Tag Archives: parent

“Parent Etiquette” During the High School and College Application Process

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA. She has extensive experience working with gifted students and supporting them through the high school and college application process.

Applying to high schools and colleges

In an attempt to be supportive and helpful, many parents are too involved in their child’s application process, doing much of the work themselves.

As the program coordinator for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, I have been fortunate to get to know, work with and be guided by the experiences and expertise of independent school, college and university admissions deans and directors throughout the United States. This blog is a composite of what I have learned from dialoguing with them.

Last April, a few weeks after sending the acceptance and rejection letters to college applicants, a dean of admissions at one of America’s most selective universities told me the following story:

“Two days after we announced our incoming freshman class, I received a reply from an applicant’s father. It was curt and written on his corporate letterhead: ‘You rejected my son, he’s devastated. See you in court.’ The very next day, I received another letter, but this time from the man’s son. It read: ‘Thank you for not admitting me. This is the best day of my life.’”

All threats aside, receiving a letter like this never warms the hearts of anyone in admissions. It is the consensus of admissions professionals from preschool through college that more and more, today’s parents are getting too involved in their child’s school admissions process – and not merely at the college level. High school and middle school admissions staff have expressed horror stories about parental actions and involvement so completely out of hand that it seems impossible and implausible for otherwise rational people to behave in such off-putting ways. And this behavior never serves the applicant in obtaining the desired positive outcome.

The increasingly bad “parent etiquette” that admissions officers are seeing right now comes from a confluence of several characteristics of our boomer generation: our sense of entitlement, our suspicion of authority and our bad habit of sometimes living too vicariously through our children. It all adds up to some pretty ugly parental behavior often played out in front of our children. A college admissions dean told me, “Today, parents call the admissions office more than the student applicants, often faxing us daily updates on their children’s lives or asking us to return an application already in process so the parent can double-check his/her child’s spelling.” A high school admissions counselor noted a parent who asked whether they should use their official letterhead when writing a letter of recommendation for their own child. It’s not unusual to know parents who openly write their kids’ essays and even attempt to attend their interviews. They make excuses for less than stellar grades or tout athletic promise as “Olympic team potential.”

Read Bonnie’s tips for being supportive and helpful, not over-involved, during the application process.

Is Grit More Important Than Intelligence?: How to Make Sure Our Children Have Both

By Mark Erlandson

Mark Erlandson, the parent of a gifted student who presently attends a boarding school out East, is a former lawyer and public high school English teacher from Wisconsin starting a new business as a legal writing consultant.

Grit versus intelligenceGrit. I’ll admit I didn’t have it. Twice now I have put this blog down and stopped writing because I felt uninspired and bored. Weeks have gone by, and too many times to count I have ignored that voice telling me the deadline was approaching and I needed to get finished. So how essential is grit to success, and more importantly, how do we teach our children to get it?

“Grit,” otherwise known as persistence or determination, is currently a passion (some would call it a fad) in certain educational circles today. Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, is a leading advocate of the importance of tenacity in life. Watch her TED Talk here for a fascinating explanation of the results of her research in the area. Basically, she concludes, based, among other things, on her research of West Point graduates and National Spelling Bee contestants, that what correlates with success most is grit, not intelligence. Similarly, in the area of gifted students, the most famous study, conducted by University of Connecticut psychologist Joseph Renzuli, director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, concluded that “task commitment,” together with ability and creativity, was, indeed, one of the three essential components of giftedness.

Read more about grit and intelligence!

Becoming Anything You Want to Be: Career Exploration for Gifted Students

By Mark Erlandson

Mark Erlandson, the parent of a gifted student who presently attends a boarding school out East, is a former lawyer and public high school English teacher from Wisconsin starting a new business as a legal writing consultant.

Career exploration for gifted students

An IEA Apprentice does lab work during her experience learning about a career in cancer research.

“You can be anything you want to be” is a cliche we all will probably tell, or have already told, our children at some time in their lives. For the gifted child, this statement may be closer to the truth. But having too many skills and abilities and multiple interests can be overwhelming, and what exactly does “anything” mean? How do we help the gifted student to understand what the “anything” is and to find the right career match?

To begin, two caveats: technological innovation and economic globalization have brought about swift change to the practice and outlook of many occupations and will continue to do so. Therefore, the goal of much early career planning should be to explore and understand the nature and variety of work available, not to choose a specific career. At most, paint in broad strokes and identify career areas that a child may want to enter.

Second, children’s interests often change as they mature. What once lit that flame of enthusiasm in 8th grade may have diminished by junior year of high school. That is natural. Expect your child’s passions to ebb and flow as he or she ages, becoming exposed to and participating in life’s experiences and learning more about themselves.

Read Mark’s advice for helping gifted students explore career options!

Fathering a Gifted Child

By Jennifer de la Haye

“Dad, I love you, but I’m sick of all your dumb ideas today.”

Meet Soren, my four-year-old nephew whose favorite philosopher is Alvin Plantinga, who concocts impromptu flash fiction, who composes songs to sing to his baby brother, who creates elaborate yet surprisingly practical Lego inventions, and whose father has carefully engaged him since he was old enough to poop.

Fathers-day-gifted

When my brother, Louis, learned of his wife’s pregnancy, he immediately gasped, “But I haven’t solved the problem of education in America yet!” Like most parents who feel unready, unprepared, and unequipped to introduce a tiny new human into our intricate, flawed world, he dove right in: he reads to Soren about theology, he reads countless children’s stories, he reads the Bible, he reads Plato, he talks to him about ideas, and most importantly, he engages with Soren’s thoughts and questions, no matter how exhausted or busy or emotionally drained he feels.

Read more about Louis and Soren!

Gifted and Nongifted Siblings: How Conventional Wisdom is Wrong

By Mark Erlandson

Mark Erlandson, the parent of a gifted student who presently attends a boarding school out East, is a former lawyer and public high school English teacher from Wisconsin starting a new business as a legal writing consultant.

Gifted and nongifted siblingsOne of the problems with “conventional wisdom” is that it is often wrong. Remember the one about how the earth is flat? No? How about how you shouldn’t swim for an hour after eating because you would get cramps? Which brings us to the topic of today’s blog: the conventional wisdom that the nongifted sibling(s) of a gifted brother or sister suffers because of the relationship: the gifted child gets more attention from parents, teachers and relatives or gets more resources, or just the inevitable rivalry and competition that occurs between siblings in a situation where the nongifted sibling(s) will feel inferior and thus less happy.

The problem with this conventional wisdom about gifted and nongifted siblings is the research says it is just not true. Perhaps the largest study was conducted back in the 1990’s by Diana L. Chamrad and Nancy M. Robinson, PhD, and reported in the Gifted Child Quarterly. They studied 378 sibling pairs, ages eight to 13, where one sibling was gifted and the other was not. The authors expected to find that “the nongifted siblings were more anxious and depressed, that they were poorer students (relative to their ability), and that they thought less well of themselves and were negatively disposed toward their brother or sister.” Instead, the study concluded that “it is actually, if anything, an advantage to be the brother or sister of a gifted child!” [Emphasis in original.] Some of these benefits were decreased anxiety in younger children with an older gifted sibling, gifted children viewing their siblings in a more positive light than nongifted children do, and more positive sibling relationships for both when one was gifted and one was not than if neither sibling were. A study conducted in Israel and reported in the December 2009 issue of Gifted and Talented International found a similar lack of negative consequences.

Read more about gifted and nongifted siblings.

A Supportive Mother for a Gifted Kid

By Jennifer Kennedy

Before joining IEA, Jennifer was a kid who understood little of her own giftedness. Now she works as IEA’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator to help other highly able kids and their families understand what it means to be gifted while providing the information they need to find the programs and people to support them.

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

My mom has been there for me from the moment I came into this world, and I have always appreciated everything she has done for me. Lately, though, I’ve begun to see how different my life might have been had my upbringing lacked certain values my mom implemented – things that made her a good mother to a gifted child.

My mom nurtured my gifts and my passions. She knew I was smart, so she challenged me intellectually. She knew I was driven, so she supported me without heaping more pressure on top of the pressure I placed on myself. Before either of us had encountered the term “whole child,” my mom encouraged me to grow in all aspects of self.

She challenged me intellectually. Knowing I loved reading and was a strong reader, she encouraged me to read above-grade-level books. When I was learning about something in school, she would take me to museums to see the subject first-hand, demonstrating that there is knowledge to be gained beyond the textbook. When it came time to choose my own classes in school, she encouraged me to take the advanced classes, and she accepted my less-than-perfect grades when I challenged myself and faced the demands of a difficult course. She taught me that, no matter how smart I was or how well I did in school, there was always so much more to learn.

She challenged me physically, encouraging me to try a variety of sports and physical activities outside of school until I found my niche. And, when I found what I really liked—dance—she encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself, both physically and creatively.

She supported me socially and emotionally, as well. I always knew I was different, and although I participated in a GATE pull-out program once a week, no one in my life understood that the intrinsic intelligence of a gifted child is usually coupled with other characteristics such as overexcitabilities. It took a lot of patience, understanding, love, and acceptance to deal with my emotional outbursts over ostensibly benign incidents. It also took an insightful mother to realize that dance had become vital to my social life as it allowed me to build relationships with older kids who understood me intellectually and younger kids whom I could take under my wing.

After years of guidance, when the time came for me to lead, my mother followed. She embraced my decision to dance—despite not liking dance herself—even when it meant giving up other things she thought were important. She let me lead my college search, which took me much farther from home than she would have liked. She watched me trek through Europe for a semester without her. She supported my decision to choose a more creative field—communications—over a more practical one (both my parents are accountants).

Without all of this support from my mother, I don’t know what would have happened. Every day, I hear stories of gifted kids who fall through the cracks because they are bored, unchallenged, and misunderstood, and it breaks my heart. If my mother hadn’t instinctually understood that my “whole self” needed support, I might have become one of those unfortunate children.

Thank you to all of the moms who do everything they can to support their gifted children while protecting them from slipping through the cracks. You make a huge difference in your child’s life each and every day. Happy Mother’s Day.

A 16 Year Old’s Guide to Colleges

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Be sure to check out the first part of Lisa’s college road trip journey!

ElonWe were 5 minutes into the student-led tour and I knew the school wasn’t the right place for my son. Our guide led us down the hallway of a beautiful colonial building. The walls were lined with cork board and sheets of brightly colored paper framing announcements and pictures of professors and administrators. “No, no, no,” I thought. “He’s going to hate this.”

I was trying to think like a 16 year old boy, or at least, my 16 year old boy. I had promised myself that I would allow him to set his own criteria when evaluating colleges. I admired how he navigated class selection, extracurricular activities and the work/life balance in his high school. I would not substitute my values for his now that he was looking for a college. So I tried to see the college through my son’s eyes.

It turns out that I was right—he hated the school. While the environment looked warm and nurturing to me, he felt smothered by the level of support suggested by the cheerfully decorated hallway and confirmed by our tour guide. We made a hasty exit at the tour’s end, skipping the information session and catching an earlier train to New York City. On the way out, my son said that he was really glad we made the trip. “I didn’t know if I would recognize a bad fit if I saw one. Now I know. I can trust my instincts.”

Thus began my son’s search for a methodology to assess the colleges we were visiting. What follows are his indicators of college excellence:

1. Personal Freedom

My son is on a quest for autonomy. He wants support at college to be available and encouraged, but not conspicuous. He disapproves of schools with multiple student committees tasked to help freshmen with everything from writing to public speaking skills. If he wants help, he will ask his professor. Jesuit priests in your dorm? Minus 5 points. A campus policy that encourages students to ask professors to lunch and gives them the funds to do it? Plus 10 points.
See what other factors were important to Lisa’s son!