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Small Goals and Baby Steps

small goals and baby steps
small goals and baby steps

I remember years ago when I still had four kids at home how we dreaded the time change every year (well, twice a year)! When the time changed, a regular question for the next few weeks was, “Are you guys back on schedule after the time change?” And my typical reply was, “Yes!” Because I began preparing for the time change a week or so ahead of time. I slowly altered my kids’ bedtime and wake-up time by about 10 or 15 minutes each day so they’d be adjusted when the time change happened. It worked like a charm.

Just kidding! I was like nearly everyone else. The time change was horrible! It threw us off for days (or weeks)!

In reality, I usually forgot about the time change until the night it happened. My kids and I were usually exhausted and cranky for at least a week afterward. It’s amazing how much one little hour can change our whole reality, isn’t it?

small goals and baby steps

Small Goals and Baby Steps 

So here is the conclusion I came to as I gave some thought to the time change and how it affected us:

If one little hour can alter our schedules and our attitudes, why do we (at least I) tend to downplay the significance of “baby steps” in our own attempts to make improvements in our lives?  

I would love to say that I have always embraced the importance of the baby steps I’ve taken toward having a better attitude daily, eating more healthfully, encouraging my husband, kids, and friends more often, exercising…and the list goes on!  Instead, I tended to dismiss small changes as unimportant and focus only on the final goal.


Why do we dismiss small goals and baby steps and try to go straight to our goal? (Even when we know it’s harder and doesn’t usually work very well?) 

I have come to believe that much of this type of thinking comes from our misconceptions about not only those around us but also of ourselves.  How many times have you seen the mom in the grocery store with four well-behaved kids in tow, calmly shopping, reading ingredient labels, comparing prices?  Ok, maybe never, but many of us have the notion that WE should be that woman!

I, for example, am fairly often “accused” of being organized!  I try to dress neatly (My closet is a disaster, but I happen to be a master at “hide and seek.”), I never forget my earrings (Only because I never take them off!), and I remember to bring my organizer and a pen wherever I go. (I think I actually have an organizer addiction!) My appearance tends to lead folks into thinking that I am well organized, and apparently I don’t outwardly appear to be flustered or frustrated often.  Both of these things are occasionally true of me, however, they are not the norm!

So how do I move toward actually being organized instead of just appearing to be organized to others? How do I make changes that will help make my home and my homeschool run more smoothly each day? 

Set a goal to make smaller goals!

Yep. My first goal was to make it my goal to set smaller goals!  I know that I need to have something to work toward, but I want that work to be positive and enriching in my life and NOT make me feel like a constant failure!  My goals (and your goals, too) need to be small, do-able goals.

I’m also keeping in mind that, as a homeschooling mom, I believe I am the main role model my kids are likely to follow. I want to model for my children a positive approach to setting and accomplishing goals. In addition to that, my desire is to emphasize having a positive attitude along the way!


But wait! First, give yourself credit for what you’re already doing well!

A good example of setting a small (do-able) goal was years ago when I decided to help my son, who was then two years old, to walk.  He has Down Syndrome and, although I suspect he would have learned to walk eventually on his own, was showing no indication of interest in walking. When he reached his second birthday and was still crawling or being carried everywhere he went, I felt like a failure!  I was so disappointed in myself for not taking the time or making enough effort to teach him how to walk.

After beating myself up a little bit, I realized that his verbal skills and sign language skills were pretty amazing. He absolutely loved to help his brother empty the dishwasher, and he enjoyed helping his sister and me load wet clothes into the dryer and unload them once dry.  These things that I worked hard to help him accomplish did not erase the fact that I had carried him around rather than working with him to learn to walk. However, they did encourage me that I was NOT a total failure.

I had put time and effort into teaching him age-appropriate communication skills.  I had encouraged him to be a contributing family member. (I believe all kids, no matter how young, feel special and have a positive kind of pride that comes with completing chores and playing a role in caring for the whole family.) It made me feel better about what I’d already done and gave me confidence that I could move forward when I first gave myself credit for what I had already done well.

Next, think about your big goal and write down some baby steps for accomplishing it.

So, how did I “solve” the walking problem?  I sat down and wrote myself some goals.  They started very, very small.

  • At first, I pulled him to a standing position when he wanted to be picked up.
  • Then I picked him up as usual.
  • Next, I encouraged him to stand up on his own and reach for me before I would pick him up.

We took tiny, tiny steps toward the goal, and in about 6 months, he was walking on his own!  Yes, that seemed like a long, long time, but it was not nearly as stressful a process as it could have been if I had pushed too hard and caused anger or rebellion to develop in him or more frustration and anger in myself! Or if I had simply set a larger goal to teach him to walk without breaking down the steps along the way.

Once you reach your goal, set new goals and write down baby steps to accomplish them.

Yes, we still had to practice walking on uneven surfaces, balancing, running, jumping…so many other related activities.  But the great part was that, by that time, I had complete confidence that we would be able to meet those new goals. Our success with the baby steps we had accomplished and the goal we had attained gave me that confidence!

The best part, in fact, was that I knew as he grew he would understand that I was (and still am) his ally in the process of learning and not the enemy!  My hope was to bond and foster positive give-and-take rather than causing him to feel hopeless or rushed.

How This Affected My Attitude

How did this tie in with my attitude?  I stopped letting myself feel guilty for waiting until he was two to focus on walking. I stopped rejecting the praise that came when others saw the work we had put into walking for the past six months. I gave myself and my son credit for our hard work and was proud of what we had done!

I found that the “winning combination” for me was to allow myself to achieve just a little at a time and then make sure that I cheered myself on when each goal was accomplished instead of sliding back into old habits of self-criticism or guilt!  It seems to me that keeping this focus actually empowers me to continue to achieve and to smile as I do so! It makes my focus a positive one rather than a defeating journey in which I beat myself up a lot and teach my kids that scowling is a normal way of life.

What do you want to accomplish?

What are the goals you hope to accomplish?

  • Do you want to keep your house cleaner?
  • Want to find time to exercise?
  • Do you have a goal to study your Bible each day?
  • Maybe you are having difficulty keeping your kids current on their school assignments and want to change that.

Try setting small goals and baby steps!

1. Choose ONE change to make.

Set a goal to make ONE change to make the situation a little better. For example, if you find that the kids are sleeping later, dragging around in the mornings once they finally get up, and that school is beginning later and later and you feel frazzled, stop feeling frustrated and guilty!

Don’t try to completely change your entire morning routine all at once. You’ll just end up even more frustrated and defeated. Resist that temptation! Instead, choose one change to make. 

The first change I made was…breakfast!  I made a breakfast plan and got organized first thing in the morning.  For example, if we were to have muffins, I set out the ingredients the night before, mixed them up and baked them in the morning, and set out steaming muffins and glasses of cold water or milk at each child’s place before I woke them up.

My kids enjoyed the peace that came with me not rushing around all morning. I enjoyed the peace of knowing I had breakfast under control before morning even arrived!

2. Then make one more change.

After you’ve made your first change and given everyone time to adjust, choose one more change. For my family, my second step was teaching my kids to go straight from breakfast to doing morning chores. Once they adjusted to that, I chose one more change and so on until, finally, we accomplished our ultimate goal of staying current on school assignments.

Does it always work? Nope. Does it usually work? Yes!

Yes, it is true that I still forgot the time change.  It is also true, however, that I recovered from my oversight pretty quickly with no permanent damage done!  I still have a messy closet, but I don’t let it make me feel like a failure, and I don’t worry that I am doomed to a life of disorganization and clutter.

I attempt to remind myself, when necessary, that the closet just hasn’t made itself a high enough priority yet in my list of important goals (and baby steps toward accomplishing them), and I smile when people make comments about how organized I am!

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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


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7 Executive Functioning Activities for Small Children

7 executive functioning activities for small children

The basement was a complete mess. Boots, coats, scarves, and hats were strewn all over the floor — right next to the shelves and hooks on which they belonged. When I told my kids to bring their things to the basement, I wasn’t specific enough, I guess.

I didn’t help them scaffold and build their executive functioning skills and so, while I was frustrated, it was mostly with myself.

Executive Functioning Activities for Young Children-The basement was a complete mess. Boots, coats, and hats were all over... I was frustrated with the lack of executive functioning skills my kids displayed.

What is Executive Function?

The official definition of executive functions is that they are a set of processes that have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.

To help your child develop proper executive function skills you must be willing to allow your child to fail.

You need to give your kiddo a chance to figure things out for himself. If your child is attempting something that you know he can do then step back. However, this needs to be balanced with helping when necessary so the child doesn’t get too frustrated.

Basically, parent your child to be autonomous.

Executive Functioning Activities for Young Children


Activities for Young Children to Aid Executive Function Skills

Ask your child explain or teach you something. When you know something well enough you can teach it to someone else. This skill shows not only understanding of order but memory. Pick something simple such as making a sandwich or how to wash a dish.

Play games. Games provide an opportunity to exercise memory, order, and following rules in a low stress and fun way.



Use a multisensory approach when assigning tasks. Orally explain task such as a bedtime routine to your child. If your child is old enough to read, then write the routine down. If not, create a pictorial routine. You may want to explain the routine while playing hopscotch or throwing a ball back and forth.

Encourage flexible thinking. Take an ordinary object and ask your child what it can be used for. Try to encourage your child to come up with as many out of the box ideas as possible.

Use simple worksheets to practice following directions. Puzzles, activities, and worksheets help little ones scaffold their direction following so that they can eventually follow multi-step directions without getting hung up. Try simple worksheets like the one below to practice on. (You can download your own copy of this worksheet for free by clicking the download now button and entering your email address. It will come right to your inbox.)

FePqJLHEE9wi7N97cACldN U1wI

Wordplay. Another way to encourage flexible thinking is with wordplay. You can create puns, read Amelia Bedelia books together, or tell silly jokes.

Encourage organization simply. If your child has a terrible time keeping her room organized, then provide simple solutions. Provide supply caddies and tote boxes that are clearly marked. For instance, put stuffed animals in one tote and shoes in another or whatever works for you. Use a supply caddy for art supplies so your child can easily see when something is out of place and correct it.

Simple steps that are visual can help a child practice organization.

Got any other tips for teaching little ones executive functioning skills? Share in the comments.

For more great parenting tips check these out:



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Emotional Overexcitability And Gifted Kids (what you need to know)

emotional overexcitability and gifted kids what you need to know

One of my favorite movies will forever be Mean Girls. I had no idea when I was quoting it as a teenager that I’d still be quoting it as an adult, but here we are. Glen Coco and fetch and grool – they all have their place in my daily speech, but the line that comes up most often now that I’m raising an intense poster child for emotional overexcitability is most definitely, “I just have a lot of feelings.

I’ll give you a second to shout, “She doesn’t even go here!” before I move on. That scene, that poor girl, her hair plastered to her face with fresh tears, her wrinkled paper grasped fervently with both tightened fists, the eyebrows so subject to emotion that they were almost vertical — that is my daughter. She definitely wishes we could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, and she most definitely has a lot of feelings.

overexcitabilities and gifted child

Emotional overexcitability is a term that comes from Kazimier Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. There are five overexcitabilities — or OEs — in all, each describing what is basically a super sensitivity, a heightened characteristic, or intense need experienced in gifted individuals. Emotional OE is, as you can guess, really intense emotions.

Really intense emotions.

ReallyDeeply. Overwhelming. Consuming.

Often uncontrollable emotions.

Emotional overexcitability is easy enough to take notice of. The child who is so nervous they make themselves sick. The child who doesn’t want you to leave because they’re so attached to you. The daughter who screams when her brothers laugh at her. The child who hides behind the couch and sobs when Bing Bong disappears in Inside Out. The child who wakes up at 2:30 am every single night just to come get a reassuring hug. The child who cries two months after watching a movie where a character was bullied. The daughter who clings to you, soaked with tears, and cannot stop crying because she just loves you really much. The child who takes offense, builds strong attachments, leaps with joy, holds grudges out of pain and forgives quickly out of hope. The daughter who cries daily, hourly, but also laughs loudly, deeply. The child who is compassionate, angry, loving, fearful, frustrated, annoyed, embarrassed, elated. The child who just has a lot of feelings.

All of those are my daughter. Yes, even the snuggles at 2:30 in the morning. Every night.

Related: Overexcitabilities and Why They Matter for Gifted Kidsemotional overexcitability

Emotional Overexcitability And Gifted Kids (what you need to know)

Emotional overexcitability is easy to spot, but that also makes it easy to dismiss. “Overreacting” is a term that gets tossed around a lot, and “drama queen” is a title she’s come to bear proudly. How could a child really feel this intensely about a character they’ve never met, when we both know it’s fictional? She must like the attention, right? She just has no control over herself, surely? Eye rolls abound, even, admittedly, from me.

Deep sighs.


These children are waved off as melodramatic, high-strung, histrionic, as just being too much. Sometimes an emotional overexcitability is even viewed through the lens of pathology, as a symptom, as something needing to be fixed. Emotional dysregulation and disorders get tossed around and many gifted children are misdiagnosed when really they just have a lot of feelings.

Our society, our culture, is not one that embraces intense emotions. Not regularly, and not from children, anyway. Girls are dismissed as “drama queens” and boys are told to “man up.” Intense, raw emotions are very uncomfortable for the people in their proximity.

Heck, they’re sometimes just loud.

The Reality Of Living With Overexcitabilities For A Gifted Child

But consider the discomfort of the child overcome with so much feeling that they cannot hold it inside their little body. Consider how unnerving it is to be so engulfed with an emotion they may not even fully understand. “Why are you crying? What’s wrong?” I ask my daughter, then three years old. “I don’t know! I just love you really much!” Her feelings were so big, so deep, so overwhelming, all-encompassing, and alarming that all she could do was cry and bury her face in my chest. Because she loves me. It sounds precious and sweet and I definitely have a video of it saved on my phone forever, but it’s also painful. It’s scary. It’s too much to have just so many feelings.

I wish I could say I was always empathetic and patient when it comes to her emotional overexcitability. Every day that she cries (which is, actually, every day), I cry, too.

It’s exhausting.

It’s draining.

I’ll admit, it’s annoying. Not every mole hill needs to be made into a mountain and sometimes it would be nice to get through a meal without tears, eruptions, or accusations of being a diva. I have to prepare her or shield her when it comes to movies, tv shows, books, stuffed animals with loose seams, anything on the Discovery Channel, other peoples’ potential reactions, pajamas she’s outgrown, the straw that was accidentally eaten by the garbage disposal, the possibility of losing a game, the impending move, and interaction with her brother and his own emotional OE. That’s right – emotional overexcitability shows no preference when it comes to gender, and it definitely doesn’t decide one person in a family is enough. My own intense reactions to her, my own tears, my own fears, attachments, and annoyance at her passion and fervency… I may have my own struggles with emotional OE. My husband refuses to look me in the eye when I ask him about it, though, so we may never no for sure.

Related: Help Your Intense Child Regulate Emotions Easily emotional overexcitability

Emotional overexcitability, it’s a lot.

It’s hard.

It’s consuming and irritating and loud and as unpredictable as it is predictable. Every hill is the one she chooses to die on, and each battle is intensified by my own intense reactions. And for whatever reason, the seemingly bottomless stores of empathy found in a child with an emotional OE appear to dry up when you beg and plead with them to just calm down.

Because they can’t.

They just can’t.

Their emotions, their feelings, fill so much of them that you may as well ask them to stop being short or to never be hungry again. These intense emotions are a part of who they are and cannot be shut off simply because they’re inconvenient, uncomfortable, embarrassing, or annoying. Telling an emotionally intense child to calm down, as I’m sure you’ve experienced by now, actually only makes the situation worse by dismissing their very real feelings, and potentially giving them reason to fear their inability to shut them down. Their feelings are their experiences, and they need to be felt, need to be acknowledged. If an emotion is overwhelming a child, empower him by allowing him to talk about it. An emotionally intense child who is made to feel ashamed for the intensity of his feelings will feel that shame intensely. An emotionally intense child who is heard with empathy and patience will learn how to identify what it is they’re experiencing and, while it won’t temper the ferocity of those feelings, it will keep them from feeling as though they are out of control, in danger, or broken.

“But how can someone so smart just freak out like that?” Our society has mistakenly been operating under the belief that intelligence and emotions are mutually exclusive. We’re told to follow our hearts but listen to our brains. Crying during an argument is viewed as weakness rather than passion. Somewhere along the way we began to believe that someone should know better than to react so emotionally, as though our emotions were so easily controlled or so far-removed from logic. Emotions are chemical reactions that take place in the brain – they are neighbors, roommates with wisdom, knowledge, thought. Emotion cannot be removed from intelligence, and an emotionally intense person cannot be expected to “know better” than to react intensely. No one will ever be too smart to feel – emotional overexcitability actually means that someone feels so much because they’re so smart. A brain that processes more will experience more, and that includes emotions.

It’s tough, I know. I’m in the trenches, knee-deep in soggy tissues and surrounded by mountains of stuffed animals that all have unique names and personalities and can never, ever be parted with. I can try and paint emotional overexcitability as a gift, wax poetic about deep connections and world-changing empathy, but the truth is that it’s draining, depleting, exasperating, exhausting. It’s overwhelming for both parent and child. It’s not a sign that your child is broken, it’s not a sign that your child isn’t thinking, it’s not always a gift but it’s definitely not a curse. It just means that your kiddo just has a lot of feelings.

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Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness In Your Child

recognizing and nurturing giftedness in your child

My oldest son and youngest daughter both have my tan complexion. The other two are fair like my husband. All four of them boast deep, chocolate eyes like Brian, not the blue I’d hoped they’d inherit from me. When we’re all together, you can see that we’re a family.

They’re opinionated, assertive, and loads of fun – always on the look out for the next adventure. I like to think that, while they arrived in this world full of confidence, spirit, and a boatload of intelligence, that I’ve helped to cultivate it.

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child

Nurturing a child’s gifts means first recognizing those gifts.

Even if others around you don’t see them.

You see them.

You see the way your child sprawls out, upside down, in the patch of sunlight coming through the blinds with a book bigger than he is.

You see the intensity in her eyes when she asks you (again) to tell her exactly how food is processed in our bodies and converted to energy.

You see the way he cringes when a mom at the ice cream parlor snaps at her little one who is tired and cranky, and how he empathizes with her and engages her in a game of peek-a-boo to help break her out of her funk and give that tired mama a reprieve.

You see her, weighing in on a debate with her big brother about the pros and cons of war, while holding onto her lovey, and with cheeks still flushed from the temper tantrum she just threw because you told her she’d had to wait the 15 minutes until you put lunch on the table to eat, and that no, now was not time for a snack.

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child

I see it too.

I live it, right along with you – you’re not alone.

I like to think that both nurture and nature play a role in our kiddos and their giftedness. Nature made them who they are, and it’s up to us to nurture those dichotomies and help them channel their intensities for good.

So, what does giftedness look like?

Recognizing Giftedness in Your Child

When you’re trying to figure out whether or not your child is gifted, or what a gifted kiddo looks like, it’s often a good starting point to know what some of the early characteristics are. It’s also helpful to know some of the traits that characterize different types of giftedness – creatively, cognitively, or academically.

Your gifted child may:

  • need constant mental stimulation.
  • learn and process complex information quickly.
  • need to explore topics in depth.
  • have an insatiable curiosity.
  • ask endless questions.
  • seek precision in thinking and answering questions.
  • focus obsessively on subjects or activities of interest for surprisingly long periods of time.
  • be unable to focus on tasks that are not intellectually challenging.
  • not be willing to participate in repetitive lessons or tasks.

So, you’ve recognized the giftedness in your kiddo… now what? Do you need to have your child identified? Is testing really that important? Maybe… maybe not. You can read my thoughts about testing and decide for yourself.

I think, though, that it’s infinitely more important that we, as parents, nurture those abilities in our children. There are lots of great books that explore the effects of denying our gifted kids’ abilities. You can check some of them out:


As a mom of gifted kids, I made the decision long ago to shift my paradigm and homeschool my kids when traditional schooling wasn’t working out. But, whether you homeschool your gifted kids or not, it’s crucial to nurture their giftedness so that they are empowered to reach their potential.

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child



Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child

It’s important to remember that, above all, your gifted children are kids. They need you more than anything else. You are the perfect parent for your gifted kiddo and he or she was given to you for exactly that reason. You’re perfect for your kid.

Love him, appreciate him, and help him grow into the person he is meant to be. Your gifted child needs you to appreciate him right now, and help him develop.

Yes… you know that, right? But how? You’re wondering how you should go about nurturing your child’s giftedness. Here are five simple suggestions…

Follow Your Child’s Interests

Remember the characteristics above? I know that my son will focus intently and passionately on anything that HE chooses to learn. So, I try as often as I can to tap into my kids’ interests and let them drive their learning.

As your kiddo gets older, try getting him involved in choosing his own curriculum. Build on your littler kids’ interests and dive into delight-directed learning. Take field trips. Get hands-on. Enjoy museum memberships.

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child


Strew Great Resources

Get those kiddos of yours to expand their interests by strewing. While it’s important to nurture your gifted child’s potential and love of learning by following his interests, it’s equally important to expose him to new things. Create a learning-rich environment with loads of great books, games, and puzzles.

By rotating exciting new things, your kids may discover new passions. We have a small science table in our kitchen. Right now there are bird books, a bird log, identification guides, and a chair. This past weekend we put up a feeding station outside so that we’d attract birds to where we can observe them. I also put out small pots, seeds, and soil, along with a book about seeds. It’s springtime, and I’m hoping to encourage nature observations and an interest in getting a garden planted.

Think about the possibilities… what could you strew?

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child



Pose Problems to Solve

Get your kids thinking. One of my favorite things to do when I taught third grade gifted kids was to challenge them to beat me in the strategy game of NIM. NIM is a mathematical game where players are required to remove objects in certain quantities.

There are endless variations of the game, but all involve inductive reasoning and can be won by the child who “discovers the secret.” I taught the initial variation to all the third graders in the building, then challenged kids to practice increasingly more difficult versions on their own and stop by when they thought they could beat me. If they’d solved the strategy and executed it flawlessly, they earned a sticker that boasted, “I beat Mrs. Kessler at NIM!” If they successfully solves all 20+ variations during the quarter I had the challenge live, they joined me and all the other problem solvers for a pizza party.

I had lines out my resource room door every morning for months, with my gifted kiddos all fighting to be the first to beat me at all of the games.

My own kids have loved the challenge, too.

Besides NIM, I’ve challenged my kids to beat me at Mancala, Mastermind, and other strategy and thinking games. I’ve also used great resources like It’s Alive, Real Life Math Mysteries, 100 Math Brainteasers, and Grid Perplexors.

Find Local Resources to Help Ease the Load

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of coming up with all of the ideas, activities, and materials to pique my curious kids’ interests all the time. I tap into the huge abundance of local resources I have at my fingertips.

We have memberships to local museums and zoos, and we frequently visit botanical gardens and nature centers. So many of them offer great classes during the summer and over spring break, and most of them offer classes and programs during the year, too.

And if they don’t – ask them if they will.

So many of the  amazing class opportunities we’ve had here in Northeast Ohio have come about because a homeschooling mom has asked if a theater program, community college, museum, or zoo would offer classes to homeschoolers.

They have the staff, love sharing what they know with the community, and are often eager to accommodate learners who want to learn. So… call around. Set something up, and then get on Facebook and shout out about the new offering. Parents and their kids will come. And you might make a few new friends in the process.

Recognizing and Nurturing Giftedness in Your Child


Find Community

This might be the hardest part of it all when it comes to nurturing your child’s giftedness. You and your child need community. You need other moms and dads who get exactly what you’re going through. You need a place to brag and cry and get help. Your child needs help making friends.

One of the toughest things about raising outliers is that they often don’t fit in with same-age peers. My 13yo has great friends – but they’re either adults or kids half his age. Asynchrony means that he likes to work through complicated ideas and bounce them off mentors four or five times his age, but wants to play Transformers with the 7yo brother of my daughter’s best friend.

Nurturing his giftedness means letting him be himself, and enjoy playing with young friends, and making time to take him to my father-in-law’s house to meet up with the “train guys” who come weekly to build model railroad layouts.

Whatever we do, we need to remember that our kids need us more than anything else. It’s up to us to recognize and nurture their giftedness – and to brag about them so they know we’re proud to be their parents.

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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Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Gifted Child

managing perfectionism 10 tips for helping your gifted child

As parents, we want our children to excel. We want them to strive for excellence, and to feel accomplished with a job well-done. Whether it’s their education, music lessons, dance, performance, or any other skill they’re pursuing, we teach our kids to aim high and master new things from an early age.

Gifted children know this expectation well. Because they rarely struggle with anything they attempt early on, we set high standards for them. After all, striving for perfection in the sense of learning to excel can be healthy and admirable. We just want our children to succeed.

gifted child perfectionism


The Unhealthy Side of Perfectionism

But, when reaching for perfection turns compulsive, it becomes an unhealthy struggle. And this type of pervasive perfectionism can become debilitating to a gifted child. Gifted perfectionists can be unsatisfied with their performance on anything – even when they’ve done beautifully.

My son has been taking flute lessons for a little over a year and a half. When he went in for his first “try out” and tested different band instruments to see what he was most suited to play, he was told that he had a natural ability, and could play whatever he wished. He chose flute.

At first, he practiced well and often, but as time has gone on, and the pieces have become more challenging, he’s pulled back. I know that it’s because he’s afraid he’ll fail. He has been told since the beginning that he is a natural, and so with every failed note, he feels increasingly devastated and angry.


That amazing solo happened because neither his teacher, nor his parents {us} allowed him to quit. He told us over and over again that he wasn’t going to perform. He argued that he’d been practicing the song for a year and still didn’t get it right every time. But we wouldn’t back down because he needed to play the song. He’d worked hard, and would be sitting in a gymnasium with other 5th and 6th grade musicians, none of whom practice perfectly every time. And almost every one of them was performing a solo.

He nailed it. And once he did, and heard the applause, his whole demeanor changed. He sat straighter. He clapped harder for his friends. And he smiled through the rest of the concert.

And then he fought me again the next day as we tackled a math concept that was new to him.

When Perfectionism Leads to Underachievement

Perfectionism is different than the motivation for excellence. The dissimilarity keeps gifted perfectionists from every completely feeling good enough about themselves. It keeps kids from taking risks. They become so afraid of failure that they avoid work, play, and new experiences altogether.

I still get this way as a perfectionistic adult. I get anxious and procrastinate on tasks or projects I have coming up when I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet my own high standards. I’m speaking about giftedness and managing intensity in a few weeks, and still haven’t put together my talks, slides, and handouts. It’s not because I don’t know the topics inside and out – I live those topics on a daily basis!

Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Child

I just don’t want to let my audience down. I’m headachy and nauseous when I think about it. I love speaking. I love writing. And I’ve done it for years – and get myself worked up each and every time because I care so much about creating the perfect experience for others.

I know exactly how my son feels.

I know how your gifted perfectionist feels. He might seem depressed or avoid basic work, making excuses and blaming others for his lack of follow-through. He may become defiant or rebellious.

Perfectionism And The Gifted Child

Unhealthy perfectionism affects the child {or adult} physically, emotionally, and intellectually. But it also affects his family and friends. Perfectionists may subtly cause others to feel down about themselves by pointing out their flaws and mistakes in an attempt to make themselves feel better.

One of my children is constantly pointing out a sibling’s flaws, and offering unsolicited advice. It’s not warranted, and all it does is make the recipient feel less perfect than the advice-giver. And the advice-giver feels more important, smarter, etc.

Giving others unsolicited advice reassures gifted perfectionists of how intelligent they really are. Causing others to feel bad has an unconsciously confirming effect on their own perfectionism.

10 Tips For Helping Your Gifted Child Manage Perfectionism

So, as parents who want our gifted kids to reach their potential and excel, without becoming unhealthy in their quest for perfection, how can we help them manage?

1. Let them hear about your mistakes.

Kids who struggle with perfectionism often think others are perfect. Talk to them about your failures and the lessons you’ve learned from them. When I taught gifted children in the public schools, I started the year by going into all of the third grade classrooms and reading excerpts from the book, Mistakes That Worked. In that book, inventions that were created from someone’s failures are profiled. The Frisbee, Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and Post-It Notes are some of the amazing things discussed in that book.

Sometimes the best learning happens from the biggest failures. After we discussed the books, their classroom teachers each shared a story of failure from their own lives. It was powerful, and enlightening. The kids loved it.

Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Child

2. Teach them to practice… and to lose.

Many things come easy to gifted kids, so by the time they find something that’s hard, they give up rather than fail. Find something they’ll have to work at – an art class, horseback riding, stop motion animation – and sign them up. Practice with them between sessions. Teach them that great things come through hard work.

Then, teach your kids to lose. Play games with them, starting with games of chance and moving onto skill-based games. Celebrate gracious losing.

3. Focus on the process, not the product.

Too often, perfectionistic kids have an idea of what something should look like when it’s done. Their picture may or may not match up with reality. Throughout the process of their work, ask them questions and offer compliments. When they’re done, ask questions. “What made you use that color?” “How did you come up with this idea in the first place?”

4. Explain your expectations, and stick with them.

Gifted kids are literal and need to know up front what it means to be done with a project. What does a great journal entry look like? How do we measure success on the ball field? What should his flute practice include? Tell your literal-minded kiddo what to expect and tell him to stop when he gets to that point. Use a time limit if necessary.

Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Child

5. Be silly sometimes.

Gifted and perfectionistic children can be so hard on themselves. Take time to laugh with each other – especially when mistakes are made. Practicing how to take falls, trying flips on the trampoline, and watching silly shows on television all help draw families closer together and remind kids to enjoy moments… and that everyone fails.

6. Talk about your own struggles.

If you’re a perfectionist too like I am, talk to your kids about it. I just chatted over Starbucks with my son about how I struggle when I have too many things on my plate. I get overwhelmed, think I can’t do it all perfectly, and just want to give up altogether. When he knows that I struggle with paralyzing perfectionism, too, he doesn’t feel so alone.

7. Break routines from time to time.

Like all children, the perfectionist craves routine. Help them see that the occasional break from routine is okay. If you’re in a hurry to be somewhere, model that it’s okay to let some chores go until later. If you always let your kiddo read before bed, but you got home really late, have them go to bed without reading from time to time. Teach them that routines and structures are meant to help us focus our days – not become slaves to them.

8. Make and progress towards goals.

Help your child see the bigger picture, and realize that mistakes and trip-ups are part of the journey. Start by having them think about things they want to achieve and break it down for them. For example, if your child wants to write and self-publish a book, have him first set the small goal of outlining his story. Then, have him set and meet the goal of writing the first chapter. Keep going like this in small intervals, helping your child see that there are many steps to ultimate goals, and nobody get there right away.

Managing Perfectionism: 10 Tips for Helping Your Child

9. Enjoy a state of rest.

Many kids get more worked up over their perfectionism when they over-extend themselves. Make sure that everyone is well-rested and takes good care of their physical needs. Set aside time to eat together as a family and reconnect. Include quiet down time in your day for kids and adults of all ages – we all need downtime.

10. Be a role model for healthy excellence.

Take pride in your work and don’t hide your mistakes or criticize yourself aloud. Congratulate yourself when you’ve done a good job, and let your children know that your own accomplishments give you satisfaction. Don’t overwork. You, too, need to have some fun and relaxation.

If your child’s perfectionism is getting in the way of normal activities and preventing him from getting involved in new activities, or if your child shows symptoms of anxiety related to perfectionism, like stomachaches, headaches, or eating disorders, you may want to get professional psychological help for your child and your family. Seeing a psychologist or a family counselor can help give you the tools to get your kiddo and yourself back on track.

Do you or your child struggle with perfectionism? What are some of the successful ways you’ve tackled the problem? 


An additional resource to help you as you help your child with perfectionism – 

perfectionism and gifted children

Get all the details about Never Good Enough, by Colleen Kessler  HERE. 

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Dear Tired Mom of Gifted Kids

dear tired mom of gifted kids

It’s been a long day already, and you haven’t even taken your first sip of coffee. You didn’t get to bed until well after midnight because the oldest couldn’t shut his mind down and wanted, no needed, to talk about every single swirling thought he’d ever had.

Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids

At four a.m. you were violently shaken awake by the six year old who just needed to hear you say, yet again, that it was highly unlikely that the sun would explode whilst she slept. And what scientific proof you had to back up your stance.

You finally got her settled again, snuggled next to your slumbering husband when the toddler started crying. He just needed to cuddle, and so in desperation you brought him into bed with you praying that this way you might both get some sleep.

You did.

For a few hours.

And then you awoke to a crash in the kitchen at 7:30ish.

Your sweet eight year old decided to make you coffee, and dropped the canister, then tripped over the chair she’d used to get the coffee out of the cupboard in the first place. And you looked at the table and saw that she’d pulled dough out of the fridge and was rolling it out for biscuits – and had spread flour everywhere.

Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids

Bleary-eyed, you finished making the coffee, and worked together with your daughter to clean up the mess, and soothed her sobs. Her plan had been to surprise you with a complete breakfast, ready to go, as soon as you woke up. And she’d hoped to be halfway through her independent school work before that.

But things often don’t look like the perfect picture in her head, and she just can’t handle that when perfectionism rears its ugly head.

So, for sanity’s sake, you are now sitting on the couch, cradling your coffee in your cupped hands, breathing in the vanilla flavored creamer and the peppermint essential oil you dropped in, hoping it would clear the cobwebs from your cluttered mind – and the television is on with Leap singing the alphabet to your littlest.

Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids

And you’re gearing up for the chaos of the day.

Homeschooling – no, parenting – gifted kids is not for the weak. There’s the anxiety. And the asynchrony. And the overexcitabilities. And the intensity. And the perfectionism. You often think that whomever came up with the term gifted to describe children like yours, may have used the word gift to remind themselves that children were a blessing.

Because oftentimes giftedness is not.

Take heart, mama, it is worth it.

The late night theological discussions, the endless curiosity, the boundless energy, the constant noise… it’s all worth it.

But, because the traditional parenting tips don’t typically work with gifted and intense children, you often feel alone and like you’re failing.


Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids

Dear Tired Mom of Gifted Kids

Here’s the thing, mama of gifted and intense kiddos… you’re not failing. At all. There are other moms out there who are experiencing the same failures, the same exhaustion, the same endless unanswerable questions from pint-sized brains that run laps around your own.

And the supermom myth… well it’s just a myth. You can’t do it all, and you certainly can’t do it alone.

Moms of gifted kids need help – and they need to be okay asking for it.

Help can be a conversation in a support group for parents of gifted children. Something simple to remind you that you’re not alone, your kids will be fine, and you’ll make it through this adventure of parenting. If you’re looking for a fantastic and supportive community full of parents who get you, I’d love to have you join us in The Learner’s Lab

the learners lab for gifted kids

Help is going out for coffee with a friend – just to be a normal woman for an evening. It’s getting together with with a small group of moms and their kids, and being okay with whatever means fun for your kiddo, even if that’s reading under a tree while the other kids run around on the playground.

It’s even pulling away from everyone for a few days or weeks to regroup and reconnect as a family. To sit at home and cuddle on the couch with one another.

Help is whatever YOU need most.

But, tired mama, the best thing you can do to help yourself through this journey of parenting misunderstood kiddos is to remember that you ARE a fantastic parent. You are exactly the mother designed for your kids. You’re perfect for them. Especially in your imperfection.

There’s no such thing as a perfect mama. Only one doing her best, learning and growing alongside her kiddos.

Sip that coffee, regroup, and rely on Netflix from time to time if you need to. But don’t doubt that you’re doing a wonderful job. You ARE a great mom.

I’m sitting here with my coffee, and thinking about you. Knowing that you’re out there helps me through my struggles too. We’re in this together, tired mama of gifted kids, and we can do this.

Thinking of you – and clinking my mug to yours… Be brave today. Smart kids are cool – and so are you. Carry on and know that help is a FB message or email away.


For more posts on parenting gifted kids, check out:


Dear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids

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I Just Want My Son Back | What it Feels Like When Your Child is in Crisis

i just want my son back what it feels like when your child is in crisis

This is an electrical outlet in the emergency room. You’ll notice it looks different from what you’re used to seeing – it’s not only covered for safety, but locked.

There is no way to access it.

There is no way to charge my phone while we wait.

There is also no way for a child to harm themselves with it.

when your child is in crisis

This is what the outlets look like in the specialized rooms in a closed corner of the emergency room, where children are taken when they are brought in during a behavioral emergency. This is where children are taken when they attempt suicide, become so manic they’re uncontrollable, have psychotic breaks, fits of rage, and homicidal ideation.

This is where we ended up when my son attacked me.

when your child is in crisis

It’d never happened before, and I almost smugly believed it never would. I’m in a few Facebook groups for parents of troubled kids, I know a few families in real life who have had to bring their children to these rooms, but I always comforted myself that no matter how hard it got with my own boy, he’d never hurt me.

Until he did.

This room is so bare it’s unsettling. The bed and chair are made of a rubber-like foam. There is no bedding, no paper covers, no railing, no legs on any of them. Just blobs of hard, blue foam. The bed looks like a giant blue pill. There are no wires in this room. No call buttons, no lines to the oxygen in the wall. There’s a tv mounted behind a case but no remote to turn it on. Even the sink faucet is small with no visible plumbing.

“Where is the trash can?” my son asks.

“There’s not one in here. They can’t risk you throwing it at them.”

I look up, raising my eyes in an attempt to keep the hot tears from spilling out.

A failed attempt.

I see the large mirror in the corner that allows doctors and nurses to make sure no one is lying in wait to attack them. My son and I are sitting calmly on the giant blue pill bed and all that’s reflected back is how very empty the room is. Even with my eyes closed I can feel how empty it is.

I can feel how empty I am.

I know I’m not giving up. I know I never will give up. But right now, in this moment, on this hard, blue bed, I don’t know where I’ll draw my next breath from.

I’m so tired.

So worn.

So desperate.

So sad.

I know I’m not alone…

There are several rooms like this one in this corner of the ER, and many of them are currently occupied. The police are in the hall outside of another room, filling out paperwork and discussing the patient.

Will they come for my boy?

Has a nurse told them he hit me?

I clutch him, realizing all over again how serious this is. When you find yourself in a situation you never anticipated, you have to process it multiple times. It’s all too unreal to be real. It’s all so different, that you can protect yourself for a little while by not really accepting it.

Related: When Anxiety Looks Like Anger When Your Child is in Crisis

This Is What It’s Like When Your Child Is In Crisis

But those police officers are real.

My sweaty boy leaning against me is real.

The marks on my arm are real.

We are really here, in the emergency room, in a small, specialized room, designed to minimize the damage my child is apparently capable of.

I’m torn between wanting to cling to him and wanting the doctors to take him, just for a little while, just so he can get some help and I can get some respite.

Every parent likes to brag about their child when they’re asked about them, but instead I have to tell this intake specialist about the worst things my son has ever done.

His creativity and sense of humor don’t come up here.

No one is appreciating how well he does with his schoolwork.

Instead of eyebrows raising at being impressed by him, all of the brows around here are furrowed, worried, vigilant.

Are they judging me?

Do they think I let him get this way?

Do they wonder what I missed, what else I could have done?

Do they shake their heads at my decision to have children despite my family history of mental illness?

Do they search for ways to make this my fault?

Because I do.

I am.

I’m filled with guilt over something I didn’t even do.

I look down at my precious boy, leaning against me, calm, and lose touch of the reality we’re in just for a moment.

Surely this baby didn’t mean it.

Surely this will never happen again.

Surely this will be a wake up call to him and this behavior will stop.

But I’m not sure.

I don’t know what is causing this behavior.

I don’t know what will  help it.

I don’t know if we’ll be back in this room.

I know that I love him, and he loves me, but he is fighting something so strong inside him that he’s currently losing. He’s overtaken by something he’s not strong enough to fight on his own and has ended up on a hard, blue bed in a small, empty room.

He’s seen several doctors, several therapists, my boy. He’s been in various treatments for varying amounts of time over the years, and the diagnoses always change.

“It isn’t an exact science,” I’m told when I ask about the fluid, ever-changing labels. Then I’m handed a prescription for a very strong, very scientific medication and asked to trust the non-exact science with the very long list of side effects. No two therapists or doctors ever agree on what alphabet soup best explains my son, and I admit that as I grow increasingly dependent upon mental health professionals I trust them less and less.

He’s released.

He’s calmed down now and hasn’t made any threats against himself or anyone else.

He’s lucid but tired.

Without a charged phone or a clock I realize we went over 8 hours without eating and the knots in my stomach untie just enough to release a growl. I’m glad to be heading home with him. I know he didn’t need to stay, I know he didn’t meet the criteria for inpatient care, but I still feel like we didn’t accomplish anything.

I’ll follow up with his therapists tomorrow.

Tonight we’ll rest in our own beds — beds with linens and pillows and usable outlets nearby.

I don’t know if we’ll be back to that small, empty room with the hard, blue bed.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow when I call his therapists.

I don’t know what will happen when we walk back into the familiar environment of our home where he punched, clawed, bit, and kicked me.

I don’t know what’s going on in that mind of his, and to be honest, I don’t really know what’s going on in mine. I’m too tired to think, or maybe too afraid to.

I never wanted to see a room like that one. I really didn’t even know they existed before tonight.

I never thought my boy would hurt me, on purpose, repeatedly.

We crossed more than one threshold today and I didn’t like what was on the other side.

I know that whatever awaits, whatever doors we have to go through or whatever rooms we have to revisit, I’ll be there.

Related: Helping Your Child Cope with AnxietyWhen Your Child is in Crisis

If Your Child Is In Crisis, You Are Not Alone.

I’ll keep going wherever my boy needs and sitting wherever we find ourselves. I’m not giving up, on him or the system that runs on inexact science.

I have to believe he’s still in there, my boy, somewhere under the angry layers he’s burrowed into.

I have to believe I’ll see him again someday, see a twinkle in his eye and not a fire.

I miss him.



Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost has never held the shell of their child. I have to get him back, for his sake and my own. So I will sit on 1000 hard blue beds and give up all the outlets in the world until some doctor, somehow, finds some relief for him.

I’m not alone.

I’m not at fault.

And I’m not giving up.

What It Feels Like When Your Child is in Crisis - Raising Lifelong Learners

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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:


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