The question we should be asking, however, is not when, how, or if we should tell a child that he/she is gifted but, rather, why are we telling that child?
My mom always told us that should would never be proud of us for just being smart because we were born that way -- we didn't do anything to be that way." Your child is gifted. Are you proud of your child for having brown hair? for being cute? for being short or tall? No. It's what they do with their gifts and talents that matter.
Smart and lazy won't get you anywhere in life."
She also used to say, "Smart and lazy won't get you anywhere in life." There's a layer of truth to this statement that sits with me daily. Indeed, she was right. I didn't get to where I am today by being gifted. I am here because of hard work -- grit, and a little bit of creativity. Some might call it stubbornness too.
All too often, I meet children who have certainly been told time and time again that they are gifted. They're told this in a manner in which they start to define themselves as gifted and only gifted. They start to lose their sense of self, lost in the gifted label. They become arrogant to a degree and they're achievements start to wane. They may begin to believe that their giftedness entitles them to laziness. This is a tragedy, a waste of talents, and a difficult stigma to reverse.
So, when, how and why do you tell your child that they're gifted?
Every child is unique. We cannot group all of the gifted children together and write a prescription that details the appropriate time, place, and speech to use. Tell your child that they are gifted when they are struggling. When my younger brother, Q, started to realize that he was different, my mom told him that he was gifted. When, or if, your child begins a specialized gifted program., tell them that they're gifted.
Tell them that they're gifted when you think it feels right. Tell them that their giftedness is only a portion of who they are. Tell them that they're so much more than gifted. Tell them that they can do great things. Tell them that their giftedness doesn't innately mean that they will do great things. Tell them that with hard work they can be whomever they want to be -- whatever they want to be -- they can accomplish anything.
Tell them that you're not proud of them for being smart; it's what they do with it that matters most.