One More Reason to Send Kids to Traditional Summer Camp

Summer camp enrollment season is gearing up and the choices run the gamut from music to technology to traditional. Those who are able to ship their kids off for a week or more during the summer may want to maximize their investment by choosing a camp with an intellectual component. Yet there is hidden value in the easy-going routine of traditional camp.

Choices bombard adults these days. From what to wear, to what to eat, what to buy and how to spend our time, we spend a huge amount of mental and emotional energy trying to make the right choices every hour of every day. In our quest to respect our children’s individuality and help them follow their hearts, we have extended the superabundance of choices to our children. Day in and day out they make decisions that affect not only their direct lives but those of their parents. We give them the power to choose or at least strongly influence everything from what the family will have for dinner to where they will go for vacation. At a certain point, as pointed out by Barry Schwartz in, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, all this freedom can become stressful and negatively impact quality of life. The pressure to make the right decision can detract from the joy of being able to choose. The plethora of choices we face on a daily basis can cause us to feel stressed, dissatisfied, and anxious.

This is where traditional camps come in. Traditional camps can give kids a break from the strain of daily choices. Summer camps have a nice routine and a decided lack of choices. Clothing choices are limited to what was packed before they left for camp. Meals are at very specific times and frequently filled with structure and tradition. Food choices are all but non-existent. While campers can choose whether they will eat, the kitchen doesn’t give them the option of choosing dishes they may like better. Crafts, swim times, and campfires unfold on a schedule designed to accommodate different ages and cabin groups and there it little burden of choice on individual campers. Add to this the fact that most traditional camps ban electronics and old-fashioned camps become one of the few places modern kids can experience true mental calmness.

When considering camp options this summer remember that more is not always better. Take a good look at camps with fewer activity choices, especially those in rustic, natural settings. These traditional camps may offer the best experience for kids that, whether they realize it or not, need a break for their stressful, choice-filled worlds.

Parenting for the Zombie Apocalypse

School is cancelled for the third time this trimester due to extreme cold. Today’s bonus time with the kids has given me an opportunity to reflect on how my parenting philosophy and style has evolved over the last decade. When the kids were little, I sweated the small stuff. I wanted to make sure they felt special and were on time, prepared, and neatly dressed for the carefully selected enrichment activities that filled our weeks.

Now, I’m just focused on trying to prepare them for the upcoming zombie apocalypse or adulthood. Whichever comes first, I figure we are covered either way. To that end, I’m trying to impart in them self-sufficiency, resilience, and guile. As we go through our days, weeks, and years, I am trying to mentally move beyond the day-to-day and as challenges arise, figure out what they can learn from the challenge that will help them to ultimately survive the zombie apocalypse (the ZA), or again, thrive in adulthood.

To that end, here are some parenting guidelines:

  • Acknowledge and appreciate birthdays, don’t try to make them special. In the upcoming ZA, no one is going to have the time or resources to give them an amazing birthday celebration every year. They will be happier in the long run if they don’t expect to be wow’d on their birthday.
  • Authority and rules matter. If you are going to break them, consider it carefully and be prepared to take the heat and defend your actions. Chain of command, expectations, and rules will keep their group alive during the ZA (or again, in the work world). Any deviation from these must be carefully weighed because there will be consequences. During the ZA, helicopter parenting will not save them from their poor choices.
  • Everyone needs to understand nutrition, be able to politely eat food they hate, and be able to cook. Our kitchen is not a restaurant. If they don’t like what is for dinner, they are to keep it to themselves. I gave them cookbooks for Christmas, if they want to eat food they like, they should learn to cook. Who know what food will be available during the ZA or if they might need to impress a boss or international client over some kind of disgusting meal. Being able to eat food you hate without visibly gagging is a life skill.
  • Everyone does their own laundry. Don’t have clothes you need for school or the presentation? Too bad, you know how those machines work. This is the easy to teach, just stop doing their laundry and watch them rise to the challenge. Again, a life skill that granted, will probably be more important if the ZA does not actually come to pass.
  • Learn how to fail. Today’s parents frequently skip over teaching the kids how to fail. They instead focus on preventing failures or rescuing kids from their failures. Many kids never learn how to fail. They need to know how to handle a failure, work through it, learn lessons from it, and move on. Kids need experience with failure and how to survive it to know they are capable of handling the inevitable setbacks during the ZA, and/or adulthood.
  • Friends matter. Taking the time to make and nurture good friendships is as important as doing well in school. When you are MaGyvering the creative attack on the zombie’s stronghold, you will need your friends to watch your back. Friends are also essential for celebrating life’s victories and mourning life’s loses. Being there for a friend is one of the great joys in life.

Know that the assignment due tomorrow that hasn’t been started, the messed up piece during the recital, the “A” in science, and the “F” in history are not important. What is important is what is learned from those successes and challenges. Learning to make the most of opportunities presented, make your own opportunities, and move forward, even in the face of failure, is what matters. Successes and disappointments all create emotional, intellectual, and physical responses. When parenting for the zombie apocalypse, take the long-range view that you are shaping responses, building habits which will guide them in the future. Today doesn’t matter.

Oh and fire, everyone should know how to build a fire.

The Perfectionist Shuffle

We have some young, high-strung perfectionists in our house. I don’t want to get into any judgement call about whether nature or nurture is to blame. They are our biological children and one way or another we are probably the culprits.

This tendency to always want to be right and to always perform at a superior level can make it difficult to learn and do new things. True learning involves failure. Initial attempts are usually messy and ugly. Admitting that something is confusing and knowing that merely following directions will not, in and of itself, create a beautiful essay, an elegant art project, or a masterfully played piano piece, creates issues.

Like many highly gifted students, early learning of the basics wasn’t much of a challenge. They are still developing the mental and emotional muscles they will need throughout their lives to persevere in the face of difficulty and unexpected setbacks. Gumption and tenacity are increasingly important in the work world as well as in life. When they head out into the job market they will enter an economy that is ever shifting. An economy where jobs and companies are constantly changing and their individual success will depend on their ability to welcome new challenges with positive energy and hard work.

They aren’t quite there yet.

Right now, many new and seemingly difficult homework assignments and tasks are greeted with what I’ve taken to thinking of as the perfectionist shuffle. First, there is the avoidance prelude. During this time, they try to pretend the assignment doesn’t exist. They hide in the world of books or waste time on the Internet, without having even read through the assignment.

When they can avoid no longer, usually due to parental intervention, they then start the excuse sidestep. Offered reasons for failing to begin the assignment will range from, not having enough time, to not having the correct materials, to being too hungry to think, to needing “a break” before they get down to work. Once they exhaust their list and it slowly dawns on them that they have to start working on the new, seemingly impossible task, we begin the exciting part of the perfectionist shuffle, the angst whirl. At its peak, if the project seems particularly daunting to them, the next couple hours include Insecurity, arguing, crying and carrying on about how they can’t do it, don’t know how to do it, shouldn’t have to do it, etc. It is exhausting. Amazingly enough, once they have tried all alternative routes, are emotionally spent, and there is no other path save forward, they usually settle down, dig into the task, and do a decent job.

Although it serves an emotional purpose, perhaps helping the kids cope with uncertainty, the perfectionist shuffle is not going to help them in the long run and is not fun for anyone within hearing distance in the short run. Being able to intellectually understand the difference between high quality work and mediocre work has its downside. It can make trying something new seem pointless. The fact that all the world’s experts were beginners at one point is easy to understand but difficult to internalize emotionally. We are trying to help them understand that lack of success after a solid attempt is not the worst outcome. That confronting every new challenge with an emotional firestorm is far worse than just learning to put in a good effort and see what happens. That if they can develop and maintain a positive resilience, success will find them.

Lean In for Gifted Girls

I just finished reading Lean In, the much talked about book by Sheryl Sandberg. In it she makes the point that women need to put more into their careers. That while women are outpacing men in educational achievements and taking more of the entry-level jobs, men still run the world. The book is heavy on statistics that are all carefully footnoted. While women earn 60% of the masters degrees in the United States, these highly educated women steadily drop out of the workforce in the years after graduation. This is especially true of highly educated women with children. Permanently dropping out of the work force hurts women’s long-term economic stability. It curtails their independence and may even be a contributing factor in lower self-esteem and depression. While the book was directed at women, the information is perhaps more valuable for those of us raising gifted girls. How can we set them up for fuller, more fulfilling lives? Should we put more emphasis on giving them the skills they will need for life after school, rather than just focusing on their academic careers?

Girls are different from boys. They are, on average, more concerned with following rules, pleasing people, and not hurting other’s feelings. They generally mature earlier and act more responsible at a younger age than boys. This tendency to compliantly follow adult directions makes girls easier to live with (most of the time) at home and creates a more studious, “teachable” student body in our educational institutions. Throughout their education, we reward girls for their hard work and positive, conforming attitudes. However, once they enter into the work world, different criteria govern who gets promotions and power. Businesses reward innovation, ambition, and results. Aggressively pursuing opportunities leads to rewards. However, women and girls generally do not want to appear ruthlessly ambitious. They fear (consciously or subconsciously) that if they really put themselves out there, promoting themselves, networking, and striving, they will be viewed less positively and this likeability hit will hurt their careers. Research shows they are correct. Our society wants men to be decisive, driven providers and women to be communal, sensitive caregivers. Women who “act like men” are less liked and this negatively affects their career trajectory.

So what do we tell our hard-working, ambitious daughters? How do we raise them to succeed not only in school but in the work world?

I am beginning to believe we as parents and teachers must start by giving up some of the benefits we get from having nice, compliant girls. My own personal experience is that my daughter tries hard to follow both spoken and unspoken rules. She frequently makes the extra effort to please teachers, yet is very reluctant to call attention to her achievements. My sons on the other hand are naturals at self-promotion. They also take the edict that it is far better to ask for forgiveness than permission one step further by adding in the caveat that neither is necessary if you avoid getting caught or can put the proper spin on your transgression. These different approaches often have my daughter complaining that “it” isn’t fair. That the boys get to do more without getting in trouble and that they don’t put in as much work at school or at home. She has a point and we do try to monitor the boys to make sure they are putting in the same effort to get the same rewards as our daughter. After reading “Lean In” though, I’m starting to wonder if this approach will actually help her in the long run.

Yes, the boys need more monitoring and it is our job to encourage them to be more thoughtful, diligent, and hardworking. On the other hand, our daughter may need a different message. Perhaps we should stop giving girls the idea that the way to get their efforts appreciated is to level the playing field and make things more fair by complaining to the local authorities. Title IX only applies to educational institutions, not the business world. Career opportunities are not automatically equal for men and women. Absent overt discrimination, positions are open to everyone, male or female but men end up in the executive suite far more often than women. Males generally approach the world differently and this can lead to more success for them in the work world. Our daughters need to know that being good workers and nice people will not automatically give them the careers they want. In addition they need to build their self-confidence, knowledge, and social work skills. We need to raise daughters that are a bit more of a pain. Ones that follow their own passions instead of our suggestions. Ones that are more interested in being themselves than in being liked by everyone. Ones that are willing to take chances and break some rules because they understand that their worth does not depend on always being good. Ones that are comfortable taking a seat at the table because they know they have a great deal to contribute. We need to become much more accepting and tolerant of noisy girls that speak even when they are not spoken to and shout out answers without raising their hands.

Well-behaved women seldom make history — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

We must encourage our girls to follow their own interests even when it means ignoring our suggestions. We should go beyond tolerating their arguing and teach them how to become more effective in advocating their positions.

In general, girls have less professional ambition than boys. While some of this may be due to innate biological differences between boys and girls, even in our enlightened times we are still raising them differently with different messages. Boys get the message that when they grow up they will be full-time, ambitious providers. Girls get the message that while they should do well in school and start a career, it is at least equally important for them to be supportive of their boyfriends, husbands, and children. That if they are too career oriented, their family may suffer. While society sometimes questions whether a mother who takes a big promotion may be hurting her family, the same is virtually never true of fathers.

Ambitious girls are labeled as bossy instead of what they actually are, naturally driven leaders. We need to do a better job of helping our girls develop these emerging managerial skills. Instead of telling our girls to “be nice” we should teach them how to lead so that others will want to follow.

Knowledge is power and our girls need to know:

  • That on average men apply for jobs if they feel they meet 60% of the requirements while women only apply if they think they meet 100% of the requirements. Our girls need to understand that this desire to cross the T’s and dot the I’s is a false strategy designed to avoid rejection and holds women back. We should encourage our girls to put themselves out there and teach them that rejection is not the same as failure. And failure isn’t that bad anyways.
  • Effective ways for girls and women to negotiate. While women who tout their own achievements take a likeability hit compared to men who do the same, there are techniques to get around this. If women are negotiating for a higher starting salary, a raise, or other benefits, they can minimize negative blowback by “thinking personally and acting communally.” Men who fail to negotiate are viewed as weak, pushovers yet women need to provide a legitimate explanation for their negotiations. That explanation is frequently received more positively if it ties into positive societal stereotypes of women. For example, if women start negotiations by explaining that they know women often get paid less than men, in part, because men are more likely to reject initial offers and that this knowledge is why they are negotiating, the women position themselves as more communal and less selfish. Requests from women are also viewed more favorably if they say a senior person encouraged them to negotiate or that their negotiations are inspired by objective, industry standards. Until and unless society changes and starts to view aggressive women as positively as it views aggressive men, our daughters need the inside information on how effectively propel their careers forward while still appearing “appropriately” female.
  • How and why to work together. Frequently girls, especially in the middle school years, setup a social hierarchy where girls actively put other girls down to build themselves up. They are too concerned about popularity and boys and they view the social scene as a zero-sum game. This attitude too often stays with them as they enter the work world. Yet one of the most effective ways for women to advance their careers is to have their achievements and skills endorsed by others. Girls need to get in the habit of banding together and speaking positively about each other. We should coach them on how to call attention to each other’s ideas and achievements. By becoming effective promoters for each other they can learn at an early age how to make sure their accomplishments are known without appearing unseemingly “cocky” for a female.
  • That they should approach their education, networking, and initial jobs as if they will have a full and fulfilling life-long career. They should not question whether their work and career choices will fit with a later decision to have a family. When women doubt their ability to combine work and family before they even have a baby, they avoid advancements and assignments that will give them more money, power, and flexibility — items that can make a huge difference when they later need to combine work and family.
  • That there is currently a false “competition” between stay-at-home moms and career moms. The reality is that more and more women, and a few men, move back and forth between work and home, spending more time with their families when that need is greater and spending more hours on their career when it is best for them and their families. Our daughters can succeed where adult women have failed. They should grow up expecting to work together and stay connected no matter whether they are going through a period of full-time office work, full-time at-home work, or something in-between. Guilt over not being with the kids enough or not being at work enough need to stop influencing how mothers view each others’ choices. Families and careers go through phases and one or the other will, at times, demand more attention. Girls should learn the importance of supporting and helping each other, especially during transitions into or out of the work force.

Those of you who are raising boys aren’t off the hook either. Even if your home follows the statistical pattern of mom spending more hours on cleaning and childcare than dad, explain to your son that the world is changing. Teach him how to clean and cook tell him that as an adult, he will be just as responsible for the household chores as his wife. We should talk with our boys about work/life balance. “How do you plan to juggle it all?” should not just be something for girls to ponder. In fact, we can start changing the conversation today. Start ask the men you work with who have young children, “How to you do it all?”

Peer Pressure Rules

Peer pressure has gotten a bad rap. When we think about peer pressure, we focus almost exclusively on the detrimental effects of negative peer pressure. We have forgotten that peer pressure is also one of the strongest shapers of positive social and academic behavior. As adults we use it to push ourselves to the next level. From workout buddies to peer-reviewed academic journals, peer pressure is a powerful motivating tool.

Over the weekend my sons were playing Minecraft with some friends and one child decided to destroy structures built by the others. The peer pressure correction was swift. The other kids worked together first to disable his character by “killing” him then, when that didn’t work, they banned him from the server for a week. The peer pressure and consequences for his anti-social behavior were swift, effective, and temporary. His friends even comforted him after the banning. They reminded him it was for a short period of time and let him know that although they understood how much fun it is to blow things up in Minecraft, he needed to restrain himself if he wanted to play with them.

Navigating peer group rules develops executive function. it also teaches children how to behave in society in a way that is difficult for adults to mimic. As children get older, their view of themselves and their place in the world is increasingly defined by how they see themselves in their peer groups. Are they the clown, the smart one, the loner, or are they lucky enough to have a peer group that allows them to be a multidimensional, complete person?

While we cannot choose their friends, we can stack the deck in favor of more positive peer interactions by getting our children into academic and extracurricular programs that emphasize acceptance, hard work, respect, and kindness. One of the huge benefits of getting your child into “the good” school is not the staff or facilities. It is the other students. Surround your child with high achievers that value academics and your child will study more to fit in.

Finding a positive peer group is especially important for highly and exceptionally gifted children. These children are capable of academic achievements above and beyond average kids their age and it is their intellectual peers that will pull them to excel. Of course, it is important to help your child find their true peers. If your 15-year-old is working on cancer research, then his intellectual peers are not regular 8th and 9th graders. Yet it isn’t all about academics. Gifted children’s sometimes volatile passion and asynchronous development can make it difficult for them to feel fully comfortable in a regular, age-mate peer group. By giving them opportunities to develop friendships with gifted children of various ages, they are more fully understood and accepted.

Here are some rules for evaluating positive peer pressure.

  1. The pressure is focused on modifying behavior, not changing the person. In other words, the uniqueness of each individual in the group is valued and accepted.
  2. The group applies pressure consistently and even-handedly to all members of the peer group without one child being relentlessly singled out.
  3. The consequences for failing the peer group’s expectations are temporary and not emotionally or physically scarring.
  4. The pressure and resulting consequences are not acted out publicly. There is no record of it on Facebook, YouTube, other social media, or the Internet in general.
  5. The peer group moves on and past mistakes are forgiven and forgotten.
  6. You, as a parent, agree with the values and goals the peer group emphases.

The right kind of peer pressure encourages all of us to push ourselves harder than we would otherwise and helps us reach new goals. One of the most important jobs for parents of gifted kids is making sure they are surrounded by helpful peer groups. Then we can sit back and let the positive pressure do its magic.

I am tired and crabby

and have low frustration tolerance.

Anyone who lives with highly, exceptionally, or profoundly gifted children has at least a passing familiarity with Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. Regardless of whether they have ever heard of Dabrowski, they know that their children are frequently more intense, more sensitive, and more prone to meltdowns than other kids.

There are five documented forms of overexcitabilities in gifted children: psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. Various books from Living with Intensity to A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children have covered these intensities in detail. Not all children will have all of these but the more gifted a child is, the more likely it is that she or he will have energy, sensations, thoughts, and emotions that are just more than the average child. The intensities of the gifted child are part of his or her natural wiring. It is not something they grow out of as they grow older. We probably shouldn’t even call them overexcitabilities because that implies that gifted children are more excitable than they should be. Extra-excitability even superior-excitability would be a less derogatory way of labeling these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Gifted children need to learn to manage and thrive with their intensities. As parents and educators we need to help them on this journey.

Even when gifted children reach an age where they have the self-control to avoid a public scene, they still have the internal stress of their high energy, strong passions, and intense emotions. Add in some perfectionism, sibling annoyances, and lack of sleep and this stress can bubble over in the safety of home, creating crying fits, screaming matches, and hurt feelings. Because young gifted children do not realize that they are naturally more sensitive and more intense, they may have a tendency to blame others for their distress. If they are not blaming others, they may turn the negativity inward which can be even more destructive.

We need to help gifted children recognize their intensities. Unless they are reading up on raising gifted kids, behind our backs, they probably do not realize that they may be experiencing more than their friends and classmates. They also may not know that being tired, hungry, or emotionally exhausted makes their usual intensities more challenging. By understanding what it feels like when they are almost overwhelmed, they can learn to proactively engage in self care. While the world may not rearrange itself to cater to their sensitivities, gifted children can, on their own, take actions before things spiral out of control. They may need more sleep, better quality and more frequent snacks, and more regular exercise than the average child. They may also need to have quiet downtime when they can relax and reflect on their worlds. When adults recognize and validate this, gifted children can address their needs in a positive manner. Knowing that you are tired and crabby and can do something about it, is empowering.

 

Crime, Punishment, and the Gifted Child

One aspect of gifted parenting that I’m sure we are getting wrong as much as we are getting right is disciple and consequences. Highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted children operate at levels high above what is typical for their age in both their performance, and their ability to analyze situations. They also can be exceptionally volatile, extremely sensitive (especially if they are low on fuel or sleep), and typically they have asynchronous development.

From a parenting perspective this means that an older elementary school child may expect to be treated as an adult (or at least like the much older students who are his or her intellectual peers), may feel the deep moral injustices of the world (especially his or her world), may be able to negotiate and argue on the level of an average adult, and yet still throws temper tantrums that would put the average two-year-old to shame.

One of our chief jobs as parents is to prepare our children emotionally, intellectually, and morally to thrive in the world as adults. We need to guide them in learning good habits and help them understand that negative behaviors have unpleasant consequences. We also need them to realize that these consequences aren’t the end of the world. That throughout life, they will, at times, screw up and they will have to face the music. They need to learn to bounce back. Resilience and maintaining a positive attitude, despite things not working out the way you had hoped, are important for both career success and overall happiness.

Children who never have to deal with consequences for their actions, miss out on learning how to move forward after a setback. This is one of the tragedies of helicopter parenting. When we swoop in to save our kids, we cheat them out of learning how to survive and thrive in a world which is not always supportive and forgiving.

On the other end of the spectrum, if they feel a punishment is too severe, they can enter into an over-stressed catastrophizing mode where not only do they not learn the behavioral lesson you are trying to teach, they may fight more, shut down, or become depressed.

The tricky part from the parenting perspective is how to gauge what is an appropriate consequence for a highly sensitive child who is misbehaving. Especially if that child has intellectual ability and emotional control with a multi-year developmental difference. Do you punish them as you would a 3-year-old who exhibits the same behavior or like the 22-year-old who can understand the societal and moral reasons why their behavior is inappropriate?

As parents we rarely get it right. We vacillate from consequences that are so minor the kids fail to learn and change their future behavior to consequences that unexpectedly cause an over-the-top, crippling, emotional reaction. When either one of these happen we, as parents, have to learn and adjust. Consequences that were too weak are increased on the next infraction. Consequences that were too sever demand that we spend extra time working with our children — talking with them, one-on-one to help them put the consequences in context and develop resilience so they can move on. We sometimes need to help them understand that although their superior debating abilities will not make their parents change their minds (at least not most of the time), tomorrow is another day.

 

Moms of Highly Gifted Face Steep Work Off-Ramp

The CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, just abolished Yahoo’s work-at-home policy. This bold move to kill workplace flexibly will disproportionately affect employees who have primary caretaker responsibilities for aging parents and/or young children. Employees were ordered to start working in the office in an attempt to save Yahoo through better collaboration and increased innovation. While employees can be very productive working at home, they need face-to-face interactions and chance meetings at the workplace in order to find synergies and maximize creativity.

Ms. Mayer is taking heat for her decision because it was assumed that as a young working mother she would make the workplace, if anything, more friendly to the needs of working parents, not less. Instead, she is putting the needs, as she perceives them, of Yahoo, ahead of the needs of employees that, due to family obligations, require flexibility in their work life. Since the job of both raising children and taking care of aging parents falls disproportionately to women, this decision will have the greatest effect on Yahoo’s female workers. While it may well be the correct decision for Yahoo’s bottom line, it is further evidence that is very difficult for women to have it all.  As convincingly analyzed last July by Anne-Marie Slaughter of The Atlantic Monthly, women who manage to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. Given that Ms. Mayer became CEO of Yahoo at age 37 when pregnant with her first child, it is a good bet she is the first two.

So what does this all have to do with gifted kids?

The parents, especially the mothers of gifted children, especially highly and profoundly gifted children take an especially hard hit in the work-life balancing act. More often than not, they are the primary caregivers and it falls to them to figure it out when normal environments don’t work for their high-energy, asynchronous, and possibly perfectionistic, highly volatile child. This inability for highly and profoundly gifted kids to thrive or even fit, in regular childhood environments can start in daycare, long before official schooling. The rhythm of daycare with carefully scheduled, age-appropriate, group activities and rules can be exactly the opposite of what an insatiable learner needs. When the child’s needs aren’t being met, behavior problems frequently occur. The primary parent starts getting comments at pickup times, notes home, and calls about her child’s misconduct. These can continue into elementary school. When the environment isn’t right for a significantly gifted child, both that child and the primary care giver suffer. The dread of the next phone call or note home, along with the knowledge that your curious, creative, learner is becoming disengaged and miserable, frequently sparks a search for a more appropriate childcare and/or schooling environment.

When regular daycare and school doesn’t work for significantly gifted children, there are three standard solutions — working with the school to increase engagement and opportunities for your child, putting your child in a school for gifted children, and homeschooling. Oftentimes parents do all three of these, sometimes at the same time. One truism when raising significantly gifted children is that school environments and challenges must be evaluated on an almost yearly basis. Again, all of this takes research, work, and time. Lots of time. Time to find the right programs, each year. Time to get your child enrolled (which may also include convincing the administration that your young child is actually capable of doing the work), time to drive your child to specialized programs which are rarely in the local school district. This time burden increases when we add in the high-strung, perfectionism in many gifted kids that causes meltdowns, even for seemingly simple tasks.

All of this makes it very difficult for parents of significantly gifted kids, even in two parent households, to both work demanding, professional jobs. If one parent holds a job in a non-flexible work environment, such as the new Yahoo, the other parent is the full-time driver, teacher/teacher liaison, and emotional coach for the gifted child. More often than not, this job falls to the mother who then puts her career desires aside. In the world of giftedness, from meeting of gifted homeschoolers to SENG conferences, the rooms are filled with mothers, not fathers. Mothers sacrificing their careers, financial autonomy, and perhaps, their personal aspirations to instead focus on their children’s needs. The mothers of significantly gifted kids are usually highly gifted, innovative thinkers themselves. Our nation misses out when they are unable to fully participate in business, industry, and government.

While CEOs such as Ms. Mayer may be correct that businesses benefit when workers can talk, face-to-face, that does not mean that flexibility needs to be completely eliminated. We as a society can get more creative. Some companies have experimented with core hours — 4 to 5 specific hours in the day when all workers must be in the office. Others are recognizing that part-time positions can include meaningful, decision making, and advisory roles. Some schools  are working to match school days with work hours to eliminate the last 2 hours of the day childcare burden.

Creatively balancing workplace flexibility with face time is a good start, yet the biggest change we can make is in our attitudes. We need to stop viewing workers who have the primary responsibility for raising gifted kids as workers who are “taking a break” or “taking time out” from the regular work world. Raising a gifted child requires patience, research skills, negotiation savvy (both with your child and school officials), juggling priorities, trouble-shooting, and a host of other skills that companies desire. Parents who take a chunk of time away from paid employment should be welcomed back into the workplace as highly trained, effective workers who are switching industries. Taking time to raise gifted kids is not the same as taking a multi-year vacation and business needs to stop viewing it as such.