Asynchronous development is possibly the most difficult part of parenting a gifted child. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it basically means that a child’s development is uneven, causing them to be “many ages” at once and is sometimes considered to be one of the cornerstones of giftedness. (This article on NAGC’s website gives a good definition.) For me, asynchronous development is a bigger pain in my butt than:
- finding appropriate activities and extracurricular classes
- finding appropriate reading materials
- staying awake in the morning after being kept up until midnight by a kiddo’s overactive brain that “can’t sleep” (and then dealing with my own!)
Yes, asynchronous development is behind at least two of these issues but it goes so much deeper than that. I’ve written about my struggles with asynchronous development as a parent before and I often joke about how unnecessary it is for me to have another child since I got a four-in-one deal, but I wanted to take a moment to revisit it.
There’s a meme that makes the rounds every so often that I’m sure you’ve seen. It’s message can be summed up as saying that it doesn’t matter if you’re good at things, it matters more that you can control your emotions. And while I understand and agree with the sentiment behind it, I think it’s misguided. Many gifted children may struggle to control their emotions and in my experience, asynchronous development is at least partially to blame.
We as adults have expectations of the children in our lives, whether we realize it or not. And a lot of times gifted children fail to meet them. Whether it’s the three year old who uses ten dollar words not being able to share or a teenager who is doing advanced chem but lacking what seems like common sense, we tend to scold them with “You’re so smart. You know better!” While our frustration is understandable, it puts a lot of unneccesary pressure on them.
We’re the ones who need to understand that just because they are academically able to argue with adults doesn’t mean that they’re prepared (mentally or emotionally) to be treated like one. Every young person thinks that they have all the answers but sometimes adults get tricked into thinking that gifted kids actually do have them. They very well might in some areas, but that should never extend to everything blindly. When in doubt, I personally err on the side of giving my child the patience, empathy, and understanding that would be granted to any other kid his age, and if he does know better, well we talk about that too but with the understanding that maybe there was more at play than knowledge alone.
While gifted children often possess the logic of a much older person, it’s impossible for them to have the life experience. They may seem immature in programs compared to their peers simply because they haven’t had as much exposure to classroom settings. They may have difficulty coping with life events that while they understand mentally, they don’t yet have the coping skills for emotionally. And while they logically may be able to make good decisions, they don’t have enough experience with their own feelings in order to make the right ones for them all of the time. All of those things come with practice, but because gifted children hardly seem to need practice, they sometimes don’t get the extra assistance that they need.
Asynchronous development is something that I struggle with every day as a parent. Is his tantrum an age appropriate reaction that I need to help him through, or is he acting out for the sake of it? Is he taking ten hours to put on his shoes because he’s six and my priorities aren’t his priorities, or am I lowering my expectations too far? How do I teach him that sarcasm may not be the best approach for making friends until he’s a lot older? As of now, my husband and I are taking it on a case by case basis, asking ourselves which of our four children we’re dealing with at that moment and trying to act accordingly. It’s a balancing act. We don’t always get it right, but no parent does.
So for now I try to soothe my whiplash by reassuring myself that it’s all just part of parenting a gifted child. I remind myself that this is why I put little stock into milestones personally. And I try to make sure that I’m giving my child all of the things that all of his different ages need in a day: a bit of silliness, a bit of mental stimulation, a bit of independence, and a lot of love.
I think that’s probably a good recipe for any child.
I am not a teacher, psychologist, or expert in giftedness. Just the mom of a gifted child and a former gifted child myself, sharing my experiences. This post is a part of GHF Learners’ October theme, asynchronous development. You can find out more about GHF Learners here.