The most common prejudice about gifted children
When I am introduced as an expert in the psychology of gifted children it is quite common that practically everybody has something to say about it. It might be just: “I guess many gifted children need psychological help. Right?” or “Funny. I thought that when a child wets her bed or refuses to eat it does not really matter whether she is gifted or not”. But the reactions I more often get are much less sympathetic, such as: “Aren’t all gifted children weird/nuts/crazy”? or even “How come you have chosen to work with children who are not normal by definition?” I have come to the conclusion that adjectives such as “weird” or “nut” mean that it is commonly accepted that being gifted means having anti-social characteristics, and that a gifted child “pays” for her or his giftedness by “being less capable” than others in non-cognitive qualities, namely, social and emotional disadvantages. By combining giftedness to social disability or emotional fragility the “sense of global justice” is preserved, as the less-gifted can go on believing that “well, I am not so smart, but I am emotionally stable and socially successful. Had I been gifted I would have been unpopular, isolated, maybe struggling with mental issues”. No doubt, the media contributes a great deal to the prejudice that “gifted is identified with social or emotional disability”. Many parents shamelessly expose their gifted children in television or interviews in daily papers, exposing the children’s academic achievements as well as their social difficulties. Such an exposure strengths the wide-spread belief that “a gifted child means trouble”. Had such an exposure have any advantage, any benefit to the child, it could have been understandable. The truth is that in addition to the damage caused by the parents – which is in many cases irreversible – everybody who reads such an article, or watches such a television program, tends to believe that there is a rule: “if you are gifted, something must be very wrong with you”. Lewis Terman’s longitudinal studies of giftedness, with about 1500 participants who were studied during many decades, has proven that gifted children are healthier than non-gifted, both physically and mentally, have a more productive life, both professionally and personally, live longer than the average, and have a much higher level of life satisfaction than others. However, these facts do not seem to be known to the wide public. It is much more provocative, much more spicy, much more self-assuring to believe that “Well, I am not gifted, neither is my son, but he is happy, popular, and not a weirdo”. It takes a lot of courage to get rid of old prejudices, to look inside our own selves, and to admit that some – maybe even most gifted children, adolescents and adults are also social well-adjusted, emotionally stable, some of them are also good at sports, healthy and even very good looking. A parents and educators it is our task to help others accept these facts, and thus help our children or students to become integral members of society, without being influences by prejudices about them.
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