Sleep and gifted preschoolers

One of the common signs of giftedness is a lower sleep need at a younger age.  Not all gifted kids show this lack of needing naps, but it is correlated.  If your child got rid of most naps at 18 months and is still happy as a clam until bedtime, then that is correlated with giftedness.  That doesn’t mean that your average-sleeping child isn’t gifted.  And, some gifted kids need more sleep than average kids.  (And as an adult, my sleep need has certainly settled down to higher than average.  Darn adolescence.) (#2 needs more than average sleep, too!  I blame puberty.)

If someone says, “losing naps early is correlated with intelligence” that does not mean that your regularly-napping kid is dumb.  It does not mean that forcing your kid to sleep less will make them smarter (in fact, probably the opposite).  It just means that it’s ok for some kids, even little kids, not to nap.  And it’s a specific type of kid who may have joys and challenges that are also correlated with giftedness.  (#2 cannot understand how #1 copes with a kid that young who needs not-significantly-more sleep than the parents.  I would go insane if my preschooler didn’t sleep a lot.  Reason #428 why I don’t have kids.)

Gifted kids can be pretty intense.  One of the reasons neither DH nor I could be SAHP while DC is small is because we would not get those breaks that most parents get.  Go go going from dawn to sometime past dusk is exhausting for parents, even if not for the kid.  We need other people to share the burden of intensity and to be entertaining and new and different.  Preschool, other kids, other adults… necessary for our sanity.  And that question, “Is there any good reason for hir to be reading so young?”  YES.  Sweet sweet quiet time for mommy and daddy.

My theory: when they get a lot of stimulation, gifted kids nap just as much as other kids.  Gifted kids just need more new things to need to make those dendrite connections that get made during sleep.  DC naps the first few weeks at a new preschool.  (We can tell ze has stopped when they stop sending home wet clothing.)  DC naps a lot when we go to large cities ze’s never been to before and sees all sorts of things ze’s never seen.  Ze used to suddenly just conk out on DH’s shoulder when overstimulated.  If you can keep your kid appropriately challenged, then you may see less of this not sleepingness.  But it is hard to get ability-level stimulation in an age-level based system.  Especially in the US.

Related recent post from wandering scientist.  About the parallel universes we with low sleep need kids live in.

Do you wish you got more down-time?

62 Responses to “Sleep and gifted preschoolers”

  1. Renee — ramblecrunch Says:

    I didn’t know anything about giftedness when dd was young, and couldn’t figure out why she was so…different. Could never fall asleep at a “normal” bedtime, no matter what routines we tried. Her thoughts would race and she’d just lie in bed, awake, thinking, for hours. Now at 10 she routinely stays up past midnight, but she’s doing sensible things…reading or writing, and I’ve come to accept this is just her rhythm.

    You’re dead right about the early reading. It’s a godsend in terms of parental break time.

    Thanks for the post. I don’t comment frequently but always enjoy reading.


  2. First Gen American Says:

    I find that both the kids collapse more readily after a mental day of stimulation vs a physical day. I had time off last week and I spend the first day at the zoo and the second day (all day) at the pool. Surprisingly, the kids were more zombified by the zoo experience than swimming in the pool all freakin day…and the zoo was almost a 3 hour drive so they were there for less time.

    Try chess which requires a parent, but the other thing that has been occupying hours recently, is Pokemon cards. We haven’t even started playing yet, but my son is into reading all about the characters and memorizing who does what. He spent all weekend organizing and putting them into binders and now flips through them and reads all the facts.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh man… but I fought so hard to get DH off of collectable card games!

      • First Gen American Says:

        You’re talking to a woman whose husband used to work at a comic book store and I still have closets full of comics and cards and books.

        I’m pretty sure that this fascination with collecting stuff is genetic as I see it with both my kids and they don’t get it from me. We went to a friends house (coincidentally who worked at the same comic store) and his dad has his own collections of different stuff too. It was like a museum in their basement, til you opened the door to the other room and it was lionel train heaven. I feel overwhelmed with all this stuff but some people are comforted by it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Mine does a big purge every few years. “Why did I collect all those magic cards/mage knights/boardgames/comic books that I never use? I think I will give them to my brother.”

  3. Kellen Says:

    “Matilda” is pretty much the extent of literature that I’ve read on this topic, but at least your kid is just happily not sleeping when not stimulated enough. At least ze’s not moving around objects with zir mind!!

    And my only other example that can relate here is a border collie… they need physical and mental stimulation. And, uhm, sheep. Otherwise they just figure out ways to occupy themselves. Like figuring out how to open your fridge, steal food, and hide the packaging. Unfortunately, with both kids and dogs, it seems like the parent needs to direct that extra brain power, since the kid/dog may not have the ability to direct that towards something productive on their own.

    It sounds like your child is getting to the age where ze will be able to do more things without a parent needing to direct things though (reading about cool stuff, learning to write stories, designing their own games, etc. Oh man, I want to go back and be a kid again, only this time *do* more instead of playing computer games…)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      With my parents’ Australian cow dog/ border collie mix, one of the best things we had was this large plastic lawn egg from Easter that she would run around in circles on the lawn. It didn’t roll predictably like a ball, so it had that element of mental stimulation. She also had fun when my grandma brought her Shitzhus for a visit– my parents’ dog thought they were sheep, not dogs, and enjoyed herding them whenever they separated from each other.

      I tried really hard to move objects with my mind when Matilda came out, but it never worked, even though I wasn’t learning anything in school.

  4. bogart Says:

    Oh dear, um, yes. We didn’t surrender naps until a little after DS reached 3 when it reached a point where the options were … afternoon nap + 11 o’clock bedtime (+7 am wakeup, which I know is perfectly reasonable, but as a nightowl myself who tends to wait until DS is asleep before I can mentally “check out” of parenting role to be either relaxed self or workerbee, that kid-sleeping-just-8-hours-at-night thing is grueling over time), or semi-reasonable bedtime (back then it may still have been 8, now it’s definitely not before 9). Unfortunately now (perhaps due to physical growth spurt underway) we’re either at sleep-achieved-around-10-if-we’re-lucky (this is after 9 pm tuck in and instructions, rarely followed to the letter, to stay in bedroom and play quietly if not in bed) followed by 7 a.m. wakeup or, oh the horror, self-initiated afternoon nap followed by 11 or 12 pm sleep.

    And I know, I should be grateful: I have a charming child who when he is feeling tired goes and finds a quiet spot and naps rather than just bouncing around and getting more and more tired and/or grumpy. But at the margins I really try to keep him awake all day because, oh, the post-nap sillies (enthusiastic, happy sillies that EXHAUST me) and the late-night bedtimes.

    Unfortunately he’s not reading yet and doesn’t show much interest in learning because yes, I would love to be able to tell him to go read a good book.

    Also, my child seems to be a morning person. I blame DH.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If your DS is interested in the computer, set him up on Starfall. Reading may follow.

      “I would love to be able to tell him to go read a good book. ” Sadly this doesn’t always work for us, but sometimes ze will initiate it on hir own and then blessed silence. Even more sadly we can’t just tell hir to go watch a show like we used to be able to. That used to be foolproof when we needed a break. Alas…

      Maybe we just need better shows.

  5. bogart Says:

    LOL. Yes, I’ve thought about Starfall and looked at it briefly. We use laptops exclusively and DS hasn’t really figured out how to use the mousepad and I’m not overly eager to teach him … I figure he’s got his whole life to spend on the computer. And don’t get me wrong, were he bugging me to learn to read (or to learn to use the computer), I would teach him, but he’s not. I point out letters and words when we are reading books together, or out and about, but it’s not a priority for him at present and I figure he’s not at a point where it needs to be, so I just leave well enough alone.

    He will “use” books, I mean, he’ll take his books and go through the pictures and tell himself the story (solo) and he is phenomenally observant about graphics. We often have to pause in our shared reading to discuss why most pages in “this” book have (e.g.) 2 pictures (images of different scenes in the story) but this one has 4, or to discuss why “that” character who should look happy instead looks mad, or whatever. So it’s not that he’s not interested or engaged but he’s for now tuned in to something he can interpret (pictures not words) that, to be honest, I totally tune out if left to my own devices.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Just sayin’ there’s nothing like the sweet sweet quiet when DC is using the computer. Ze figured out how to use the mouse one week when we were without daycare. Desperation can lead to things.

      • bogart Says:

        OK, here’s a funny follow up. I thought, OK, what the heck. So I didn’t sit DS down with the computer solo but thought I’d play through with him (heck, I guess I should know what Starfall is if I have my preschooler using it — quaint, I know). So, down we sit. Now, I may have the dumbest tot on the planet, but I don’t think so, but here’s what he does: He always, always, picks the wrong letter (I am talking about the screen where you have an -ot and a picture of a pot and have to pick a p, a c, an h, or a d. I don’t mean once, I mean multiple times, all 3 wrong letters at least once and maybe more than once. Oh yeah. Obviously were he just guessing badly, he’d do much better than that (never mind the picking the wrong letter multiple times). Oh, and he wants the “pot” to be “hot” because the picture shows a pot on a stove.


        I got a similar reaction when, adopting an approach that had worked well for a friend I gave him 3 “tickets” (post-its) he could use after being tucked in bed to call me back to his bedroom, the idea being to reduce the number of attempts to call me back (which had shortly previously accelerated to an appalling rate). His game was to hide the tickets and then call me in to find them. Oh, the crafty. Happily he did accept the concept (mama needs some solo time and will not come back more than thrice) even if he emphatically rejected the teaching tool.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ooh, you’re in the advanced section. If you start out at the place where they give you A-Z, then he can click on a letter and It gives a little video that shows pictures and words that go with that letter, then he can’t pick the wrong letter on purpose. There’s also a section where they demonstrate sign language.

        DC is much less likely to do such shenanigans when ze thinks nobody is watching.

        And pots are hot! As #2 would say, “Good baby.”

  6. bogart Says:

    LOL, it’s hard to argue with things that lead to sweet, sweet quiet. No doubt I’ll look back on this mouseless phase with bemused remorse!

  7. Zee Says:

    My ten month old is not a very good napper, but has recently become a much better sleeper at night at least. She barely napped as an infant, which was shocking to everyone around me and made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I didn’t know about the correlation of giftedness and sleep but I figured one reason my mini-me is so advanced in terms of her motor skills is because she has just clocked more hours in the world then the babies who nap. Especially in the first three months. Do you have any links for those studies?

    I totally second the need for more adults in baby care when you have a non-napper. Not getting any breaks is brutal when done on a daily basis with such a hyper baby. Thank god for daycare and all the stimulation it provides her.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Not off the top of my head– I had been planning to put in citations but then got busy with my own work. I can refer you to this post on my favorite books on giftedness:
      And if you PubMed or look through Google, I am sure you will be able to find many citations. Sleep need is one of the biggies with gifted kids.

      And (IMO) Western Civilization is way too preoccupied with getting kids to sleep a lot on a schedule. You’re not doing anything wrong if your kid just doesn’t need much sleep!

      Advanced motor skills are also part of the Gifted Baby Syndrome. (And I kind of thought the baby books were just wrong on the milestones… turns out my kid was following the milestones for highly gifted kids– that info is also available in books and on the internet… there’s actually some pretty good About pages on gifted development).

      • Zee Says:

        Honestly, I hadn’t considered that my kid might be gifted. Might explain why I can barely keep up with her development. Thanks for the heads up.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There are a lot of other differences from most kids that can get a person into trouble if unaware of them… you might want to spend some time reading up on the About Gifted pages or pick up a book or two on the topic, so you’re not caught unawares.

        It’s nice knowing that your kid is normal (for some group) instead of freakish. :)

      • Zee Says:

        Just ordered a couple of books on gifted children. The descriptions of gifted babies are kind of freaking me out with how accurately they describe the mini-me’s behavior so far, especially the ‘need for novelty’. What am I in for nicole&maggie?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        A wild and wonderful ride that many people around you may not understand. Join us next week for a post on preschool perfectionism :).

        Here’s some previous posts on the topic… I especially like, “I’m not crazy.” I can’t remember if that has someone being stereotypically nasty in the comments section or if that was just in the previous RBOC to which it alludes.

  8. oilandgarlic Says:

    My babies are still young but already needing less sleep. It’s a struggle to make them nap twice a day and naps seem to be getting shorter and shorter. They better grow up to be baby geniuses!

  9. Cloud Says:

    Well, you know how I feel… screw the sleep books pretty much sums it up. Except Bedtiming. I love that book.

    My 4 year old naps at day care and I really wished she didn’t because it makes bedtimes harder, but we’re otherwise super happy with her day care, so we just deal. She doesn’t nap on the weekends, and clearly doesn’t need to. She’s always been lower sleep needs than the books say, but also has always been clearly NOT sleep-deprived (just sleep deprivation inducing for her parents).

    My 22 month old sleeps a bit more than her sister did, and still naps most days. But all hell does not break loose if we’re late with her nap or anything like that. And she’s prone to occasional middle of the night parties that don’t make her sleepy or grumpy, but leave me practically catatonic.

    I am a high sleep needs person trapped in a low sleep needs family (my husband is low sleep needs).

    The 4 year old has hit the point where she can play on her own, which is awesome. But I completely agree to the sentiment that if my husband and I had to be the sole source of entertainment, learning, and stimulation for her 7 days a week, we might go insane.

  10. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I definitely need MORE than average sleep and so does my daughter. My son and husband however thrive on LESS than average sleep. The problem with the Boy is that they make them take naps at preschool, so he stays up way too late at home, cutting into Mommy’s need for sleep.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      And then they brag about how they got your kid to nap… *sigh*. (“You realize, Miss A, those days you force hir to nap, ze stays up past 10pm and still gets up before 7. Really, you don’t need to try so hard!”)

  11. becca Says:

    I’ve gotta say, something about this portrayal of ‘gifted kids’ strikes me as uncomfortably woo-y. I’m just not finding much on PubMed that backs up what you say.
    And I mean, isn’t *parenting* pretty intense, irrespective of the ‘giftedness’ of your kid?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Always such a pleasure to have you comment. I invite you to read through the books I linked to in the previous post. One of them is like a forum, but the others I linked to are full of research.

      PubMed doesn’t carry the full set of social science journals, so they will have primarily only the research from medical journals, which is not where the majority of these studies are published.

      • becca Says:

        I am always a ray of sunshine in my comments.

        The Distin book I searched on amazon, and it only mentions “sleep” twice. Neither is in reference to the notion that gifted kids need less, much less a research study citation.

        Mathews and Foster mention “sleep” 4 times. They suggest getting a good nights sleep before an IQ test, that enrichment classes should not leave the child with no time for sleep and other developmentally necessary things, and that sleep can be disrupted if academic overload has occurred (the fourth reference is using ‘goes to sleep’ as a metaphor for what happens to motivation to learn).

        Now, the Winebrenner book does include ‘has a hard time settling down and going to sleep’ on a ‘is your child gifted’ checklist, of the sort that plaster the internet. And it actually quotes a PhD (Linda Silverman) who says that ‘gifted kids usually need less sleep than there parents’ (by way of offering comfort to parents)! Yay! Yet, wait, this is saying gifted kids need less sleep than adults? That strikes me as a much more unusual claim than gifted kids need less sleep than other kids! And the only time Silverman is listed as an author in a reference is from a 1985 book entitled “Helpful information for classroom teachers who want to understand all aspects of gifted children”. So I looked up Silverman’s CV, and “sleep” is not mentioned once, let alone under peer reviewed publications.

        I can’t use the search feature for “A Nation Deceived” but I suspect that one may have a slightly different focus.

        But look. Let’s say there are awesome studies out there that I’ve just missed. Let’s say the folk wisdom on the internet is right and there is something truly different about certain brains that causes them to both need less sleep and learn more readily/perform at a higher level.
        Even assuming that’s the case, I guess my real problem here is, I don’t see why anyone needs the “gifted” label to ‘go with the flow’ with regard to their kids sleep. Why support the way of looking at parenting that we need our kid to be ‘normal’- even if it’s ‘normal for gifted kids’?

        For example, it’s currently next to impossible to get my kid to sleep unless we go to sleep with him, otherwise he knows we’re up ‘having fun’ and he’ll crawl right out of bed and join us. Is he gifted? Nope. We’re just horrible sleep trainers who are lazy and think it’s easier to go to sleep when we want him to go (we can always sleep in shifts or get up early).
        I mean really. If your kid wasn’t gifted, but was a light sleeper, would you fight it harder? Would you try to make hir sleep more?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        “We’re just horrible sleep trainers”
        Because statements like this are harmful. Why should parents have to think there is something wrong with them or with their kids just because they’re different? It’s helpful to realize that not only are they different, but that they are NORMAL, just for a different group.

        There are a number of things that go together with gifted child syndrome. Knowing them is helpful on an emotional level as well as on a level of making decisions about what to do. It helps you know that something is not pathological (ex. my skin really *was* that sensitive when I was little) or that something is worth watching out for.

        Feel free to continue to do lit review searching, I’m sure you will find something eventually… sadly I’m done with that for now (that was my hobby many months ago) and do not have the time to replicate. All I can say is that I was convinced at the time by what I read. If you ask on the davidson gifted forums, I’m sure one of the folks there has the free time to point you to the correct citation(s).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I also think this exchange illustrates how difficult it is for parents of gifted children to talk about their kids and the characteristics and correlates of giftedness. Just say the word, “gifted” and there’s a negative reaction. There’s a negative reaction from not using the label and your kid just being hirself too, but at least with the label you know where you can find support groups. It is nice knowing that there’s a group out there where one is normal and not an abused freak.

        Why wouldn’t we want to know more about the challenges and correlates of something like giftedness? Why wouldn’t we want to know more about ourselves and our children? Why would we want to say, “oh the label is bad, we should just stop doing research on this segment of the population. They’re going to do fine anyway.” (Or, “Why do we care that many gifted kids sleep less?”) Except, often they’re not going to do fine anyway. It is not easy being a minority, even if the minority you’re in is correlated with having high standardized test scores for IQ. (And intensities, and not sleeping as much as a kid, and needing more stimulation, and perfectionism, and being out of synch with one’s peers and so on.)

        Why is it so important to shut down that research and shut down those conversations? Aren’t we already silenced enough?

      • becca Says:

        Remember when we talked about competitive mommy guilt and baked goods? And how it was hard it was for you to see how people could feel genuine angst about taking in a store made good?
        I find it difficult to see why anyone feels genuine angst over whether their kid is normal- for whatever value of normal. I don’t care if my kid sleeps 7 hours or 14. I don’t care if he learns to read at age 2 or at 10. Human traits occur on a spectrum. ‘normal’ *is* a range, and you are very rarely as much of an outlier as you feel.

        The desire to want to see your child a certain way- whether that conforms to a normal stereotype or a ‘gifted’ stereotype- can skew your perceptions, and if you’re unlucky, screw up your kid. That’s what makes me uncomfortable with your post. Your message seems more “it’s ok for my kid to sleep only a short time because ze’s gifted!” than “It’s ok for all kids to sleep for whatever length of time they need”

        I’m not arguing against labeling- I just don’t see how labeling helps with respect to talking about sleep. How does it help you make decisions about sleep to know your child is gifted?
        I’d suspect you will probably find more solidarity among parents of average intelligence low-sleep needs kids than you will with parents of incredibly intelligent slugabed (i.e. ‘typically’ circadian rhythm shifted) teenagers.

        I’m also not saying we shouldn’t do research on gifted kids (though I’m always happier when research is cited correctly- it’s a flaw of mine. IBT academy). If anything, I’m the one arguing we need more research and you’re the one looking at it as a settled question, so I’m not sure where that comment came from? Though I’m guessing there’s a whole pattern of ‘gifted denial’ that I’ve inadvertently echoed. Because otherwise your comment really doesn’t make any sense.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        “I find it difficult to see why anyone feels genuine angst over whether their kid is normal- for whatever value of normal. I don’t care if my kid sleeps 7 hours or 14. I don’t care if he learns to read at age 2 or at 10.”

        YOU may not care, but OTHER people are perfectly happy to tell you that your child with a low sleep need is because “You are bad at sleep training” YOU may not care if your child reads at 2, but other people are perfectly happy to tell you it’s because you are being a pushy parent who doesn’t let kids be kids. When you’re in the minority, it is nice to be part of a community. Nobody ever says nasty things to your face when you bring in baked goods whether you made them or not, but people are perfectly happy to be nasty about your child’s sleep habits or academic habits to your face when they’re different from the norm (they’re “concerned”). If you haven’t experienced this, then good for you.

        And personally I would care if my kid didn’t read until age 10. That probably signals an underlying learning disability that the kid could be getting treatment for. It would be criminal not to care (possibly literally so in some states). Age 5 not a big deal, but older than that and it should be checked out.

        Yes, it is ok for kids to sleep whatever amount they need. The message is NOT “it’s ok for my kid to sleep whatever length of time they need because ze’s gifted,” but that giftedness is correlated with having a low sleep need and that’s ok. There’s a group of characteristics that are related. Obviously some earlier commenters found that list of correlated characteristics to be helpful and useful to them. And, as we state emphatically and repetitiously in two paragraphs of the post, some characteristics will apply and some won’t. It’s a syndrome, not a disease.

        If you would like to write a different post, please start a blog! You can spend time digging up citations too. And by all means, if we make you uncomfortable, as we seem to do with about every other post (especially any post about education or intelligence), you don’t have to keep visiting.

        And yes, as we noted in the post, adolescence increases sleep need. DC will no doubt need more sleep then too, just as we did and do. Also, I don’t know and have never met any kids of average or below-average development with my DC’s low sleep need. Like Cloud says in her post, parents with kids of normal sleep needs and parents of kids with low sleep needs are living in two completely different worlds. That extra 2+ hours of quiet time that other parents get is huge.

      • Janette Says:

        Just commenting on early reading.
        The research that I have seen indicates that there is little, if any, correlation between early reading and giftedness. There is a great deal of research that stresses that if a child reads around the age of seven-they are probably fine for reading. Research is also being done on boys who are “forced” to read early becoming learning disabled. Learning and the Brain scientists (a John Hopkins/Harvard coalition) are studying the movement of learning from the back of the brain (where verbal languages seems to start) to the front of the brain (signs and symbolism). Both sections work- but were “heavy work” seems to happen depends on a developmental stage (earlier for girls than boys). Looking forward to on going studies in this area.
        On naps. There is a great deal of study in Early Childhood Education about the amount of time it takes to process information from short to long term memory. The implication is that a child at rest gives their brain more time to assimilate newly learned information. I know gifted people who nap quite frequently during the day- power naps. The studies on memory processing then makes perfect sense. The EC community takes that study and implies that children need more sleep because of the vast amount of things they are learning in their environment. I don’t think that the laps of naps has anything to do with this. Nap time gives the caretaker a much needed break :>)
        The single most influential thing you can do for a child (according to National Reading Panel and several EC researchers) is fill your child with vocabulary. A child that enters school with a vocabulary of over 10,000 tracks to be some of the most successful people in school. These do not have to be spoken words- but understood words as well. Most underprivileged children actually come to school with less than 1,000 words- some as few as 200!
        As of the last round of studies that I have read- computers do not impact young children’s development unless the child uses the computer by themselves and has little adult interaction (negative). There is some study that a computer- with the light contact to eyes- does stimulate a different part of the brain. No real conclusion on that as of yet. As my daughter says, “Why bother teaching him about a computer? By the time he goes to school and significantly uses a computer, computers will be significantly different than what I am using today.” I totally agree. Most computer programs for young children are just faster flash cards. Have a conversation, read a book….

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Why use a computer:

        For sweet sweet quiet time for the parents. And less resistance than a forced nap or early bedtime that DC neither needs nor wants. I think ze will do fine using it on hir own without our interaction– ze gets plenty of other interaction with us. After all, there’s at least 2 extra hours a day of stimulation ze is getting because of the low sleep need. There is probably an optimal amount of parent-interaction, but these studies pick up on parents who leave their kids in the bouncy seat all day or in front of the tv screen etc. Studies in older people find that they’re not playing *enough* video games (I wonder if we ever finished that post).

        In terms of reading, there are differences between sight-reading, which dolphins and some dogs can pick up (also 6 month old human infants) and reading by phonics decoding. There’s also differences between being taught to read and decoding reading oneself. There are correlations between figuring out how to read phonics before age 4 and giftedness. (Not that a later reader can’t be gifted, ze can, just that a kid who figures out to read on hir own is more likely to be gifted.)

        Sleep needs for gifted adults and gifted children are two totally different animals. DC and I both need about 9 hours of sleep a night (unless ze is having a growth spurt). That’s a lot for me and not much for hir. Back when I was an adolescent I needed around 10 hours.

        Also: Why read before age 7? Because reading is FUN. There’s a difference between parents who want to share their love of reading and parents who force flash cards on their kids. I bet it’s just like potty training… you can do that early too without harming kids if it’s done in a spirit of fun rather than a spirit of stress. But how does a researcher measure that in a laboratory?

    • Rumpus Says:

      Yeah, it’s always intense. All parents deserve an award.
      The problems I’ve seen come when social expectations result in people (parents, teachers, extended family) trying to force a child to do something against his/her nature or trying to convince the parents that they’re treating their child poorly because the child doesn’t fit preconceived notions. Assuming “intelligence”, or any other measurable ability, falls on something like a bell-curve, there will be some people that are “off-the-charts”. So what do you do with the 5 year old that plays basketball at an 8 year old level? Obviously you hold him back with the other 5 year olds (who make fun of him because he’s different), and you make cutting remarks at the parents about how they’re forcing their child beyond his age level. Whether sleep is correlated with giftedness or not is less important to me than the ridiculousness of trying to make all kids sleep the same as some “normal” kid…because somewhere out there are the kids that are four standard deviations from the mean and you’ll only see them once per 15,787 observations. So how much experience can a person have with children like that…unless of course it’s your kid.

      • Cloud Says:

        YES. Looking back on the first few years of parenthood, I can now see that a lot of my insecurity as a mother came from having a daughter who wasn’t like what the books said she’d be like and what the rest of the world expects. I get a lot of comments (IRL, not just online) that not so subtly tell me that some people think I’m doing it all wrong, and am to “blame” for her lower than average sleep needs, her extreme picky eating (we are following all the research-based advice, trust me. She’s just… who she is), her emotional intensity, etc, etc.

        I finally got comfortable with my parenting and my child’s personality, and then I had another kid, who is entirely different, and a bit more “normal” according to the rest of the world- but brings her own set of challenges. I think one of the hardest things about being a parent is tuning our the noise and parenting the kid you have, not the kid everyone else says you have.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        God YES.

        Though I think you still focus too much on the picky eating for comfort (your last post on that was pretty intense, unlike most of your recent posts on parenting). :P Read Hungry Monkey!

      • Cloud Says:

        Eh, in real life I mostly don’t care about the picky eating… except I suspect she is on the far end of that bell curve, so she’s sort of taken it to the level of an extreme sport, which can get tiresome. And shielding her from well-meaning people who do the absolute wrong thing (e.g., try to convince her to eat something) is annoying. I’ve only realized how extreme she is on the picky eating thing now that her little sister is a toddler and doing more normal toddler picky eating. It is like night and day- and the little sister is by no means an adventurous eater.

        I do get passionate about picky eating online because so much of what I read about it on parenting sites is terrible, parent-blaming, guilt-inducing crap and so many people seem to buy into it. And a lot of the advice I get is also completely wrong and cruel from the standpoint of someone who herself has picky eating tendencies.

        Hungry Monkey is on the Kindle queue. I’ll get there…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We are against the maternal guilt industry. We are also in favor of research, and think it’s horrible how there’s so much advice out there, even from the AAP based on zero research. We trace some of this blame back to the 19th century when the AMA was trying to gain power and market-share over midwives… but also just BTP more generally as well.

        Still, I’d suspend judgment on where she is on the bell curve for another year or two. Age 2-5 is incredibly picky for most kids. We’re still astounded with the abrupt 180 our kid did about a month ago. Ze went from eating meat, carbs, and the occasional fruit (from a subset of fruit) to absolutely everything under the sun, literally overnight. We were not expecting that drastic or immediate a change. It might not happen that way for yours, but it’s got to be more depressing thinking of it as a permanent pickiness instead of a temporary one.

      • Cloud Says:

        Well, as long as she eats enough not to starve or develop some strange disease caused by lack of a trace nutrient, the rational part of me doesn’t care if this is permanent or not. I suppose the emotional part of me would feel better if it turns out to be short term.

        Whether she snaps out of it or not, right now she’s so far off on the picky eating side of the spectrum that it can sometimes be a practical problem – for example, we like to go out to eat after soccer lesson. The restaurant the rest of us prefer is a “fast and healthy” Greek place. It has not a single thing on its menu that she will eat, despite the existence of pizza-like flatbread and grilled cheese on pita bread on their menu. I know that the standard advice is to go where we want and let her be hungry, but… she’s just played soccer for 45 minutes, and if she doesn’t eat, she’s going to be a grumpy mess for the rest of the night. Or I could get all strict with her and say we’ll just go home for dinner- but then her little sister’s dinner is way late and I have to come up with something to feed us with almost no prep time. Or I could say “no soccer if you won’t eat the Greek food”, but that seems silly. So we go to the other restaurant in the mall next to the soccer field instead. That just seems like the less cruel thing for everyone involved. If as a consequence of this decision, she never learns to like Greek food- so what? More hummus for me!*

        But I still hate peas and have to work at eating fish. So perhaps I’m not the right person to judge these things. And once I type it all up, it doesn’t seem like a problem, just a slightly annoying thing. So I don’t really know what the point of this comment is. I’ll stop rambling now.

        *I only started liking hummus in grad school, which adds a whole extra layer of silliness to this comment.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        There’s the carry a banana option too– we did that a lot. A banana or crackers. Something bland and boring.

        I refused to stop eating foods with onions because damn it, I like onions and ze can just pick them out. Ze often fussed about it at first, but our reaction was about the fussing, not on the refusal to pick them out.

  12. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I was supposedly a “gifted” child, and I don’t buy this bullshitte. The only reason we identify some children as “gifted” is because our society is so f*cken stultifying to anyone with even the slightest bit of imagination and creativity. We would be much better off–as would the “gifted” children–if we embraced imagination and creativity in all little kids instead of obedience and conformity. I believe that children identified as “gifted” end up no better off as adults than other kids. I f*cken hate the fact that I was supposed to be a “genius”, and I know for certain that it held me back and f*cked my shitte uppe in ways that took me years to overcome. Leave the little f*ckers alone and stop f*cken labeling them with crappe like this that is nothing but a burden.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      As I describe in a previous post, I used to feel exactly as you are describing. As you will learn next week in our post on preschool perfectionism, I wasn’t planning on reading up on giftedness until much later, but circumstances meant I needed to much earlier.

      However, gifted kids DO need to be treated differently– exactly the opposite of how you are describing having been treated. They need to have LESS emphasis placed on their intelligence (actually all kids need to have less emphasis placed on their native abilities, but with kids who are naturally smart you have to train people, especially teachers, to stop telling them that they’re smart) and more on their effort and interests (Outsider: “OMG, is ze READING?” Us: “Reading is so fun.”). There are many other challenges that are more likely to lead to problems that, as you say, need to be overcome. Gifted kids are very likely to drop out of school if handled badly, if not challenged, if allowed to become perfectionists etc. And for these reasons it is important to have the label. They’re also more likely to have extreme sensitivities, have any learning disabilities undiagnosed (because they compensate), have social problems with kids their age (but not older kids or adults) and so on. Knowing what’s normal and what are viable solutions is important as well.

      I do believe that there are a lot of “gifted” kids who fall through the cracks, indeed, we know many kids growing up who did. That’s because they had the label but not the knowledge of how to actually accommodate. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there, even among prominent gifted books (the ones that don’t use any research).

      Does our kid know ze is gifted? I don’t think ze has ever heard the term. Have we had to ask preschool teachers to stop telling hir ze’s so smart? YES. Does ze know ze is different? Yes– very few of hir classmates can read, very few of hir classmates are used as mini teachers. We’re hoping the early entrance to K at a school that has at least two kids like hir in hir class will make hir seem less freakish and thus keep hir desire to learn alive. Does ze know this is the reason? No, ze only knows that almost all of hir friends are going to kindergarten, so ze is too.

      Add to that that having a gifted kid can be isolating. Other parents think you’re pushy, that there’s something wrong with their children when yours is around etc.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Also, I’m not sure if I talked about this example before, but we have a friend whose preschool teacher was trying to convince the parents to hold their son back a year to start K late. All the examples she was giving were clear examples of what happens to a kid when they’re out-of-synch with their peers and need to be with older kids, challenged at a higher level. Holding him back a year would have exacerbated the problem.

        After talking with them, I suggested they read up on some books… they started private-school K in the middle of the year (skipping instead of redshirting) and their son totally transformed from a sullen immature loner who had tantrums every morning on the way to school to a pretty much normal-functioning kid excited to go to school in the morning. Part of that was the change in teachers, and environments (good environments don’t allow teasing), but part of that was him actually being matched with kids and schoolwork at his level.

        Not having that label, or getting that label too late could have been disastrous. Especially since his mom is very insecure about her parenting and was willing to believe there was something wrong with her kid (and dad was happy to go along with it). The whole family is happier now.

    • icee Says:

      YES! I had the same experience CPP describes as a child. It effed me up, big-time. It was a very bad thing, a burden for sure. I am really hoping my kids are just average. I sure as hell am never going to breathe a word of it to them if they’re labeled as “gifted”, nor will I ever tell them the results of any IQ testing. I was horrified when my mother suggested my infant’s severe colic and lack of sleep was because of his brilliant intellect (just like his mother! barf).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s sad.

        But I’m pretty sure that even without the label both you and CPP (and #1 and #2 etc.) would still have been f’ed up because gifted kids ARE different and they are going to be freakish no matter whether they have the label or not. WITH the label, some of the negative effects can be mitigated. The label just helps explain why the kid is different, gifted kid syndrome. The counterfactual of your mother not knowing is not you or CPP having a normal childhood. And if educators actually knew how to deal with gifted kids, what to do and what not to do, then you and CPP would probably have had happier times in school.

        Yes, lack of sleep can be because of brilliant intellect, and there is nothing wrong with that. I wanted to start planning for how to deal with it so that my child DOESN’T get F’d up because even if unlabeled, if ze does have a brilliant intellect, ze’s going to be different which can lead to problems just being out in the real world.

        Check back with us next week for a post on perfectionism. (And why I found I could no longer ignore the issue.)

        If a child has Downs Syndrome, should a parent refuse to look into any of the research on managing DS? How about Cerebral Palsy? Will ignoring those syndromes make the differences go away?

        Also, the research suggests that slightly above average kids do best from a social adjustment standpoint. Just a little bit smart and they’re quite popular.

      • icee Says:

        I make a distinction between knowing one’s kid is “gifted” and letting the kid or others in on that information. I’m fine with what my mother thought she knew. I’m not fine with how she handled it. There’s good ways and bad ways to deal with any individual kid, regardless of his intellect. I dispute my status as “gifted” anyway. I think it’s largely a load of horseshit and still, after all these years and therapy, makes me feel weird, just like it did when I was young. It’s the LABEL that makes me feel weird. It’s not because I am inherently weird.
        I was fortunate to have had a pretty good experience in school overall, remarkably. However, my mother should never have spoken about my “giftedness” (I even hate the term) to anyone except my teachers, and only when truly necessary. No IRL parent has any business telling me that their kid is “gifted”, as I am not a teacher.
        Being told that I was labeled as “gifted” had extremely negative effects on me. I would not have experienced these effects otherwise.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The two of us and our partners were also labeled, and fairly young, and it helped us immensely to understand what was going on and why we didn’t fit in. It also opened up opportunities for us that allowed us to find places where we did fit in, and to meet our eventual partners and best friends. Neither of us has the slightest idea what our IQs are, but without the label some of us might never have stayed in school to graduate. Who knows.

        I dispute that it is the label, but instead how the label is used. If it is used to put a child in a fixed mindset, that’s a problem. But we will discuss that next week.

        Of course, we do not think we were mislabeled.

        I wish more parents with gifted kids IRL here would open up because it sure would be nice to know what the local opportunities are, especially in terms of schooling. It’s a PITA to have to reinvent the wheel at each stage. (It would also be nice to have an IRL support group and play dates, but I’d settle for just the information.) But this is one of those silencing topics.

      • Rumpus Says:

        I don’t understand how the label itself is a problem. A label is like the name of a box. The name isn’t important, while the treatment of the box’s contents is important. I can understand being unhappy if I were labeled a certain way and didn’t think the label applied, but this post (to me) is about how different people are different, not about how and when the labels are appropriate. If someone really is different, is it always better to treat them the same as everyone else? No, just as it isn’t always better to treat them differently.

  13. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    #1: My knowing my kid is gifted is not going to f*ck hir up any more than hir being gifted would.

    #2: I do know that

    #1: In fact, I am hoping it will help hir lead a happier and more cozy childhood. Because we know what to avoid.

    I hate the way these things are so controversial.They shouldn’t be.

    #2: me too. IBTP and anti-intellectualism

    #1: But I’m also sick of being silenced.
    So I don’t want to avoid the issues either.
    And I want people who are in our situation to feel more comfortable.
    It’s just like feminism.
    When you’re silenced, the patriarchy wins.
    Do you think being silenced on the gifted issue means the patriarchy wins?
    means anti-intellectualism wins?

    #2: both!

  14. Cloud Says:

    I’m finding this a fascinating discussion, possibly because I’m completely unsure of how it applies to me. I was “halfway labeled” as a kid- I was in the gifted classes, and thought of myself as smart but not exceptionally so. I can’t honestly remember whether or not I felt weird or excluded in grade school, although looking back, I must have had moments. But clearly not many, since they didn’t make a big impression. I had a couple of really good friends, so I guess that helped.

    I also can’t remember whether my parents made much of a deal about my supposed giftedness, which probably means that they didn’t. I do know that I was reading before kindergarten, but I don’t recall that being a problem for anyone.

    I have no idea if I would actually qualify as “gifted”- I suspect that at this point in my life, it doesn’t really matter and I haven’t thought about this in years and years.

    But it may matter for my kids, so I find that I care about this stuff again. I can’t say whether or not they are gifted. The preschooler is certainly smart, probably even smarter than average. I went and looked at the entry you referenced, and she fits a lot of those characteristics. But she’s not having any problems and shows no signs of boredom in day care, and while it is pretty clear that she could read if she wanted to (she went through a phase of loving to be quizzed on words, and got really good at it), she hasn’t shown an interest in taking that last step to actually reading, and I’m not inclined to push her.

    So I guess we’ll just wait and see. I can see that having a label can be very helpful if you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem, or make sure that school doesn’t squash the love of learning in your kid, etc., etc. But right now, I don’t know if it would help for me with my kid. But maybe I should be thinking about it ahead of choosing her kindergarten? I don’t know.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We didn’t start looking until we started having problems. I hadn’t planned to do any looking for at least another 2 years (possibly not even until 3rd grade when programming starts here), but circumstances changed making that plan untenable. But that’s briefly discussed in next week’s post (the one on perfectionism), and was probably mentioned in our posts on early kindergarten entrance.

      And I’m glad I was looking because our friend’s kid’s life was changed for the better when his label was changed from “troublemaker” to “gifted,” and accelerated rather than red-shirted.

      I wish I’d looked a little earlier because it would have relieved some of that isolation from back when DC was an infant. It also made a lot of things click about my childhood and adolescence that I’d never pieced together. (I will not mention the controversial statement one of the books made about giftedness and sex, but I will say it fit!)

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