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Nurturing Your Gifted Toddler

nurturing your gifted toddler

In this episode of The Raising Lifelong Learner’s podcast, Colleen addresses a common concern – the uncertainty of parenting and nurturing a gifted toddler. 

The pediatrician looked up from his checklist and asked, “how many words can she say?” and I kind of looked at him funny. “It’s okay if she’s not saying a lot right now. She’s only 18 months, so don’t panic. Language will develop over the next few months and years.”

He smiled reassuringly, and I stammered, “No-o-o-o-o. It’s not that. I just don’t think I can actually count the words she can say, so I’m not sure how to answer your question. She can say anything you or I can say.”

I could tell that, not only didn’t he believe me, but he thought I was one of those moms. Like I was trying to make my kid seem more than she was. And I couldn’t blame him, really. Molly looked like a typical toddler, running her fingers along the multicolored shape stickers on his desk, humming softly to herself.

gifted toddler

And then she stopped, turned, and spoke.

“Doctow Cat-an-zawwo? Why do you have two parallelogram stickers on the desk when you only have one of every other shape? Shouldn’t you only have one of those? Or maybe you can add another of each of the other shapes to make it even. I don’t really like when things aren’t even. And, do you have more of these stickers? Can I have some? I like shape stickers.”

The pediatrician, Dr. Catanzaro, looked at me, mouth agape, and said, “I have colleagues with whom I’ve worked for over 20 years who can’t pronounce my name that well. I guess she really can talk…” And he made some notes on his checklist.

Parenting gifted children can be full of uncertainty.

Should I push her?

What if I don’t give him what he needs?

Do I need to get her tested?

How do I know for sure?

Here’s the thing… you do know.

You’re an amazing, insightful, and perfect parent for the little guy or gal in front of you. Nurturing a gifted toddler is an adventure… so let’s develop a roadmap to help you along the way.

What Does a Gifted Toddler Look Like?

If you’re reading this post, you probably have a general idea about what a gifted toddler looks like. Right? We parents know our kids, no matter how much we collectively doubt ourselves.  There are some traits, though, that can give you a clue you might just be raising a poppy kiddo.

Remember… All gifted kiddos share some characteristics, but the very defining one — asynchrony — means that they definitely don’t look alike. So, your child may not exhibit all of these traits. It’s kind of a checklist of sorts to give you an idea of some things you might notice if your toddler is gifted.

Related: Young Gifted Children | Reflections from ParentsNurturing Gifted Toddlers

You may recognize some of these traits:

  • As infants, your kiddos became fussy if they faced the same direction for too long.
  • They were very alert and wide-eyed as babies.
  • Your toddler seems to need way less sleep than others his or her age, and did as an infant as well.
  • He or she met milestones like walking, rolling over, and talking dramatically ahead of schedule.
  • Some gifted babies and toddlers may have spoken later than most kids, but used complete sentences once speech began.
  • They expressed an acute desire to explore, take things apart, put things together, and understand their environment.
  • They often mastered their toys and games earlier than children their age, then discarded them for new games and toys.
  • He or she is very active and can be impulsive and intense.
  • They can often tell between fact and fiction early on.
  • They’re concerned with big issues early on.

Some gifted toddlers show an intense interest in numbers, letters, or other concepts. Some of our gifted toddlers will read early — that precocious 18 month old in the opening story taught herself to read by three. Some won’t, and that’s okay, too. My oldest kiddo (who’s been identified as profoundly gifted) didn’t read until much, much later, and still chooses to read books below his age level.

What Are Some of the Challenges That Come with Raising Young Gifted Kids?

Gifted toddlers, like all gifted individuals, are asynchronous. This asynchrony gives you a kiddo who might be intellectually ready to solve problems and build things, but who lacks the fine motor skills and planning to be able to pull it all off.

One of the biggest challenges is to find activities that are age-appropriate, but still advanced enough for a gifted kiddo. Though, an often underestimated challenge can be the puzzled, judgmental, and knowing looks that come from family, friends, and strangers. The challenge of being misunderstood or accused of hothousing — or “pushing” your child to perform.

My friend compared raising her young, profoundly gifted daughter to being stapled to a cheetah. She’s just holding on for dear life as that little bundle of inquisitiveness drags her along for the ride.

And the intensity. Oh, boy.

Gifted kiddos — including your precious toddler — can be very intense. Those intensities can be:

  • emotional – high highs, low lows… and a mixture of both at the same time with extremes and complexities.
  • physical – those big emotions take on physical symptoms with our bright tots… tummy aches, headaches, and more.
  • behavioral – shyness, separation anxiety, overconfidence, being too comfortable with strangers, ultra impulsive, deep inhibition, the list (and contradictions) goes on.

Gifted toddlers can have deep fears and anxieties. They feel guilt, concerned about death, like they’re not in control, and can seem deeply thoughtful or depressed. They can have deep emotional ties to people, places, or things.

Related: Gifts for Children with AnxietyNurturing Your Gifted Toddler

How Do You Nurture Giftedness in Toddlers?

The best advice I can give — after raising four toddlers (gifted and twice-exceptional) is to relax and trust your gut. Really.

Forget about what everyone else says.

Forget all the parenting books (they’re not going to apply to you anyway).

Forget about what’s “normal.”

Follow your kid. Meet your child where he or she is and help them find new ways to learn every single day. It’s exactly what all parents do for their toddlers. It just looks a little different for parents of gifted toddlers.

One of my eldest’s (now 15) first words was Macedonia. As in, “let’s go to Macedonia to watch trains.” He was obsessed with trains. He watched kids’ shows and documentaries and old news reels about trains. He listened to books about trains. He knew the history of the railroad and all the different important trains from all of history before he was four. He couldn’t yet read. He barely drew. He was impulsive and inattentive at his daycare. He wouldn’t sit still unless someone was sharing something about trains — though not the kids’ trains with faces. He had no use for those.

This went beyond a little guy’s interest in trains. He needed to know it all. So we fed him books, movies, toys, and trips to the trainyard in Macedonia. We sat by the tracks for hours, waiting for one train to pass, sharing snacks and train stories. Today he doesn’t remember all that he once knew, but he still adores trains and gets together with my father-in-law and his train buddies regularly to work on model railroad layouts and talk about the good ole days of the steamers.

I didn’t worry about meeting his potential and I didn’t feed him flashcards and workbooks.

But, guess what?

I did shower my now 10 year old with workbooks, worksheets, and flashcards as a toddler. That 18 month-old who stood but a minute off the floor as she peered at the pediatrician and asked for shape stickers adored nothing more than sitting at “her” desk (a tot-sized table in the kitchen) and banging out workbook pages. She taught herself to read by three. She cried at two when she realized that she was not getting on the big yellow school bus with her brother.

So we enrolled her in a 2yo preschool that met one morning each week. And she begged for more school. So we signed her up for another day at a different preschool so she could have two mornings of “school” and three mornings of “homeschool” while big brother was gone during the week.

Many accused me of hothousing that kiddo (pumping her full of info so she seemed smart), but I was just trying to keep her insatiable thirst quenched.

Two gifted toddlers.

Two very different needs.

If I were to have given that first one workbooks and flashcards, he would have rebelled and fought me every step of the way. If I were to have only fed the second one books, videos, and trips to a favorite place, she would have withered.

Related: 101 Reasons Eclectic Homeschooling Works for Gifted Kids Nurturing Your Gifted Toddler

Trust yourself that you know your toddler better than anyone else does and give him or her exactly what they need. Explore language and numbers, science and nature, communities and laws together. Ask loads of questions and answer all of theirs. Make it a point to look up answers together sometimes — it’s important from early on that your gifted kiddo see that you don’t have all the answers and that you’re not afraid to admit it. Play lots of music in the house. Take your little ones to free outdoor concerts and performances during the spring and summer so they can get an early appreciation for the arts. Experiment with as many different types of art mediums as you can with them when they’re young.

Buy open-ended gifts for all occasions. Line your walls with books. Play games early and often. Ask for family memberships to museums and zoos instead of toys your gifted kiddo will lose interest in for holiday gifts from relatives.

Remember that you’re the perfect parent for your gifted kiddo. You really do know what your child is capable of and needs. You may be in for a wild ride now that you find yourself raising a gifted toddler, but it’ll never be dull.

And when you’re little one shows what he or she is capable of — whether it’s to a stunned pediatrician, a family member, a friend, or a stranger on the playgroup — it’s okay to puff out your chest and say that yes, you do know how amazing he or she is. Talking in full sentences at 18 months is fantastic. Reading at three is amazing. Knowing the detailed history surrounding all steam, diesel, and mag-lev trains by four is awesome.

Be proud and let your kiddos hear you say that they’re amazing and you’re absolutely amazed to be their parent. The more you get used to it now when they’re toddlers, the easier it’ll be as they get older and need to hear you bragging about them. You’ve got this.

nurturing your gifted child

Raising Lifelong Learners Podcast Episode #129: Nurturing Your Gifted Toddler


Links and Resources From Today’s Show

Parents' Guide to Raising a Gifted Toddler: Recognizing and Developing the Potential of Your Child from Birth to Five Years

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing MindExciting Sensory Bins for Curious Kids: 60 Easy Creative Play Projects That Boost Brain Development, Calm Anxiety and Build Fine Motor SkillsParenting a Strong-Willed Child: How to Effectively Raise High Spirited Children or ToddlersThe Rainy Day Toddler Activity Book: 100+ Fun Early Learning Activities for Inside Play (Toddler Activity Books)The Big Book of Kids Activities: 500 Projects That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever365 Toddler Activities That Inspire Creativity: Games, Projects, and Pastimes That Encourage a Child's Learning and Imagination100 Backyard Activities That Are the Dirtiest, Coolest, Creepy-Crawliest Ever!: Become an Expert on Bugs, Beetles, Worms, Frogs, Snakes, Birds, Plants and MoreRaising Resilient Sons: A Boy Mom's Guide to Building a Strong, Confident, and Emotionally Intelligent FamilyThe Ultimate Toddler Activity Guide: Fun & educational activities to do with your toddler (Early Learning)Teach My Toddler Learning KitThe Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being


Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

Want to record your own question, comment, or have your kids tell us what they LOVE to learn about? Click below and start recording!


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100 Hints That Your Child May Be Gifted

100 hints that your child may be gifted

Admit it, you’ve thought about it. You see your precious little one handling blocks with expert dexterity. Your heart swells as they garble through their ABCs. Your pride and joy is walking already or handles math problems with ease and you wonder, Could my child be gifted?


There is a growing community of support for gifted children, but still a lot of murky information about how to actually tell if your child is gifted. ~Raising Lifelong Learners #gifted

There is a growing community of support for the families of gifted children, but still a lot of murky information about how to actually tell if your child is gifted. I remember when my oldest was still a toddler, I was reading a popular parenting magazine and came across a one-page article discussing giftedness in children. Intrigued and convinced that my precious firstborn was obviously a genius, I began comparing him to the checklist they provided… and promptly discovered that he didn’t match a single criteria. Oh well, I thought. I wouldn’t know what to do with a genius. He’s fine how he is.

Years later, surprise! Not only is he gifted, but so is his brother… and his sister. It took a teacher telling us that they were likely gifted – and multiple test results – to convince me. As we began to learn more about what it meant to be gifted, hindsight became more and more clear. The signs were always there, I’d just been wholly misinformed as to what they were!

100 Hints That Your Child May Be Gifted

Here you’ll find 100 real-life and classic hints that your child may be gifted. Since gifted kids are as unique from one another as they are from the general population, not every one of these will be true for every gifted child, and there will definitely be anecdotes experienced by gifted families that aren’t mentioned here. But in general, you may very well have a gifted child on your hands if:

  1. The word “intensity” drums up your child’s image. Intensity is the hallmark of gifted children. Intense feelings, intense reactions, intense drive. Intensity is the word when it comes to gifted kids.

  2. Your child learned to read at an early age, or

  3. they taught themselves how to read.

  4. The questions never, ever stop.

  5. She often seems wise beyond her years, but

  6. sometimes she can seem to behave younger than her actual age, especially when it comes to social and emotional issues.

  7. He experiences fears that children his age don’t.

  8. They are aware of their own mortality.

  9. He sleeps less than other children. Less than the parenting articles say he needs. Less than you need to maintain your sanity.

  10. He takes hours to fall asleep – often because he can’t “turn his brain off”.

  11. She can draw inferences from data, evidence, or Sesame Street.

  12. She can grasp metaphors at a young age.

  13. He can understand and appreciate sarcasm.

  14. He is sarcastic.

  15. She isn’t content to simply absorb information and often asks “why?” what she’s learning is important

  16. They experience anxiety.

  17. He is able to grasp concepts quickly.

  18. She is observant.

  19. He has a large, diverse vocabulary.

  20. She does well in math and can easily apply mathematical concepts to new challenges.

  21. He can’t learn enough. His desire to investigate and ask questions and immerse himself in a subject is insatiable.

  22. She has a rich, vivid, active imagination.

  23. They make up their own elaborate rules to games… or even make up their own elaborate games.

  24. He has a strong sense of justice and becomes particularly upset when faced with inequality.

  25. She can pay attention for long periods of time, especially when compared to her age peers.

  26. He has an excellent memory and can recall facts and information accurately.

  27. Others commented on what an alert infant she was.

  28. He has an intense curiosity about just about everything.

  29. They experience intense reactions to pain.

  30. He corrects others, sometimes rudely, and is usually right.

  31. She has an increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli – noises are louder, smells are more offensive, sock seams are evil.

  32. He can retain information, not just sit through it.

  33. She experiences intense empathy for others in pain or peril.

  34. He thinks so far outside the box that sometimes the box is no longer visible.

  35. They offer creative solutions to basic – or complex – problems.

  36. She often has great insight into situations.

  37. He forms strong attachments – to people, to stuffed animals, to trains, to shoes, to a favorite toothbrush, to anything.

  38. She is able to identify connections between information, facts, and people.

  39. He’s just so original. Your kiddo is quirky and awesome and there doesn’t seem to be anyone like him.

  40. She requires fewer repetitions to master a new skill.

  41. They have passionate interest in (sometimes unusual) topics

  42. He can be pretty argumentative. Any disagreement is apparently an invitation to debate, and

  43. He oftentimes win those debates (whether you tell him or not is up to you!).

  44. She becomes frustrated with repetition and review. Spiral instruction is not for her.

  45. He lacks patience or understanding when others struggle with a task he’s mastered.

  46. She frequently finds school boring.

  47. They have very high standards for everyone around them, but they are often highest when it comes to what they expect from themselves. This often leads to

  48. Struggles with perfectionism.

  49. She daydreams.

  50. He craves and appreciates novelty.

  51. She has a deep self-awareness – though may lack the ability or language to actually identify and describe her inner experiences.

  52. He has an interest in politics and enjoys discussing the latest issues.

  53. They often speak quickly. Their little mouths sometimes can’t keep up with their excitement and ideas.

  54. He’s the classic absent-minded professor – brilliant and disorganized, smart but scattered.

  55. They have a parent or sibling who has been identified as gifted.

  56. She could carry out multi-step instructions from an early age.

  57. He’s very picky – food, textures, smells, oh my!

  58. She asks deep questions.

  59. He has little need for instruction and can often master skills on his own.

  60. She frequently seeks out older children or adults for conversation.

  61. He might have excessive energy, almost like he’s driven by a motor inside.

  62. She’s skeptical, sometimes cynical.

  63. They work well independently and

  64. May even prefer to work independently.

  65. She’s so creative.

  66. He’s aware of how different he is from the kids his own age.

  67. So. Much. Talking.

  68. He expressed an early interest and/or understanding of time.

  69. Her development is asynchronous.

  70. He spoke early… and well.

  71. She exhibited early mastery of motor skill functions.

  72. They hit several developmental milestones early.

  73. She has a deep need to learn, create, go, do…

  74. He has a laser-like focus and

  75. He’s able to multitask successfully.

  76. She has a great sense of humor.

  77. He appreciates puns and dad jokes, long before becoming an actual dad.

  78. She’s able to recognize problems and

  79. She’s able to propose solutions.

  80. “Why?”

  81. They have a wide knowledge base that comes from interests in multiple areas.

  82. He’s able to understand cause and effect relationships.

  83. She can imagine multiple outcomes to situations, which often causes her to

  84. Overthink instructions. In fact, she probably

  85. Overthinks everything.

  86. He can apply new concepts to multiple areas.

  87. She struggles socially, often because of the differences between her and her peers.

  88. He creates his own ways to solve math problems.

  89. They exhibited early pattern recognition.

  90. She’s often a square peg in a round hole world.

  91. He has a strong fear of or preoccupation with death.

  92. She is highly critical of herself.

  93. He doesn’t just get interested in a topic, he obsesses.

  94. They unknowingly dominate their peers.

  95. Their standards and expressive skills often push them towards natural leadership.

  96. She deeply experiences her surroundings.

  97. He doesn’t blindly accept unproven authority.

  98. What’s normal for her sounds like you’re bragging to others.

  99. He has a low threshold for frustration.

  100. She thrives on complexity.

Related: If He’s REALLY So Smart… When Gifted Kids Struggle

100 hints your child may be gifted


Is My Child Really Gifted If They Are Struggling In School?

You may notice that among the 100 traits listed above, not once were grades mentioned as an indicator of giftedness. Being a gifted child is not all about straight-A’s and perfect test scores, it’s a neurological difference that affects many, many areas of their lives and really turns up the intensity knob.

Sure, many gifted kids have impressive report cards, but they also have struggles, fears, and unique experiences that set them apart from the crowd.

No question, It is a unique set of complex circumstances that creates a unique family dynamic and educational challenges. 

But please know, you are not alone in it. 

Are You Homeschooling A Gifted Child?

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them cope and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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RLL #107: Learning as an Unschooling Family with Robyn Robertson

rll 107 learning as an unschooling family with robyn robertson


I truly believe that the best way we can educate our gifted and twice-exceptional (2E) kids is through homeschooling with self-directed learning and unschooling.

Self-Directed Learning vs. Unschooling?

Self-directed learning is a self-motivated pursuit of knowledge not based on a required set of circumstances but learning for its own sake. Using an unschooling approach to learning simply means that activities and lessons are not structured or required.

Children constantly learn through their interactions and experiences with the world around them.  Many families find that creating their own flexible homeschool and allowing their kids to be the driving force in their learning is the very best educational option for our above-average kids.

RLL #107: Learning as an Unschooling Family with Robyn Robertson

Self-directed learning and unschooling is better for gifted and 2E learners

Our kids aren’t cookie cutter, why would we think a one size fits all of educating will fit them? An example might be a kiddo who loves math and excels ahead of his same-age peers but is also struggling with reading. We could encourage his reading through the “strewing” of picture books about math, making them available for him to discover. This would likely be more interesting to him than a remedial reading curriculum. 

A lot of gifted kids are energized by making “dive deeps” into areas of interest. In our family, there is a genuine need to go into detailed study! Just because measures like tests or projects show mastery has occurred doesn’t mean our kids are done with learning about the subject. With self-directed homeschooling, limits are easily removed in open-ended learning at home; there is no timetable to follow. By exploring those tangents, our kids are motivated to learn more in depth and with greater passion.

The benefits of self-directed learning and unschooling point to just how good it is for gifted and 2E kids.

There’s a confidence that comes to children when they have buy-in to their learning. Self-directed learners are motivated in their learning and hesitate less to investigate new things.

More flexible learning gives us a way where overexcitabilities and asynchrony are less of an issue. Home is a safer environment in which to learn strategies to handle differences and adjust behaviors.  Homeschooling parents are readily available to give our kids the support they need if they’re asynchronous. Scaffolding can provide for areas where our child might struggle, so that they can continue to learn and create at their level. Take for example the child who has difficulty with handwriting, but who has a great imagination and concocts wonderfully imaginative stories. Allowing her to dictate her story to a parent to record is a way of giving her space to explore her talent as a “writer” while supporting her as she works on penmanship.

Unschooling benefits the whole family by creating space to create.

Grace Llewellyn explains, “You don’t need a schoolteacher to get knowledge – you can get it from looking at the world, from watching films, from conversations, from reading, from asking questions, from experience. When you get down to it, unschooling is really just a fancy term for ‘life’ or ‘growing up uninstitutionalized.’” 

Unschooling gives us more room to explore interests and have wonderful life experiences in the safest of environments, within the family, those relationships will always be their very best teacher. Important skills like critical thinking, problem solving, fostering authenticity and lifelong learning take time and attention which we can adjust and focus on while we homeschool.

Ultimately, as parents of these “outside-the-box thinkers,” we learn to trust our children better and respect their learning needs. All kids have an intrinsic desire to learn and create; but our kids tend towards MORE of everything. In self-directed learning and unschooling, we can be our kiddos’ greatest champion, cheering them on to becoming the very best people they can be.

unschooling life learning grace llewellyn

Families who already use self-directed learning and unschooling provide support and encouragement.

This week’s podcast episode is a conversation with Robyn Robertson of Honey I’m Homeschooling the Kids. She shares the background of her unschooling family and makes an important analogy of self-directed learning as being a journey we travel on with our entire family.  Some of the ideas Robyn and Colleen share in this episode are:

  • Travel together as a family in your learning, even if everyone is learning about different things.
  • Keep going back to knowing why you’re doing it and adjust as needed.
  • Experience life together, share stories as a family. This will cause you to build connections through these shared experiences.
  • Take field trips, have family projects, attend independent classes and enrichment programs, enroll in online courses and exercise programs, and leave room for a lot of personal time. If the individual wants to pursue a formal class, that can be unschooling as well!

Learning Mindset Happiness is goal Robyn Robertson

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:


Leave a Rating or Review

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RLL #106: [Audioblog] Young Gifted Children | Reflections from Parents

rll 106 audioblog young gifted children reflections from parents

Did you just know that your child was gifted from the start? You know, that feeling down deep in your gut that something was different about your tiny tot, but you weren’t able to completely pinpoint it?  Or maybe you went straight to a search engine with questions like, “signs my baby is gifted” or “What age can you tell if your child is gifted?”

Research shows that parents are pretty accurate when identifying their young children as gifted.  Whether early talking or walking, having extreme abilities of observation or learning, or even needing little sleep, a lot of our quirky kids start demonstrating unusually advanced behaviors from a very young age!

Today’s episode is an audioblog of a post that first appeared on the website, where Colleen asked parents to think back to when their young children were infants or toddlers. The responses were fascinating! Listen as parents share in their own words what traits and characteristics they could see now, in hindsight, that made them realize their child was gifted.  

RLL #106: [Audioblog] Young Gifted Children | Reflections from Parents

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:


Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

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RLL #105: Parenting ADHD and Autism with Penny Williams

rll 105 parenting adhd and autism with penny williams

Parenting our neurodiverse kiddos, whether gifted or twice-exceptional kiddos (including autistic and ADHD), is just plain different. Typical parenting books and practices won’t always work when we’re trying to find ways to help our children become the very best people they can be. Parenting them takes intentionality and a different kind of parenting mindset.

Today, Colleen speaks with Penny Williams of Parenting ADHD and Autism about how we really need to be okay with who our neurodiverse kiddos are and learn how to celebrate their differences.  This is a terrific conversation to glean wisdom from two parents who have faced struggles that are common in parenting atypical kids.

RLL #105: Parenting ADHD and Autism with Penny Williams

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:


Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

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RLL #104: A Conversation About Mindset with Shawna Wingert

rll 104 a conversation about mindset with shawna wingert


Mindset is generally thought to be the attitudes or habits of an individual’s mind that is formed by previous experience. These attitudes can predetermine a person’s response or interpretation to any given situation. Our quirky kiddos are not immune to “fixed” mindsets, and it can sometimes be a real challenge to help them to see things in a different way or try a new approach to something that has them stumped.

Today, Colleen and Shawna Wingert have a conversation about mindset, specifically to help families like ours move away from rigid and inflexible thinking. They also discuss the incredible resources inside the RLL membership community, The Learner’s Lab, and how families can work on social/emotional needs like mindset through the fun lessons and activities for kiddos, the parent master classes and the monthly online teen chats.

RLL #104: A Conversation on Mindset with Shawna Wingert

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:


Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

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100 Quirks of Famous Gifted People (That Will Make You Feel Better About Your Own Quirky Kid)

100 quirks of famous gifted people that will make you feel better about your own quirky kid

If my son had a theme song, it would sound like nervous laughter. People often aren’t sure what to make of him.

Is he being sarcastic?

Is he being rude?

Does he even know what he’s saying?

Are those… dead bugs he’s displaying?

Hasn’t he worn that hoodie every day this week?

What’s with the stuffed monkey — isn’t he supposed to be some kind of genius?

Yes. To all of it.

My profoundly gifted son is full of quirks, preferences, and aversions. Some of them are funny. Many of them are frustrating. But all of them make up who he is and serve as reminders that he’s just… different.

For those times you need a reminder that different is their norm, here are 100 quirks of gifted people throughout history! #gifted ~Raising Life Long Learners

I’ve written before about how gifted kids aren’t always the stereotypical nerds you might imagine, or are used to seeing portrayed on tv. They’re just kids, really, whose brains happen to work differently, and who are just trying to go about living their life as normally as they can.

But their normal isn’t always society’s normal, and as much as I emphasize that they’re not caricatures, they still don’t really… blend in.

Gifted kids – gifted people – are full of quirks. Sometimes they’re due to sensory issues, sometimes overexcitabilities, maybe asynchronous development, or just plain odd interests or hobbies. Whether we embrace them or try to hide them, these quirks are not only hallmarks of giftedness, they’re part of what makes our kiddos just so endearing (and sometimes difficult). Annoying, adorable, or enervating, for better or worse, these kiddos are just plain different

Related: 100 Hints That Your Child May Be Gifted , Survival Mode for Parents of Quirky Kids 100 quirks of famous gifted people

For those times you need a reminder that different is their norm – or maybe just need to know that your kiddo isn’t the oddest one out there – here are 100 quirks and eccentricities of gifted people throughout history!

  1. Let’s start with history’s most well-known quirky brain – Albert Einstein, who did not wear socks. He bragged about this and how he secretly got away with such lack of civilization, that rebel, but also decided that since his big toe always made a hole in his socks, he’d just cut out the middle man and stop wearing them altogether!
  2. Pythagoras, a famous vegetarian, hated beans so much that not only did he forbid his followers from eating them, legend says that he was killed by attackers because he refused to escape by running through a bean field.
  3. Charles Dickens always carried a comb with him and fixed his hair hundreds of times a day.
  4. Dickens also slept facing north – he was convinced this improved his creativity, and kept a compass with him to ensure he was sleeping correctly.
  5. Edgar Allen Poe, admittedly not the most conforming guy as it is, refused to write on paper and instead wrote on scrolls. Stylish.
  6. Andy Warhol kept a mummified human foot next to his bed.
  7. Benjamin Franklin talked to himself.
  8. Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, the inventor of the floppy disk, CD, DVD, and digital watch, believed that staying underwater long enough to nearly reach the point of drowning would stimulate his brain.
  9. Dr. Nakamatsu also had a bathroom tiled in 24k gold, which he believed blocked out television and radio waves, and where he liked to go and think.
  10. Another believer in the power of water, Ludwig von Beethoven would pour water all over himself periodically throughout the day while he was composing.
  11. Henry Cavendish was so shy that he would communicate with his servants only through letters. If he unexpectedly ran into one, they were dismissed.
  12. Cavendish also had a second staircase built in his home to help him avoid accidental interactions with the servants.
  13. Truman Capote refused to start – or finish – a work on a Friday.
  14. Capote also never allowed three cigarettes to burn in the same ashtray.
  15. Apparently very passionate about numbers, Capote would refuse to call anyone whose phone number added up to what he considered an “unlucky number”.
  16. Mark Zuckerberg only eats meat from animals that he kills himself.
  17. Honore de Balzac, the playwright, drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day. But honestly, how unreasonable is this, really?
  18. The mysterious mathematician Paul Erdos drank excessive amounts of coffee took caffeine pills, and even the occasional amphetamines to stay awake while only sleeping 4 hours a day.  “A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems,” he once said.
  19. Nikola Tesla worked from 3 am until 11 pm. This eventually lead to a mental breakdown, but once recovered he continued with the same schedule.
  20. Leonardo DaVinci, in a similar vein, followed the Uberman sleep schedule, which meant that he took 20-minute naps every four hours.
  21. Stephen King’s pillows must all be facing a specific way before he can fall asleep.
  22. Winston Churchill’s sleep schedule was such a mess that he often held cabinet meetings while he was in his bath!
  23. Emily Bronte was an insomniac and would walk circles around her dining room table until she felt tired enough to sleep. (Are you sensing a theme with all of the sleep quirks and how difficult it is to turn those brilliant brains off?)
  24. Thomas Edison would test interviewees by offering them a bowl of soup: if they added salt to their bowl before tasting it, he believed they made too many assumptions.
  25. Mary Shelley kept a boa constrictor in her writing studio and wrapped it around her shoulders while she worked. When it began to squeeze, she allowed herself to take a break.
  26. Ezra Pound breathed through his nose until it was time to write – then he would breathe exclusively through his mouth.
  27. Leonardo da Vinci makes another appearance on this list because the left-handed dyslexic polymath wrote backwards in all of his notebooks.
  28. Salvador Dali, when asked for an autograph, would keep the pen of the fan who asked!
  29. Nikola Tesla would not touch anything round.
  30. Demosthenes, an ancient Greek statesman, rehearsed his speeches in an underground hideout for long periods of time, often with stones in his mouth, and sometimes shaving half of his head to ensure that he wouldn’t speak before an audience until he was ready.
  31. Ben Franklin would spend up to an hour, every morning, standing naked in front of his open window. He called these “air baths.”
  32. Winston Churchill also loved spending time in his birthday suit. Not only was he known to dictate letters and conduct business in his office in the nude, he met Franklin D. Roosevelt while completely in the buff!
  33. Conversely, Ulysses S. Grant bragged that no one had seen him nude since his birth, as he just preferred to remain dressed.
  34. Alexandre Dumas color-coded his writing – blue for fiction, pink for articles, and yellow for poetry.
  35. John Quincy Adams greenlit an expedition to dig into the earth and discover the mole people he believed lived beneath our surface. To his credit, he wanted to form a diplomatic relationship with them.
  36. Tesla – back again – would curl his toes 100 times every night before he fell asleep in order to boost his brain.
  37. Jane Austen was known to continue daydreaming about her characters years after a work was finished.
  38. Composer Igor Stravinksy would start each day with a 15-minute headstand. Also to boost his brain.
  39. Charlie Chaplain loved to throw custard pies and nude women. There’s no known explanation for this.
  40. Ernest Hemingway would share his daily writing goals with his six-toed cats. He refused to discuss plans with normal-toed cats, as he believed they were poor listeners.
  41. William Wadsworth, however, read his poems to his dog. If his dog got agitated or barked, Wadsworth would go back and tweak the poem.
  42. Nikola Tesla, the lovable quirk who can’t keep himself off this list, once invited Mark Twain over. Tesla had just completed his high-frequency oscillator and Twain was troubled with constipation, and Tesla was convinced that he could help if only Mark would stand on the oscillator. Funnily enough, after only 90 seconds, it worked!
  43. Marlon Brando was such a fan of flatulence that upon receiving the gift of a fart machine, he exclaimed, “I’ve found God!”
  44. Michelangelo wore his boots for such long periods of time, even wearing them to bed, that when he finally did remove them his assistant said that his skin came away with them.
  45. As you can imagine, leaving his boots on for so long meant that Michelangelo rarely bathed.
  46. He also hated speaking with people and was known to walk away mid-conversation! Although I’m sure the person he was speaking to was grateful.
  47. Beethoven was also a hygiene hater. He got so dirty that his friends would take his clothes away and wash them while he slept!
  48. Emily Dickinson was a hermit who would often only speak to guests through a locked door.
  49. Lady Gaga is so afraid of ghosts that she spends thousands of dollars on paranormal investigators and ghost-hunting equipment.
  50. Marjori Desai, the first Prime Minister of India’s non-Congress government, drank his own urine. Every day.
  51. Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes would defecate in public.
  52. William Faulkner preferred to type with his toes – and kept shoes on his hands while he worked!
  53. Sir George Sitwell had a sign upon entering his estate that read, “I must ask that anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.” I may actually try this one.
  54. Franz Kafka ate a pineapple upside down cake anytime he finished a story – and wouldn’t share a bite with anyone.
  55. Tesla makes the list again for his obsession with pigeons. Towards the end of his life he lived in almost total isolation… apart from the pigeons he would cover himself with.
  56. Alexander Graham Bell kept his windows covered at all times. He wanted to protect himself from the harmful rays… of the moon.
  57. Quentin Tarantino writes screenplays with mostly felt-tip pens, but will make the occasional exception for his ex-girlfriend’s 1980’s word processor. Vintage.
  58. James Joyce kept a pair of doll underwear in his pocket.
  59. Steve Jobs cried. A lot. Over just about anything.
  60. He also refused to put a license plate on his car.
  61. Mozart wrote graphic, expletive-filled poems to his mother – who responded in kind!
  62. Elon Musk read for up to 10 hours a day as a child. This one also seems totally acceptable.
  63. Einstein, being either thrifty or green, would pick up used cigarette butts off of the streets and use the leftover tobacco he found in them for his pipe.
  64. That’s not the only thing he picked up. Albert Einstein also picked up insects from the ground and ate them. Live.
  65. Nikola Tesla (you didn’t think we were done talking about him, did you?) was so averse to pearls that he once sent his secretary home for wearing them.
  66. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe believed a dwarf named Jepp possessed psychic powers and would pay him to sit under his dinner table during meal times.
  67. French King Charles “The Mad” believed he was a wolf made out of glass. He not only chased people around his castle while howling at them, but he also would not allow anyone to touch him for fear of shattering.
  68. Andrew Jackson constantly challenged people to duels and is believed to have participated in hundreds of them.
  69. Martin Luther reportedly ate a spoonful of his own feces for “health benefits” from time to time.
  70. Victor Hugo would have his assistant hide his clothes in an effort to force him to meet his writing goals.
  71. Cisco Systems co-founder Sandy Lerner is such a fan of jousting that she breeds her own horses and wears Elizabethan costumes while practicing.
  72. Our friend Nikola Tesla would walk around a building 3 times before entering it.
  73. He was so obsessed with the number 3 that he also ate his meals with 6 sets of 3 napkins.
  74. Georgia O’Keefe, while surrounded by views and space on a ranch in New Mexico, preferred to paint in her car.
  75. Former emperor of China Zhengde loved playing shopkeeper so much that he had an entire fake city block built.
  76. Howard Hughes is another famous brain known for multiple quirks and mental illness. He once lived in his screening room for 4 months, surviving solely off of chocolate bars, milk, and chicken.
  77. Other times, however, Hughes would enjoy a steak meal with 12 peas of equal size. If the peas were not uniform, they were sent back to the kitchen and replaced.
  78. Lord Byron kept, ahem, hairs of his lovers in a file, which remained at his publishing house for more than 100 years after his death. Whoever kept that file should also be on this list.
  79. Less strangely, Lord Byron kept a live bear in his dorm room as a pet… and tried to get it a fellowship.
  80. Agatha Christie would write anywhere but at a desk.
  81. She also fueled her creativity by eating apples in the bathtub while examining crime scene photos.
  82. Virginia Woolf wrote standing up – though only to prove to her sister, a painter, that her work was not any easier.
  83. Sigmund Freud, while delving into the depths of the human psyche, was addicted to cocaine.
  84. When he wasn’t looking around for stuff to pick up, Einstein would play his violin for birds, while tears streamed down his face.
  85. Stephen King hates adverbs. Passionately.
  86. Andy Warhol kept more than a human foot – he was a bona fide hoarder.
  87. Pablo Picasso disliked discussing his art with fans so much that he fired a small revolver loaded with blanks whenever he found them to ask too many questions.
  88. Abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky had synesthesia and heard certain colors “hissing” at him when he tried to mix them.
  89. Leonardo da Vinci loved birds so much that he would buy them at markets just to set them free.
  90. Hans Christian Anderson carried a coil of rope with him everywhere he went, in case he was ever caught in a hotel fire.
  91. Sir Francis Galton, a prolific scientist, carried a brick with him regularly, in case he found himself in a crowd and needed something to stand on.
  92. Composer Gioachino Rossini wore a wig due to being completely bald, which seems reasonable. However when it got cold outside, he would pile them on and wear 2 or 3 wigs at once!
  93. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced that Harry Houdini had actual magical powers – no matter how much Houdini himself insisted he did not.
  94. Henry Ford was pretty uninterested in food, preferring instead to gather roadside weeds to be prepared and eaten.
  95. Salvador Dali is featured again for this gem – he carried around a jewel-encrusted cigarette case filled with false mustaches, which he politely offered to his friends.
  96. German poet Friedrich Schiller could not work without the stench of rotten apples sitting on his desk.
  97. Architect Richard Buckminster Fuller worked on a scrapbook of his life for almost 7 decades until his death. If stacked, the scrapbook would be roughly the size of the Empire State Building.
  98. Steve Jobs would eat only one or two foods, such as carrots or apples, for weeks at a time.
  99. He also believed his plant-only diet negated body odor. According to his coworkers, it didn’t.
  100. Oscar Wilde is rumored to have once walked a lobster down the street. On a leash, thank goodness.

famous gifted people

Whew, there have been some brainy and bizarre people in our time! Now your kiddo’s bug collection or qualms with their food touching don’t seem quite as hard to swallow, huh?

Hopefully you got a good chuckle from this list and remember it the next time you hear the nervous laughter from a stranger. More than anything, though, I’m dying to know – what are your kiddo’s quirks?

A Perfect Option For Your Quirky Child

The Learner's Lab

The Learner’s Lab is the community created just for your quirky family.  It’s full of creative lessons, problem solving activities, critical and divergent thinking games, and the social-emotional support differently-wired children and teens need most.

All from the comfort of your own home. 

This community was created to support children who are gifted and twice exceptional. We address topics just like this all year long, in a way that is educational and fun for children. They learn skills to help them cope and you learn how to help them along the way. 

We invite you to join us. Get all the details HERE.

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RLL #100: A Celebration of 100 Episodes!

rll 100 a celebration of 100 episodes

It hardly seems possible we could be at our 100th Episode so quickly but here we are! These last few years have been a blast and we’ve had so much fun learning about our gifted / 2e / quirky, out-of-the-box kiddos while recording these episodes. We thought it would be fun to take a look back and listen to a few snippets from our favorite conversations, talks with parents, bloggers, authors, experts, and even some of the topics big and small we face in the day-to-day. Won’t you listen with us? You might find you want to go back and listen again to a favorite episode (or listen to one you might’ve missed!)  We also hope it inspires you to look forward to all the great conversations and episodes we have planned for the coming New Year.

RLL #100: A Celebration of 100 Episodes

Links and Resources from Today’s Show:




Leave a Rating or Review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really does help — and it’s easy!

    • Click THIS link to go to the podcast main page.
    • Click on View in iTunes under the podcast cover artwork.
    • Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! Thanks so much.

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The Anxious Parent of the Anxious Child | Not Everything is a Disorder

the anxious parent of the anxious child not everything is a disorder

I like to say that I hold several Google University degrees. I am an incessant, constant, chronic researcher. I cannot seem to ever learn enough or have my curiosity quenched. What’s that beautiful flower growing on the side of the highway? What ever happened to that child actor from that one movie I saw in the early 90’s? How common is my birthday? And did anyone ever discover what was on page 47 in National Treasure 2?

But for as many interesting tidbits and factoids I’m able to find that feed conversation, my vast and varied browser history also feeds a very real struggle – anxiety. When answers to questions are a few finger taps away, the temptation to search everything is too great. Why am I having a headache on this side of my head? Why does my elbow hurt? What does it mean when I have this recurring dream? Why does my child behave this way? Is their quirk or struggle a symptom of something larger? What are the criteria for these specific disorders and struggles, and how many does my child meet? What is wrong, and how scared should I be?

   anxious disorder

When you’re an anxious parent you already worry about almost everything. When you’re parenting an anxious child, there are legitimate worries and fears that are dealt with on a daily basis. When you’re the anxious parent of an anxious child, racing heartbeats, stomach aches, lack of sleep, and just plain terror can overtake you and convince you that there is an unnamed dragon waiting just around the corner, a diagnosis or disorder that you can’t quite put a label to but a fear you can very much feel. 

One of the most triggering and driving emotions of irrational fear and anxiety is the sensation of the unknown. That’s what drives me to research every ache and pain, in an attempt to head off some degenerative or deadly disease by identifying it quickly. Not knowing what is happening leaves us unsteady and fearful, but imagining what could be happening is what really drives us to the dark and terrifying places. The places where fear silences reason and we are so terrified of the unknown that we cling to whatever explanation we can reach in an attempt to catch some footing. This is where we are when we look at our anxious child and use our Google University degrees to “diagnose” our children. 

There’s been an overwhelming trend in the last several years towards pathologizing everything, placing a name or label or diagnosis on every behavior of childhood or intense emotion of adulthood. There are dozens of theories to discuss as to why the tendency has leaned more and more towards labeling every quirk or struggle, but for the sake of this post, from the perspective of an anxious parent, the desire comes from a need to understand, anticipate, and have something we can control. 

Related: The Anxious Parent of the Anxious Child | Using Social Stories, The Lies Anxiety Tells Youanxious disorder

Being able to comfort myself that my child’s behaviors are a result of some disorder removes the fear of the unknown when I watch them struggle and have no idea why. And while no one wants their child to suffer or need any type of intervention, the fear of what our child could be struggling with is greater than the fear of what a diagnosis means. The unknown is far worse than the pathologized. Disorders are more comforting than the undetermined. 

Yes, especially when dealing with anxious families, there often are disorders to consider and adapt to, and identifying them and advocating for your child is an enormous piece of mental wellness. You should always raise concerns about behaviors or intrusive thoughts with your child’s doctor, and push for more detailed attention when you feel that concerns are being dismissed. But, when viewing your anxious child through your own anxious lens, it is important not to lose yourself in the flood of possible diagnoses. Remind yourself that sometimes quirks are just quirks. Sometimes what you’re convinced is a herd of zebras is really just a routine herd of horses. Not every behavior or meltdown or classroom struggle is a symptom of something greater going on. Not everything is a disorder. 

I can feel some of the ruffled feathers already, because without parents advocating children in need would almost never receive services or care for their very real struggles. This is absolutely true. I wish someone had recognized the signs of the severe anxiety I was experiencing as a child and had thought to seek out a professional opinion. I’m not encouraging parents to ignore questionable behavior or gut feelings that direct you towards finding help. I’m reminding anxious parents that anxiety is not always a sound textbook to draw from when worrying about your child. 

The anxious mind is not a typical mind. The anxious mind can make enormous leaps in reason, starting in one arena and landing in an entirely different one. The anxious mind can witness a quirk and see an entire fictitious path leading forward that only leads to diagnosis, pain, and lifelong struggle. Heck, the anxious mind can see a dozen of those paths. 

Related: 2E Or Not 2E? That is the Question, RLL #86: All About Anxiety with Dr. Dan Petersanxious disorder

An anxious parent, who is themselves coping with a very real disorder, witnessing their anxious child struggle with their own real disorder, can run through a hundred scenarios with every behavior they witness. The fear can take over and control is suddenly up for grabs, so we scramble to Google, observe, research, ask, anything we can do to feel useful and informed and prepared for whatever fate awaits our child. While plenty could call this good parenting, and I wouldn’t argue against that, being quick to pathologize every behavior and assign a diagnosis to every stumble is driven by irrational fear, by anxiety itself, and anxiety is known to not always whisper truths to our terrified minds. 

As the anxious parent of an anxious child, I have to learn to contain my worry spirals and my fervent Google searches. I no longer keep a DSM on my nightstand for quick reference. If a behavior is suspect, I make note of it, along with the circumstances surrounding it – was she hungry? was he tired? was he being irritated by his siblings or reacting from sensory overwhelm? Make note of each instance and compare the circumstances and settings. Observe before you research. Take note before you diagnose. Approach their behaviors from a place of interest, not fear. Rather than approaching our children’s behavior as a hypothesis we’re trying to prove, give it some time to draw exegetical information from. 

The anxious mind can be a scary one, and the anxious experience can often feel like a hopeless one. Your understanding and empathy as an anxious parent is of enormous help to an anxious child, but it is important to keep in mind that your help, empathy, and enthusiasm should not be drawn from the anxiety itself. Anxiety lies to you, convinces you of the worst, so try not to allow anxiety to be the driving force behind seeking help for your child. Anxiety will tell you that something is wrong, everything is wrong, no one else knows what’s wrong. Anxiety will tell you there’s a disease, a disorder, a painful path before your child. Anxiety will tell you those behaviors aren’t normal, and in an attempt to grasp at some kind of control you end up losing your footing altogether. Anxiety will convince you that to love your child you must constantly worry for them, but what you must keep in mind as the anxious parent is that those fears and rushes to pathologize and label behavior, that enthusiasm driven by fear to find a disorder, more often than not, comes from the whispers of a disorder itself. 

You are your anxious child’s greatest advocate. You do not need to be their worried diagnostician, too. 

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Toxic Positivity When Raising Gifted Kids

toxic positivity when raising gifted kids

If only I had a dollar for every time someone found out about my children’s giftedness and scoffed, “Wow, that must be nice.” I’d be quite the wealthy woman. Comments about how easy we must have it when raising such smart kiddos, dismissals of our struggles because our kids must have it so easy, the (false) belief that if our kids are bringing home A’s on all of their tests, there’s nothing really to worry about.

I’ll pause while all you parents of gifted kids finish laughing hysterically. 

The truth is that raising gifted kids is often an entirely different experience than sitcoms and stereotypes would have you believe. Because gifted kids are, statistically, so few and far between, parents can find themselves incredibly isolated, misunderstood, and unheard. Even when our friends and family mean well, their words can sometimes make things worse, drive the wedge deeper. We love our kiddos and are enthralled by their uniqueness and abilities, but we still feel the sting of separation when the realities of our experience are dismissed by toxic positivity. 


toxic positivity gifted kids

Toxic positivity has made the rounds of late, calling attention to the damage that can be caused by being so insistently positive that real experiences are ignored. Waving off fears or tears with the urging to only think positive thoughts, to only entertain good vibes. Entire storms are ignored while others insist you should be searching for the silver lining among the clouds. 

And while having a positive mental attitude is helpful in tackling life’s mountains and valleys, it’s not the only way to make it through. In fact, it’s a pretty ineffective toolbox that relies solely on happy thoughts to fix every problem.

I’ve written a few posts before about the difficulties of raising gifted kids, and have been accused in a handful of comments of complaining about them, some even questioning if I like my gifted kids at all. I absolutely like my kids. I love them. I’m amazed by them. They’re my favorite people and as hard as they are, I’m willing to do whatever they need to be supported and enriched. I love my gifted kids. But I will not pretend that they are always easy. 

Toxic positivity and a sometimes overly-affirming culture tell us that they’re not hard, they’re unique, that we shouldn’t be so vocal about our struggles because we’re blessed to have them at all. The outcries are so insistent that we smile and celebrate through every struggle that many are denied the therapeutic and cathartic opportunity to vent, to acknowledge the difficulty, to be reminded that they are not alone and they are not getting the whole parenting thing wrong. 

Related: 100 Things to Never Say to the Parent of a Gifted Kid, 2E Or Not 2E? That is the Question

mental health

Toxic positivity can come from teachers. I’ve had more than one educator dismiss very valid concerns because my child was doing well in their class, academically. I bring up concerns about possible ADHD and am met with enthusiastic praises about academic performance. I ask about trouble during transition times and am answered with anecdotes about. My worries about emotional intensity and regulation are waved off while prattling on about a wonderfully creative story that was written last week.

I want to know about areas I know to be very real struggles, and am instead fed more compliments, platitudes, comforts I didn’t ask for. Sure, all parents love a good report, and it never stinks to hear someone wax poetic about how wonderful my kids are. But when there are very real concerns at stake, I don’t need teachers to be positive, I need them to be realistic. 

Toxic positivity can come from family. Well-meaning grandparents who insist that Einstein didn’t talk for the first few years of his life, so we shouldn’t worry. Aunts who remark that your child couldn’t possibly be dyslexic if they’re gifted. In-laws who wave off tantrums and meltdowns as “phases”, certain that there’s no need to pursue any kind of testing or therapy because they’re sure to grow out of it. 

Toxic positivity can come from ourselves. 

When we fear that we’re betraying our motherly duties by not gushing over how brilliant our babes are. When we think that our kiddos are so smart that any obstacles that may face will be easily overcome – they’re smart enough to figure it out, after all. When we’re caught up in the romance of quirkiness and unwilling to investigate twice-exceptionalities. When we’re so in over our heads and so at odds with what we thought parenting would be like that we simply smile through it all and push ahead, hoping it’ll eventually get easier. When we tell other parents to be thankful, grateful, instead of vocal with their difficulties and doubts. 

Related: Safe Place Fatigue | The Wear and Tear of Being Your Child’s Person, Finding Community | Building a Support System Online and In Person

toxic positivity gifted kids

Toxic positivity is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the poisonous apple that seems to healthy upon presentation but ends up causing unforeseen damage. None of us want to be Debbie Downer, and we certainly don’t want to be the Negative Nancy anytime our friends are baring their souls and sharing their struggles. But it is entirely possible to be too positive when comforting a worn and weary friend.

Encourage one another, yes. Empower one another with honestly, not ideals. But when a friend is revealing the scared and scarred parts of her heart, don’t gloss over them in an attempt to make her forget them. She’ll go to bed that night with the same fears, and one less person who she feels understands. Don’t insist that everything is okay. Don’t point out the positive to change the subject and distract from the difficult. Let struggling parents speak, and keep in mind that you don’t always have to respond. 

Having a support group in place is invaluable when dealing with the struggles of raising gifted and twice-exceptional children. The difficulties are unique and real, and sometimes we need some genuine empathy, not a pep rally. We know how awesome our kids are, they blow us away daily. But we also know how different they are and how often those differences translate into difficulties. And sometimes, just sometimes, we need to be heard – not encouraged, not glossed over, not scolded for leaving behind our happy vibes. Toxic positivity is as real as giftedness, as hard as twice-exceptionalities, and as prevalent as the spectacled math genius stereotype.

Raising these kids is hard, and pretending it’s not won’t make it any easier. But just as true is the fact that these kids bring magic, beauty, wisdom and grace into the messiness of our lives everyday.

Please hear me, the antidote to this toxic positivity is not focusing on what isn’t working. It’s acknowledging the reality and then finding the true positives. It’s not and should never be either or – good or bad, difficult or easy, gifted or not. 

As parents of gifted kiddos, our lives are a beautiful blend of all of the above. 

toxic positivity gifted kids

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