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Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Children by James R. Delisle, Prufrock Press, Waco, Texas, 2006, 213 pp.


We received this book in the mail, a gift from our school system’s “Advanced Program,” shortly after B completed extensive testing that qualified him for enrichment and advanced curriculum for his grade level. It followed a lengthy conversation with the program director about the opportunities available for him, the potential challenges of his curriculum, and the pros and cons of grade-skipping.

This book was given as an introduction to the meaning of the gifted label, both at home and at school. I have not done extensive reading on this topic, but this book seemed unique in that it approached the meaning of the term “gifted” as a way of seeing and experiencing the world, not only as an intellectual acuity. The first chapter cuts right to one of the most challenging issues: the perception that the gifted label implies “better than,” not simply “better at.” Gifted children and adults are better at learning new facts and concepts, perceiving connections and/or art, music or something else. They are not better than anyone else. Just like some people are better at sports or dance or art, some people are better at problem-solving , thinking and learning. It is a mistake to confuse “better at” with “better than,” both for gifted kids, gifted adults, parents, teachers, those who look at them with envy and those that look at them with disdain.

The book goes on to encourage parents of gifted children to be bold at embracing and encouraging the full pursuit of “better at,” and dispelling any notions of “better than.” Delisle talks through the common challenges of the educational system, the emotional issues of gifted children, the problem of expectations. In every chapter, he also includes the voices of gifted children and teens themselves, speaking directly to the issues he raises.

One of the most interesting things I learned from the book was in the second chapter, which talked about the intensities that come with a gifted IQ. Not only do I often describe B as “intense,” but many of the scenarios Delisle described also reflected my own childhood. He introduced the concept of “overexcitabilities,” (OEs), originally developed by Polish psychologist Michael Piechowski. These are ways in which those with higher IQ’s can experience the world “in ways that are more intense or vivid than most.” (34) They include psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional. The one that rung true for both me and for B (and I could see in my spouse too) was the intellectual overexcitability, described as a person who is “a minefield of exploding thoughts. It is someone who is curious, mentally alert even when relaxing, driven to absorb and understand any new idea, and someone who likes any type of intellectual challenge.” (38-39) Our family life is full of time spent challenging one another with some sort of “intellectual challenge,” sorting through a problem or pouring over new information in some way. We love that about each other, and recognize it is a bit unusual and often somewhat obsessive. In other words, over-excitable. What a gift to have language to describe that experience, and know we are not alone.

While I did not agree with everything Delisle said in his forthright and headstrong opinion, the book was a valuable tool to understand not only my son, but myself as well. It introduced the language the educational system will use, pointed to potential challenges and pitfalls, and offered reassurance. Most importantly, Delisle recognizes that each child, with or without a gifted label, will present his or her own challenges, and the best any parent can do is try to negotiate, support and love accordingly.

About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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