Thursday, August 28, 2008

She's a Genius!

I may have mentioned before that my little one is a pretty interesting character. She's verbal, she's funny, she's curious. She's very much who she is already, at the tender age of two. Which is kind of an amazing thing to realize, that my two-year-old is already an individual, a person in her own right.

This morning while peeking around online (my little individual decided we should wake up at 5:30), I found this article by Paula Spencer from Parenting.com (via CNN). And while the title's a little bit harsh, the point of the piece is well made. The "gifted" label is one that gets tossed around a lot by parents these days. Because our small children show aptitudes in a particular area, we are tempted to label them as "special" or "gifted."

But these labels serve only the ego of the parent, not the learning experience of the child. Spencer highlights the importance of play at preschool age, rather than "academic" learning, a good reminder, especially for those of us beginning to search out preschools for our little "gifted" ones.

"Most educators believe that kids don't benefit from academically oriented preschools," Spencer points out. "Far more important is having opportunities to explore without constraint -- and teachers and parents who know how to keep learning fun."

In fact, parents who force the "gifted" label--and all of the pressure that goes along with it--onto their kids, might actually be doing their kids a disservice. Alison Steier, Ph.D., director of clinical training at the Arizona Institute for Early Childhood Development suggests, "Rather than ask 'Is this kid counting better than the others?' ask, 'Am I supporting what's interesting and exciting to my child?'"

This is an important message to parents, that our job is not to sculpt a kid-shaped masterpiece from an untouched slab of marble, but rather to help our children become who they are, to cultivate their minds and souls with exploration and love. We must give guidance and boundaries certainly, but we must also celebrate these fantastic individuals we call our children for who they are, rather than who we would have them be.

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