Emotional support vital for gifted kids to succeed

KNOWING that your child is gifted is only the beginning of an arduous journey to help the child fulfil his potential ("Gifted children, a mother's heartache" by Dr Lee Siew Peng; yesterday).

I am the father of a child who was in the Gifted Education Programme, and it has been a challenging but satisfying journey.

Parents of precocious children should arm themselves with the appropriate knowledge and skills to guide and coach their children to be well-balanced individuals.

Do not leave it to schools and teachers to undertake this important responsibility, as their primary objective is to develop the academic and mental abilities of such students.

Our role as parents is to help them become "normal" children who are able to play, make mistakes, socialise, work hard and aspire to live out their dreams based on their strengths and passions.

Often, without proper parental and school discipline, these children face unresolved disciplinary issues, which can negatively impact their future.

Statistics have shown that gifted children can end up as underachievers, failing to realise their potential and talents.

In my son's cohort, now waiting to start university, several have still not discovered their passions, or have lost the motivation to achieve.

An extensive British study found that out of 210 gifted children followed into later life, only 3 per cent were found to be fulfilling their early promise.

Many of those who failed to excel were, in some cases, robbed of their childhood, the study found.

They faced severe pressure to meet the expectations of their parents and teachers, and when unable to share and communicate their feelings about their difficulties, they slowly gave up on performing at their best.

Parental support and understanding are critical for the child to do well in later years. Every child needs to feel loved by his parents for the person he is and not for the giftedness he possesses.

In our competitive education system, these children are seen as high achievers who can excel in anything that is given to them, and they are expected to rise to extreme challenges easily. In fact, the reverse is true.

The inability to understand and communicate their feelings and insecurities does not mean they are coping well. What they need more is a greater degree of care, guidance, discipline and empathy from us.

And as they grow older, giftedness becomes less relevant. Instead, their passions, strengths and aspirations become more important and critical to their success.

Frankie Mao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'Emotional support vital for gifted kids to succeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe