, let alone our ability to change the world.
Psychologist Labouvie-Vief in 1990 offered us a list of characteristics of less mature thinkers which I believe useful in considering that our gifted children are not little adults and do benefit from the wisdom of their parents:
- A need for certainty and control
- Limited recognition of complexity and an inability to incorporate opposites
- A lack of openness to unconscious processes
- The belief that all the important information to make a decision is apparent
- Lower empathetic abilities
- Less mature psychological defenses
- More denial, blame, and projection
- Less humor, sublimation, and suppression
We as parents have gained more wisdom through our life experiences: some wonderful and some extremely difficult. We have learned resilience, the toxicity of judgment, and the necessity of forgiveness. As we grow older, the more we realize the less we know. The world is not black and white. The grey area between the lines of right and wrong is massive. A wise person can see all sides of an argument and will take their time before forming an opinion.
A parent’s job is to help broaden a child’s perspective. We can teach our children to look at issues from every angle. We can teach them that we do not “know” anything for certain. Overtime, everything, including our understanding of the universe, changes. Parent’s can model the unending curiosity necessary to develop wisdom. Parent’s with strong opinions and judgmental tones will foster the same in their children.
Louis Cozolino, a psychologist and professor of psychology at the Pepperdine University who holds degrees in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, theology from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA, describes the factors supporting the emergence of wisdom in his book, The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom(2013):
- Lifetime learning, accumulated experience, and maintenance of old memories
- A balance of inner awareness (mindfulness) and connection with others (sociality)
- Sustained social interactions and attachment to family
- A respected place within the community
- A set of contributions and social obligations to the community
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased cortical-network participation in complex social problem solving
- Well-maintained social-brain networks in the service of sustained attachment
Wisdom is a lifelong pursuit for us all.