There are a lot of assumptions about gifted kids and their families; the same goes for bullies and the environments in which they’re raised.
What I’ve learned during the past 3.5 years is that most folks are too quick to judge.
A bully’s parent is no more guaranteed to be a jerk than I am of being a self-absorbed snob who puts my child on a pedestal.
While a primary goal for this blog is to dispel myths about giftedness, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this myth about bullies, too.
It’s important for me to share this because my son was shunned and bullied a lot the first half of elementary school. I didn’t talk about this often, but when I did, in addition to not being able to relate to it, most people’s knee-jerk reactions were to blame the bully’s parents.
Heck, the mother of one of my son’s biggest bullies said this before she realized I was referring to her child! After I explained what had been going on for several months, she apologized and said she hoped I didn’t think less of her. I told her I didn’t; that I could tell she was nice from when I’d met her at a class party.
This isn’t an isolated incident. In my experience, bullies often have nice parents – at least that’s the case when the child, who is the target, is gifted.
Another example is when I was walking home from the bus stop with my kids last school year. My daughter and I were about 30 feet ahead of my son and a former neighbor. He tried to make small talk with the girl about something he’d found and disassembled. (He wants to be an engineer.) He’d only gotten the first sentence out before she replied, “What do you want? An award?”
Again, this girl had a really nice mother. I feel certain her mom wasn’t modeling any such behavior that her daughter decided to emulate.
The fact of the matter is, even a lot of “nice kids” tend to think gifted kids are annoying – and they let them know it.
These social struggles are a big reason I call gifted children kite kids. Their uneven development and overexcitabilities can make them vulnerable and stand out.
That’s why parents of kids who aren’t typically ridiculed or left out, should discuss tolerance with their children – before it happens.
Parents can explain to their kids that, even if they don’t understand another child, they shouldn’t mock him. Nor is it okay to pretend another child isn’t there if that kid tries to strike up a conversation with them.
Ignoring another child may seem “less mean” somehow; however, it makes the child feel almost as bad as when someone is mocking him.
We aren’t required to like everyone, but we still should be cordial. This is an important life skill for everyone.
Parenting is never easy and, for nice parents, it can be disconcerting when they realize their child isn’t being friendly.
Thanks to all the moms and dads out there who strive to teach their kids kindness and tolerance.
For the most part, that’s the type of parenting I’ve seen. And I appreciate it.