The topic of Pushing vs. Nurturing is a hot one and I continue to receive countless queries from parents.
Dear Dr. Borba, Both my husband and I were in gifted programs in school and our 2 year old is already showing signs of being gifted as well. She can spell her first name, count to 10, identify colors and shapes and sort by multiple criteria such as “Show me the three yellow stars” or “8 red circles”. We don’t push her but we don’t want her to waste this gift either. How do we know when to back off and when to proceed? Thank you! Erika
I’m so glad Erika asked this question There is a line between pushing and nurturing our children. The goal is to nurture your child’s natural passions and interests. Here are three ways to achieve that crucial goal:
1. Follow your child’s lead
Truly gifted children are immensely curious. They usually hate the familiar (the same old stuff like flash cards). They love experimentation. Once they find something that attracts them (a violin, the parts of an alarm clock, dinosaurs or rocks or whatever!) they stick with that fascination. They are like little sponges and become intensely focused. You won’t need to push a gifted child. They pull you to that interest.
The secret is to find what turns your child on, not vice versa. Follow your child’s lead.
2. Put down the flash cards. Pronto!
And while yore at it, unplug those brainy baby tapes. There is not an ounce of research that proves they boost IQ. Nada! Besides those flash cards are instilling academic achievement not expanding intellect. They are not child-initiated, but parent driven. A gifted child needs rich experiences – as to all children. You also don’t need to buy those pricey so-called “intelligence-richy” toys. Look around your home: blocks, pipe cleaners, pots, pans, switches, taking apart the inside of an old cell phone. Watch to see what intrigues your child–offer it!
3. Talk and talk and talk
A fascinating study from Norway found that our eldest child almost always has a three point IQ edge over younger siblings. If the eldest dies the second sibling gets that edge. That means it’s not genetics giving our kids that edge but nurture! And the reason for that IQ lead is simply because we talk more to our eldest and give them more responsibilities.
Distinctions Between Pushing and Nurturing
Pushing is adult-directed.
Nurturing is child-directed.
Pushing centers on your interests.
Nurturing follows your child’s interest.
Pushing aims at a packaged curriculum.
Nurturing instills a love of learning and a quest for more knowledge by using real lessons
So think of a rubber band — your goal is always to gently stretch your child without snapping. Those are the kinds of expectations that work best for kids.
Just keep in mind that when it comes to gifted kids they may be the ones stretching themselves. Better yet, just give your child a box of rubber bands, stand back and watch your child’s creativity!