This issue of MonTAGe is devoted to explanations of human growth and
development arising from the various child development theories.
Please accept my apologies for the dry, intellectualness of this issue
of MonTAGe and the last two as well. This issue is for those of you
who are dealing with the issue of whether or not to request acceleration
for your child or who are preparing portfolios and background material
for meetings with teachers and school staff regarding your child's
academic placement. Hopefully, in the future, MonTAGe will have more
humor and less pedagogery. But, for now, I've dispensed with
the humor, satire, and sarcasm for fear of being misunderstood.
Teachers expect certain behaviors and characteristics of children
at certain ages. Parents have their own expectations as do physicians and
others who interact with children. Some parents of intellectually gifted
children are fortunate to have professionals to whom they can turn for
help and advice. Professionals who by virtue of their training or
experience are familar with how gifted children tend to differ
developmentally from their age mates and from the "standard" definitions
of "children are like this" which arise out of the various child
development theories. Other parents find themselves seeking the answers
to these questions on their own.
My own quest for understanding began rather late. For a number of years we,
my husband and I, went merrily along our way, ignorant, blissful,
unknowing. We were the first in our "group" to have children. Our
coworkers and acquaintences smiled when we talked about our little
darlings and their latest achievements -- and then went back to talking
about happy hour and long-weekends spent driving home to see their parents.
Sure, there were times when the babysitters and preschool teachers looked
at us a little "sideways" and tried to tell us that our children were
"different." But, to us, different was good. Different was great! The last
thing we wanted were cardboard cutouts who sang the ABC song incessantly.
Then the school years hit. Our eyes were opened.
Our children weren't like the other children. Our children were not what
the teachers expected. Our children were not what other parents expected.
Our children wanted to build cities and roads in the sandbox. The water
table became a kitchen were "icky soup" was being concocted from pretend
catsup, marshmallow creme, shoe polish, and worms. Different. By the time
elementary school came around our children knew that they weren't like
the other kids. Different. Was different really such a bad thing? In the
social system of the average elementary school, different is bad. Real bad.
Expectations. OK. Some where out there is a book that all these other
parents have read. Right? This is the book that tells parents "children
are like that." This is the book that defines "normal." Get the book, I
said to myself. Somewhere in there has got to be a chapter that explains
why my kids "aren't like that." Notice the choice of words here. "Not
like that." I couldn't bring myself to even utter the hated N-word.
Before learning that my children were intellectually gifted I spent
a lot of time searching for the BOOK. Freud, Erikson, Spock, Hazleton and
Piaget -- I've read them all. Maria Montessori -- been there, done
that, got the "golden bead-tray." Since the concept of intellectual
giftedness entered my world I've spent even more time searching for the
answers. There is a lot of research out there. You can drown in it. The
BOOK doesn't exist. But, there are hundreds of child development authors,
researchers, educators, and theorists who have explanations and theories
about "what children are like" at various ages and stages in their lives.
I haven't found the EXPLANATION; what I have found, however, is a wealth of
information that at least helps me to understand why other people hold the
expectations they do about my children. I've learned that while gifted
children aren't necessarily "like that" there are times when they do fit
the mold. It's one of those "mysteries" of life.
Along the way, I've come to know my children better than perhaps anyone
else on the face of the earth. I haven't always been able to say that.
When teachers first began telling me that my children were "different"
with the implication that "different was bad," I didn't know any better.
Now I do. I've learned to evaluate and assess my children's behavior
according to the standard expectations of teachers, scout leaders, and
others who have had "training" in "children are like that."
I hope you find this issue of MonTAGe helpful. Grab a cup of coffee or
your favorite form of caffeine and prop your feet up. Between this issue
of MonTAGe and the previous two, I've tried to answer the question of
"what do we do when the school opposes acceleration for our gifted child."
This isn't a cookbook answer. You're going to have to work out the details
for yourself. But, hopefully, the information and pointers to information
from MonTAGe will help you get started on a path that will bring you to
an acceptable resolution. If not, well, we'll reserve a future issue of
MonTAGe to discussions of how, when and why to homeschool.
Normality is an ideal fiction. It doesn't exist. It is something
we seek after all our lives.
Normality is the ability to learn by experience, to be flexible,
and to adapt to a changing environment.
R. E. Money-Kryle
Normality is the ability to achieve insight into one's self,
an ability that is never fully accomplished.
Normality is characterized by strength of character, the capacity
to deal with conflicting emotions, the ability to experience
pleasure without conflict and the ability to love.
Normal childhood behavior is that which conforms to the
expectations of the majority in a given society or culture at
a given point in time. The definition of "abnormal" behavior
arises from what the majority of adults consider inappropriate
in form, frequency, or intensity. The criteria for such
judgements are often nebulous and often arise out of the
prejudices and biases of the adults.
The next time you find yourself wishing you or your gifted child could be
"normal" -- think on these definitions. Look upon "normality" as a state
of being where you are moving towards achieving that which you are
capable of at this point in your life cycle.
"The 6 Vital Ingredients Of Self-Esteem" by Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D.
Reviewer: Valorie King (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"The 6 Vital Ingredients of Self-Esteem: How To Develop Them In Your
Students." Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D. Publisher: Jalmar Press, Rolling
Hills Estates, CA. 1.800.662.9662 ISBN 0-915190-72-9 Price: $19.95US pbk
Self-esteem is a concept that is getting a lot of "air-time" these days
during parent-teacher meetings especially when the child is intellectually
gifted. The subject may not be addressed directly, especially when the
topic of the day is acceleration, grade-skipping, or IEP development. But,
the concerns are there nonetheless:
"How is this going to affect my child? Will it help?"
"Does this parent understand what 'pushing' this student too hard
can do to his self-esteem?"
What is self-esteem? Everyone talks about it, but, are we talking about
the same thing? Or, is it just another wishy-washy feel-good sort of thing
that we all "know when its seen" but can't really define it.
Ms. Youngs defines self-esteem this way:
"Self-esteem is a composite of six vital ingredients that can
empower or detract from the vitality of our lives ... Perhaps
you've heard the term self-esteem defined as 'how much you like
yourself' ... self-esteem is much, much more than that ...
Self-esteem is the way _we_ see ourselves and is very personal.
That's why _you_ might think a child has everything going for him,
but, inside, he may not see the same picture. Have you ever looked
at a student and thought, 'If only Jane knew how capable she is?'
Building self-esteem is the key. Nothing affects every aspect
of our life, including our health and energy, peace of mind,
capabilities, happiness, the quality of our relationships,
performance, and productivity ... quite so much as our self-esteem."
The six vital ingredients of self-esteem, as Ms. Youngs defines them are:
1) A sense of physical safety: "A child who feels physically safe
isn't fearful of being harmed or being hurt."
2) A sense of emotional security: "A child develops a high level of
emotional security when he knows he won't be put down or made to
feel less worthy, or be emotionally beat up with sarcasm or hurtful
3) A sense of identity: "A child with self-knowledge develops a healthy
sense of individuality ... feeling secure about himself, he feels
secure in praising and complimenting others."
4) A sense of affiliation: "A student who feels accepted by and
connected to others feels liked, appreciated, and respected. He
learns to seek out and maintain friendships ... he learns
interdependence -- a healthy perception of interrelatedness."
5) A sense of competence: "When a student believes he is good at some
things he's willing to learn how to do other things ... He is
self-empowered through realistic and achievable goals."
6) A sense of mission: "A student with a strong sense of mission feels
purposeful ... He makes his 'toys his tools, his joys his job.'"
This book is an excellent resource for teachers and parents who are seeking
to instill a good sense of self-esteem in the children under their care.
Ms. Youngs takes a responsible position with regards to investigating the
sources of problems without invading family privacy.
I especially liked the chapter on "physical safety" as it regards classroom
and schoolyard situations. The author stresses the importance of removing
the threats of physical violence from bullies and others who perceive that
a given student is "different" or "not like us." She stresses that it is
the child's perceptions of safety or danger that are important -- the
teacher is admonished not to downplay or dismiss the child's fears
and to take immediate positive steps to intervene. She states, "Many
fathers tell me that they think their children (especially sons) should
'fight it out and solve their own problems because it builds character.'
That's simply not the case. Leaving a child to fight his battles alone is
more likely to lead to feelings of abandonment, fear, depression, mistrust,
low grades, and eventually, emotional or physical drop-out."
In chapter 6, Emotional Security, Ms. Youngs presents a brief but fairly
comprehensive picture of the emotional development of children from ages
two through eighteen. This information, summarized below, should be
very helpful for those parents struggling with the question of whether
or not to seek grade-advancement for their child.
Age 2: Autonomy. Growing sense of self as a separate person.
Works to develop assertiveness which leads to independence.
Age 3: Mastery. Mastery over environment leads to feelings of
"I can do this." Curiosity is an important part of learning.
Age 4: Initiative. Forerunner to responsibility and motivation.
Needs praise for the attempt and to be "shown" rather than
told how to do the task correctly.
Age 5: Separation Anxiety. Developing conscience leads child to
want to please and to want to be near parents and other
significant adults. Child _needs_ to know that others are
OK even when not physically present.
Age 6: Self-centeredness. "Me-ness." Self at center of child's world.
It is very important at this stage that the child be allowed
to discover own interests and work to understand them.
Ages 7-8: Sameness. Child moves from "me" to needing to feel "oneness"
with others, friends and playmates. Mastery of social and
physical skills is an important indicator of this stage.
Ages 9-10: People. Needs same sex friends for development of sexual
identity. Needs approval, direction, and affirmation from
both adults and peers.
Ages 11-12: Taking Stock. Mellow stage between two major periods of
"intense growth." Stands back and observes everything.
Refines academic and physical competence as well as deciding
what is "meaningful or not." Tries on different roles to "see what fits."
Ages 13-15: Go for it! On the threshold of adolescence, everything is
possible. Student undertakes to build a solid sense of self
and personal worth. Hormones are raging and students are
both in-sync and out-of-sync with their age-mates as each
matures at differing rates both physically and emotionally.
Age 16: Excuse Me, But You're In My Way! Needs to be alone, needs to
be with peers/others. A time of duality and building of identity.
Ages 17-18: Establishing Independence. Career interests, values & ethics,
and self-reliance are important parts of this stage.
Helping the gifted child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem is one of
the more challenging parenting tasks we are faced with. This book, while
directed mainly towards classroom teachers, presents a comprehensive
overview of the subject, presents common problem areas, and proposes
concrete steps to be taken in helping the child overcome each of the
"sticking points" or problems encountered during the journey from childhood
to adulthood. Personally, I prefer the straight forward style of this
book over many I've read on the subject. I highly recommend it for both
parents and teachers. I'm adding this title to my basket of "recommended
books to give to teachers of gifted children."
Have you ever wondered where those "Your Child At n-Years of Age" books
get their lists of characteristics? Have you ever met a child who fit
one of those lists? Child development experts rely upon theoretical
frameworks built from the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, Erik Erikson,
Arnold Gesell, Margaret Mahler, Jean Piaget, and others. Theoretical
frameworks form the basis of the more generalized "ages and stages"
explanations of child development which are taught in parenting classes,
educational psychology classes, and other human growth and development
courses. Erik Erikson's work is presented here since it covers the entire
Erik Erikson's framework relies upon the principle of epigenesis:
Development occurs in sequential, clearly defined stages and
that each stage must be satisfactorily resolved for development
to proceed smoothly. If successful resolution of a given stage
is not achieved then later stages will reflect that failure in
the form of physical, cognitive, social, or emotional maladjustment.
Erikson's framework includes the belief that humans continue to grow
and develop throughout the life cycle. Human personality is determined
not only by childhood experiences but also by adult experiences as well.
The sequence of stages in human growth is not automatic; it depends upon
both central nervous system growth and life experiences. Movement from
stage to stage in the life cycle does not occur at specific ages but
rather upon successful negotiation of that stage's "crisis."
Erikson's general framework includes the following:
1) An unfavorable environment can delay some of the developmental
2) Particularly favorable environments can accelerate one's
progress through the stages in the life cycle;
3) Each stage in the life cycle has its own characteristics and
needs and it must be successfully negotiated before it is
possible to go on to the next level;
4) The stages are not fixed in time; unfinished business from
previous stages can be carried over into the next; severe stress
may cause the individual to return to an earlier stage (regress)
in whole or in part.
Erikson's Stages Of The Life Cycle
1) Basic Trust vs Basic Mistrust (ages birth to about 1 year)
"... a sense of basic trust which I think is an attitude
toward oneself and the world derived from the experience of
the first year of life. Trust is the expectation that one's
needs will be taken care of and that the world or outer providers
can be relied upon." (Erikson in "Growth and Crisis of the Healthy
2) Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt (about 1 to 3 years)
Child develops a sense of "me" and "I." Child develops willfullness
and sense of "I can do it myself." Too much parental control
leads to shame and doubt which undermine the child's development
of a necessary sense of autonomy. Parental approval at child's
displays of self-control and self-confidence leads to development
of good self-esteem and a sense of pride in one's self and one's
3) Initiative vs Guilt (ages 3 to 5 years)
Child initiates both motor and intellectual activities. Conflicts
over initiative, intellectual curiosity, and overly restricted
physical freedom can prevent the development of ambition which
normally occurs during this stage. Through play with peers, the
child learns how to interact with others.
At the end of this stage, the child's conscience is established.
The child learns to express aggression and anger in constructive
ways. Excessive punishment restricts the child's imagination and
initiative. If the crisis of initiative is successfully resolved
the child will have developed a sense of responsibility,
dependability and self-discipline.
4) Industry vs Inferiority (ages 6 to 11 years)
Industry is the ability to work and learn adult skills. Peer
interaction is very important in this stage. Children learn
that they are able to make things. They develop a sense of
competency and are able to master and complete tasks. Too great
an emphasis on rules and regulations removes the child's natural
desire to work at the expense of developing a sense of duty.
The negative outcome of this stage is the possible development
of a sense of inferiority. A school or home environment which
denigrates, discriminates against, discourages, or which
overprotects or causes the child to remain excessively dependent
can result in diminished self-esteem and the development of a
sense of inferiority or worthlessness.
5) Identity vs Role Diffusion (ages 11 through end of adolescence)
Identity is the sense of who we are and where we are going in life.
The individual identifies with parents, peers, and other heroes
or role models in an attempt to establish his own sense of self.
Career goals become important; the individual may make several
false starts before deciding upon a vocation in life.
Role diffusion occurs when the individual does not develop a sense
of self and is confused about his place or role in the world.
6) Intimacy vs Self-Absorption or Isolation (21 - 40 years)
The success of this stage depends upon successful negotiation of
previous stages. Erikson quotes Freud's view that a normal
person must be able "to love and to work." Relationships, marriage,
and work/career are the stuff of which this stage is composed.
7) Generativity vs Stagnation (ages 40 - 60 years)
Establishing and guiding the next generation. Creativity and
altruism enable one to develop a sense of generativity even
8) Integrity vs Despair and Isolation (65+ years)
The conflict between a sense of integrity, satisfaction with
one's life, and despair, the sense that life is without meaning
or purpose is the hallmark of this stage.
Return to... Hoagies' Gifted Education Page
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Copyright © 1997 by Valorie King, All Rights Reserved
Last updated July 28, 1997