I had the honor of interviewing 3 gifted middle school girls for the Fringy Bit podcast today. We simply chatted about life as a gifted middle school girl. They shared their ups and downs of being gifted, made me laugh, and vulnerably gave a peek into their lives in a way that I would never have had the confidence to do when I was 13.
While insightful comments permeated the entire conversation, I particularly wanted to share their answers to one. I asked, “what can the adults around you do to support you better?”
First, all of them acknowledged that they have really positive adult support, which is evident as they seem to be strong, courageous, insightful, and balanced girls.
Second, they all simply asked to be listened to. They said that oftentimes the well-meaning adults in their lives will cut off their verbal, tangential, flow of thought by trying to make them focus on one thing or clarify a thought. But, all 3 of them acknowledged that their brains simply work by firing from one thought to the next to the next and it may seem unrelated or as though it isn’t going anywhere, but really this is when they feel at their most productive and creative. They voiced appreciation for the times in their gt classes when they can simply riff off one another with their wild and spontaneous and sometimes manic-seeming thoughts. One of the girls observed that when they’re allowed to spontaneously run with their bouncing thoughts, this is when their most engaging, creative, and powerful work is accomplished. But, adults will often cut off this flow. So – just listen. Without trying to fix or expand. Listen. And when they’re done – then, if there’s more that needs to be expanded – then we can go back.
Third, they all wanted adults to take the time to understand them. And to understand them as they are now. As their own unique individuals. They felt many adults think they understand them, but they don’t really. Even if we’ve known these kids since they were infants, they are constantly changing, growing, and have unique minds and souls of their own. It becomes easy to fall into the trap of knowing them as we think they are, rather than really sitting back, listening, and learning who they actually are.
So, how do we really support gifted kids? Listen to them. Learn from them. End of story.