Notice the title of this article is “How to be a gifted parent”, not “How to bring up gifted children” – there is a great difference between the gifted child of nature and the nurtured gifted child.

Children who are naturally born exceptionally gifted are a rarity, and there is not much a parent has to do other than provide the means through which the child prodigy can display his/her talent. So if your child is the new Mozart, just buy him a pint sized piano – he won’t need piano lessons.

However, being a gifted parent entails providing stimulating environments for your child, so that you can find out what genuinely interests them. We all know that we can normally only be good at something we are interested in or enjoy – few of us are good at things we don’t like. The reason is simple – if you take time to practice something you will eventually become good at it – perhaps even an expert, but we won’t make the time if it’s a chore. Ian Thorpe would never have become a champion if he didn’t like the training required. The reason he has retired now, at the top of his game and at a young age is because he no longer enjoys getting up at five o’clock in the morning.
Children are the same.

So what can you do to help your pride and joy succeed at an early age?

As a baby:

• The universally accepted first thing to do is to read to the child as early as possible, and stimulate their interest by pointing out the pictures in an enthusiastic manner.

As a toddler

• Give them things to do, building blocks, junior Lego, old cereal packets, spoons, in fact all kinds of objects.
• Have a whiteboard, and encourage you child to use it. Have a special place for this, as I doubt your child will stop at the whiteboard!
• Teach your child the sounds of words:
• Show your child the joys of hitting a ball with a bat or racquet – you might have a Tiger Woods or Serena Williams on your hands. (but beware being an overbearing Mr. Woods or Mr. Williams – refer below)
• Don’t discourage a vivid imagination. Write down or record their stories to show you are really interested. Many a children’s classic book has come out of the thoughts of the children themselves.
• Encourage them to act out scenes of their own choosing. Can they act? Can they sing? Can they dance? Shirley Temple was doing all this at age 5!
• Allow your child to selectively watch T.V. – not mindless cartoons, but Playschool and Sesame Street type programs. But sit with them, so you can make comments, and answer any questions.
• Answer all their questions seriously, as they get more and more inquisitive Tell them why flies are yukky, why you mustn’t pull flowers out of the ground, but never discourage their curiosity about the new world they are suddenly finding out about.
• Don’t discourage failure. Perhaps the fault of getting something wrong lies with the parent, who has not explained something properly.

As you will no doubt realise, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does give some basic guidelines. Remember that the child will never learn anything at a greater rate than in these formative years, up to the age of five.

Another important thing to remember is not to be the parent from hell – driving your child to be the great sportsman, artist, musician that you never were, just so you can live vicariously through them. Don’t buy them a piano, when all they wanted was a bike!

And if after all this your child turns out to be a normal, well adjusted person, rejoice in it!

©Peter Phillips 2007

Author's Bio: 

Peter Phillips is an accountant living in Canberra, Australia