TRUST is a hard one for many of us parents, it was for me. I wasn't raised to trust that a child:
Almost always has good intentions Often already knows what they actually need
It was through parenting a gifted child that I found both these things to be true. But still early on, my gifted daughter's inconsistent statements, actions and behaviors, had me questioning if I could trust her intentions and what she expressed to me as her needs.
I knew that high sensitivity, intensity, anxiety, perfectionism and high sensory perception, could cause confusing, inconsistent or troubling behavior in gifted children, but many times it just didn't seem to me that any of these things were the underlying issue. Then, I remembered asynchrony - or the disconnect between mental and emotional maturity - which is at the core of every gifted child. Asynchrony can be the reason behind inconsistent, confusing, seemingly unreasonable statements, actions or requests which are often met with a parental response such as, "You're so smart - how can you not know that?" or "You're so smart - how can you say something like that?" They say giftedness IS asynchronous development, but it doesn't always show itself in apparent or predictable ways, and this can be very confusing to parents of gifted children.
Asynchrony can at times seem to be very apparently linked to emotional immaturity, but at other times look like a lack of intellect or a behavioral problem. The trait of asynchrony is complex, and the combination of uneven emotional maturity in any intellectual equation can have varying outcomes in each gifted child. Sometimes it looks like our gifted children's words and actions don't match or make sense, or if they say they don't know how to do something we ask of them, it can seem like they are making excuses or just refusing our requests - to which I admit I've replied, "You knew how to do it last week!" When tasks with steps that were easily completed before can't be remembered or tolerated today, it can be difficult to remember that asynchrony may be the source. To trust that a refusal or confusing comment or action is coming from a place of honesty or good intent, or that a demanded request is really an actual need, is at times difficult for parents to do. Throw siblings into the mix with various versions of a story and conflicting needs, and it can really get confusing for parents, and make it even more difficult to trust.
When this type of thing happens with my daughter and I, I've found that asking questions really helps. If I am upset or confused by one of her statements or actions, before I make an assumption or respond, I ask something like, "What was the reason behind doing that?" "What do those words mean to you?" "What do you need right now?" "Can you rephrase what you are saying so I can try to understand you better?" "It sounds to me like you are saying..., is that what you mean?" If I feel my daughter's words to me or another person sound negative; disrespectful, hurtful, selfish or something similar, before I judge or react I ask a question such as, "You seem like you are upset; angry, frustrated, hurt, or... why are you feeling that way?" "Do you feel like your wants or needs aren't being considered here?" "What do you want to happen?" This way she has time to clarify her words, actions or intent before I make a judgement. Asking clarifying questions first, has significantly cut down on our disagreements, arguments, hurt feelings and subsequent full blown meltdowns over being misunderstood or judged unfairly - something gifted kids do not tolerate well at all, and something that usually leads to a snowball of confused issues and emotions.
Asking questions instead of assuming I know why my daughter has said or done something, has also helped me to understand and get to know her better. I have found that she almost always has a good reason behind what she does and that she is a very trustworthy source for knowing her own needs. Sometimes, because our children know and do so many things well, we forget that their communication skills, judgement, analyzing, reasoning and problem solving skills, may lag behind their intellect. This may cause them to be confused by our simple requests, have trouble completing tasks, and be slow to understanding or identifying social cues and norms. All of these things associated with asynchronous development may be behind our children's confusing, and sometimes troubling, behaviors.
Of course there will always be those times when our children just simple choose to do the wrong thing, after all they are only children and they will learn many things through making their own mistakes. Haven't we all had our share of making bad decisions, we shouldn't be surprised when our children do the same. When my daughter makes mistakes, I try to see it as an opportunity for her to grow, to narrow that asynchronous divide between intellect and emotional maturity, time to reflect on choices and decisions, and to gain analyzing and problem solving skills which will help her to make better choices and decisions in the future.
Asynchrony, miscommunication and misunderstandings can throw off even the most seasoned parent's trust, it can confuse us and make us question our children's intelligence, intents and needs, and at times our own sanity. But, if we remember to trust our children and ask questions first, we will not only learn the true meaning behind their words and actions, but learn more about who they are, and keep asynchrony from disrupting the trusting bond we have built with our children.
Hugs & Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach