nature vs nurture - how did your child turn out GT?

(54 Posts)
ModelVillage Sun 08-Sep-13 15:38:03

If you have a gifted and talented child, what did you do to make him/her that way? Did he/she just drop out of the sling one day and showed really advanced behaviour? Or did you "power parent" them?

I somehow can't shake the idea that I have somehow failed my kids a little by having had a less than dedicated nanny for a year when they were under two and by generally not "teaching" them something every time we communicate.

Apologies already if this has been done before, I usually don't frequent this board! But if you care to explain your parenting style (or lack of it) I would be grateful.

Sleepybunny Sun 08-Sep-13 15:46:35

Shameless place marking, also curious about the nature vs nurture opinions

LEMisdisappointed Sun 08-Sep-13 15:46:40

I don't really understand your post model - do you have a G&T child who hasn't been challenged enough? or are your children just "ordinary" children? Do you feel you failed your children by having a nanny? or having a crap nanny?

My DD is dyslexic and probably generally behind educationally, i would like to think tht this is not because I didn't "power parent" or stick labels on every household object when she was 2.

Please don't feel like a failure as a parent becaue your child isn't G&T!!! Its bad enough with the generalsed competitive parenting you experience over reading levels and stuff - i've learnt to let it go over my head. Yeah my child is never going to win the nobel prize for engineering but shes happy.

LEMisdisappointed Sun 08-Sep-13 15:48:48

However.................. Its a bit of both nature and nurture. HTH

Think of it like this: I could power parent until the cows come home, my DD is always going to struggle with reading. If however my child was exceptionally bright or talented in one aspect of her education and this was never "nurtured" then that particular talent would probably not be developed.

ontheallotment Sun 08-Sep-13 16:17:52

Hmm, neither of mine have been offically designated G&T (attended wrong sort of school for that), but both might fall into that category by some metrics. It seems stupendously arrogant to assume our parenting was any better than anyone elses to be honest (and I truly can't believe it was), but also I can't really think dh & my genes are that awesome either. Suspect there's a fair bit of random luck involved coupled with 'good enough' parenting, 'good enough' education (both of mine lucked out with better than average education for what its worth) and a good work ethic helps too.

I have 3 dc and my 2nd is very gifted. I did absolutely nothing to make him like this. He went to the local 'satisfactory' primary school. It it purely the way he was born.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 08-Sep-13 17:05:21

I pretty much let her play with mud until she went to school, though I read to her each night. I supported her with all the homework school sent home and answered all her questions and talked about school topics. In all honesty nothing more than that.

Acinonyx Mon 09-Sep-13 09:17:49

I was a gifted child. I was most certainly not 'power-parented' - quite the reverse so have biased feelings about this (I was taken into care for neglect as a toddler). My dd is also gifted. I don't push her - but I am certainly very supportive of her interests, read to her a lot, and try to offer her experiences and opportunities. Personally, I think she would be gifted in any case, but I do think her interests and knowledge base are broader than mine were - and she's a lot happier and less bored. In some areas she's not as gifted as I was (more just very bright) but in others more so.

I mention my own experience because there is very often a confounding issue in the the parents of gifted children are often gifted themselves - which could become nature or nurture. I think nurture can improve educational attainment for all children - I seriously doubt it will make a child gifted but it can make the best of a gifted child who might otherwise become frustrated and act out.

VestaCurry Mon 09-Sep-13 09:22:34

dc2 is G&T in maths and music. It just happened and definitely seems to be something in the genes, because me and dh were G&T in those areas.

Damnautocorrect Mon 09-Sep-13 09:52:28

I think it's a bit of both, I think there's a natural gift and the right environment encourages it.
I come from a very gifted family, my cousins have excelled as they were brought up in a very different environment to me, yet at a young age I showed the same potential.

FeetUpUntilChristmas Mon 09-Sep-13 10:13:48

My DD1 was classed G&T in English at primary as she loved making up stories, has just done her GCSE and got only an A. However in her maths and sciences she has all A* and will be taking these through A level and onto degree.

Was she born this way or pushed?

She wasn't pushed but was looked after by nannies when she was younger who encouraged her creative side more than her maths side. As parents we never pushed her just let her develop as she wanted, no extra lessons or constant coaching etc.

Her strengths that are now shining through are the same as DH so I would conclude that she was born this way.

DD2 is not quite so academically bright, her G&T recognition is sports however her strengths are very similar to mine, so I would conclude that she too was born this way.

lljkk Mon 09-Sep-13 10:36:45

I reckon there are relevant thresholds parents are responsible for (support, values, opportunity) & there are gifts (genetics).

Need a decent environment at minimum standards to meet the minimum threshold for support. This threshold can be pretty low at times. Look at someone like Tatiana McFadden. Terrible start in life but then found a parent who could give her every opportunity. Her raw abilities were always there, though.

Most of the rest that distinguishes ordinary from gifted is purely genetics.

Theas18 Mon 09-Sep-13 10:50:58

It's got to be both surely.

Taking the "child genius" program it was clear that those kids had very able parents academically. Either they were recognised and working in academia or were clearly very able ( eg shrinidi and ? longyin) even though they didn't have the same formal academic background. They were also well supported.

Genetic "giftedness" that occurs in a household who don't value education would struggle to shine, and I think this is what the G+T programs in schools are /should really be about...

richmal Mon 09-Sep-13 14:19:19

Though nature surely plays a part in the equation, I have found nurture can make quite a difference; to the extent the child can end up years ahead compared to what others of the same age are learning.

chauffeurmummy Mon 09-Sep-13 14:32:16

I think it depends how you define giftedness and whether you are looking at 'ability' or 'achievement' - which often don't match in gifted children. I believe that ability is nature whereas achievement is nurture.

Kithulu Mon 09-Sep-13 14:33:07

I'm with lonecat lots of mud and stories grin I always think DS is G&T inspite of our parenting not because of it. He could not write his name when he started school, I had not pushed at all, just wanted him to play and enjoy being a child. It's only now he is 12 that I truly see how awesome he is (predicted all A*, in top set for everything) I never really believed it before.

GooseyLoosey Mon 09-Sep-13 14:40:39

I think true genius or being highly gifted is down to nature entirely. I do not think that there is some parenting magic which makes such children excel.

I also think it is possible to help any child achieve more (at least in the short term) by way of nurture and to possibly instil a work ethic which makes them want to achieve. How much further this might get them in the long term, I have no idea.

I just can't imagine that a nanny for under 2s will have that much difference on what they achieve in school. Not sure that a gifted child is one who is pushed to achieve at a young age. To be a genius you don't have to read at 3.

exexpat Mon 09-Sep-13 14:47:47

I think 'gifted' children are basically just born that way, though some may fail to reach their potential if they grow up in very unhelpful environments. So I guess I'd say it's genetic, but it's not always as simple as highly intelligent parents having highly intelligent offspring.

One of the cleverest/most gifted people I know came from a family where no one had stayed on at school past 15 or 16, let alone gone to university. His parents are not noticeably clever, to put it tactfully. But he was a bright spark from a very young age, spotted at school and supported by his grandmother to get a scholarship to a grammar school. He is now an Oxbridge professor. I'm not sure where the amazing brain came from for him - random combination of genes? He certainly wasn't hothoused from toddlerhood.

exexpat Mon 09-Sep-13 14:56:27

Oh, and to answer your question about parenting style - I was officially 'gifted', as are both my DCs (I would describe us all as common-or-garden gifted, ie top sets, A*s, enquiring minds, Oxbridge 1st calibre, not profoundly gifted as in PhDs at age 12) and I am taking basically the same approach as my parents: absolutely not pushing/hothousing, no flashcards, didn't try to teach them to read before school or anything like that, just lots of talking, reading, toys that give plenty of opportunities to use their imagination and intelligence. Then as they get older, access to whatever books and information sources they want, and lots of opportunities for new and interesting experiences - basically supporting and encouraging them in following their own interests and talents.

ILoveAFullFridge Mon 09-Sep-13 15:03:19

Why treat G&T as something aspirational? While its lovely to have a bright child who thrives at school, it is less delightful having to help that child struggle with peer relationships because he doesn't have any peers. Not to mention the difficulties with teachers differentiating the schoolwork.

I'm sure that G&T owes more to nature than to nurture. Any child can be nurtured to achieve their best. Equally, any child who do not experience good nurturing may end up frustrated and under-achieving.

Good nurture is not about constantly stimulating and asking the square root of pi. It is about helping a child develop self-confidence, curiosity, usefull skills and good habits.

minidipper Mon 09-Sep-13 15:10:33

DH is a school governor in charge of G&T at his school and told me that G&T is actually very rare - one in 400 children perhaps - as in a child who stands out as way above even the brightest of their peers.

Lots of naice parents (self included) want their DC to do well and if they are regularly top set, think of our offspring as G&T, but they're not. They're a mix of nature and nurture. I get the impression that true G&T is often nature, though cranks who coach their toddlers in chess for five hours a day may build a G&T child but at a cost to other aspects of their development.

TwoStepsBeyond Mon 09-Sep-13 15:53:48

I am the most laid back parent you can imagine, swerve 'meet the teacher' and any non-essential school stuff, let them get on with their homework by themselves (if they don't do it, they're the one who has to take the consequences) and rarely find time to sit and read their school books, no idea which reading level they are on etc.

I am always around as I work from home, so if they have any questions I am on hand to answer them, but I am very much from the 'benign neglect' school of parenting. I teach them about life in general but the academic stuff is school's job.

2 of my 3 are officially G&T (& the other is also very bright, but not yet identified as G&T) and I put it down to them inheriting the best of each of their parents - we have very different personalities/strengths which is why we are getting divorced so they all have a very good blend of common sense and imagination, methodical reasoning and creativity.

I definitely think it's genetic as I have done nothing special with any of my DCs, other than baby signing and talking to them like normal sensible human beings right from birth (I was never good at the babbling baby-talk stuff).

twistyfeet Mon 09-Sep-13 15:58:51

G&T didnt exist when mine were in school but I think it's genetic. We did nothing special, nothing extra curricular, in fact, I pulled them out of school and did the type of home education known as ignoring them and letting them do their own thing until 6th form grin
They all got A* at A level, 1st class degrees etc. Buggered if I know how. DH is very clever so they inherited his brains, it certainly wasnt anything we did at home.

piratecat Mon 09-Sep-13 16:00:37

I was a mum/person who did alot of talking and commenting on the world around dd.
I just think she's a bright girl, with bright parents. I did alot of communication that enforced her belief in herself (something I never got), but not ott. I probably felt it more as i didn't get much praise or encouragement from my parents.
I can't say if I'd had another child that that one would turn out the same. D has a natural upbeat confidence, nature, I guess.
Has has a shedload of problems too though, no dad, and health probs. Yet still shines on bless her.
Been alot of work though. Missed school and emotional trauma.

78bunion Mon 09-Sep-13 17:00:22

I think it's 50/50.

I would not use gifted for my children or me as I don't like the word. If it means high IQ and getting into a very selective school etc etc then may be they would be regarded as such in some contexts as might I but I think it's over used.

At age 3 children from homes where parents have a small vocabulary know many many fewer words than children in homes where lots of different words are used and known. Syed who writes in the Times has been involved in some interesting recent debates on the topic including on Radio 4. On the other hand often an adopted child will be streets ahead or much behind the genetic children of the parents where it lives which shows genes play a part too.

Prince Harry is a good example - all the chances in the world including a rare place at Eton and he has his mother's brains and hardly any GCSEs - genes although I expect he did a bit better than he would have done in a sink comp.

LEMisdisappointed Mon 09-Sep-13 17:22:23

78 - my DD had speech delay, i can assure you my vocabulary is not lacking in any way!

insanityscratching Mon 09-Sep-13 18:21:55

Ds2 is gifted, we are all pretty intelligent but not gifted. Ds was parented with healthy benign neglect tbh where he was left to discover his own interests. There was no pushing from me which brought some hmm from teachers who couldn't comprehend how he just knew these things and it wasn't that anyone had taught him.
Later I think I was seen as pretty ineffective as I allowed him to choose his own path rather than the path they felt he should be taking (into Local Government rather than university) But now at 24 he has a management role (managing graduates) and is tipped for he top, he earns more than all his friends who went to university and his university placement on day release is fully funded so he'll have none of the debt.

Acinonyx Mon 09-Sep-13 20:44:25

So minidipper, a teacher of a class of 30 would have to teach for 13 years to experience one gifted child. I'm not a big fan of the term 'gifted' although I do use it if it's being used - your definition is certainly exceptionally stringent wink

insanityscratching Mon 09-Sep-13 21:06:59

My other children are very bright and were all classed as G&T but it has been my experience that when ds entered the school nursery at four his teacher wanted a chat within days (because I hadn't mentioned how able he was) and to refer to an ed psych as his abilities were outside anything she had ever experienced before.

difficultpickle Mon 09-Sep-13 23:12:49

Ds has been assessed as gifted but is in the bottom sets at school. I had no clue other than other people would go on about how 'bright' he was. His old school just viewed him as a child that didn't concentrate. His new school thought there was more to it and now have been targetted by the EP of ensuring he gets the support to move to the top of the top set where he ability would place him.

Not sure if it is nature or nurture or a combination of both.

richmal Tue 10-Sep-13 08:29:29

For going on to further education or into work, qualifications: GCSE's; A levels; etc, are what matter most. IQ scores are not even considered and many don't even bother ever taking a test.
Education can make a difference and a very large difference to a child's achievements, regardless of natural brightness or giftedness.

minidipper Tue 10-Sep-13 22:49:32

Acinonyx - yes. But it's not my definition - it's the one DH was given by the school where he's a governor. He was surprised. His school is 400, and he says they'd expect no more than one genuine G&T at any given time. (It is a school that hates the term G&T and avoids it, so maybe they've interpreted the figures in that way!)

Acinonyx Wed 11-Sep-13 09:09:12

It's a perfectly reasonable definition minidipper - just unusual compared to school usage generally.

Still interesting logistics though. If you only have one at any given time in a school of 3 or 4 years having 400 - that means you have to wait 4 years to have another one - or else you'd have 2 at the same time. So actually, that's one in 12-1600. If you are a combined infant-junior that would be one in 2800.

Bakingnovice Wed 11-Sep-13 09:19:22

I think nature plays a huge part. I had a terrible childhood and despite proper revision I achieved top grades throughout school. First in the family to to Uni. Excelled at degree level. I don't push my kids as I believe their childhood is more important, and school pressure is bad enough at secondary. I am very laid back. All my dc are identified as gifted even though the school has no gt scheme. Incidentally, my dad is also well regarded as being a bit of a genius although he never had Uni education.

Bakingnovice Wed 11-Sep-13 09:20:41

Sorry that should say despite no proper revision.

I would also add that I was identified at gifted aged 6 but never pushed at school Or home

In answer to OP - both. My DC are both "bright" (working at top of class, etc) and I do think that has a lot to do with having both a home and a school where learning stuff is what you do for fun, but DC1 is definitely different - startlingly bright, a year ahead at school and still at the top of the year, natural mathematician, etc. I don't think we did anything differently and DC2 will probably do better in life as she is very socially aware and generally switched on, but if I were to apply a label to either it would definitely be DC1.

insanityscratching Wed 11-Sep-13 11:32:28

I think there is a big difference between bright such as dd so top of school year and very able and gifted such as ds so started nursery at four able to do long multiplication, wrote in sentences with punctuation but then as he got older the depth and range of his knowledge was immense. He passed GCSE'S and A levels with no effort whatsoever and minimal attendance post 16.
Now in Local Government his knowledge of policy doesn't only cover his role but also all the roles however loosely connected they are to his team.
He writes programmes to speed up the processes that are more effective than those of their own specialist departments (despite it not being his role) because he has made it his business to know how the systems work.
His role covers 400 schools, he knows from memory each reference number, phone number, point of contact, particular preferences, any difficulties and so his team is super efficient and when he covers other teams their teams are always in better shape when he leaves than they were despite doing that on top of his own role.
His thirst for knowledge seems to know no bounds I think that is what gifted means rather than the ability to do well what you have been taught.

mercibucket Wed 11-Sep-13 13:06:25

lol minidipper, most of us best back off this thread if thats the definition of g + t
its certainly not the commonly understood definition in education, perhaps the school governors need to re read a few govt blurbs grin

Acinonyx Wed 11-Sep-13 13:31:40

Perhaps we could refer to that as minidipper giftedness smile. Insanity's ds sounds like a mini-g and my nephew's school said they hadn't 'seen a child like him in 20 years'.

mercibucket Wed 11-Sep-13 13:37:42

grin
still rofl
actually, is it a cop out for schools because any school with less than 400 pupils pretty much isnt going to have anyone worthy of any g+t focus?
so they harness their resources over many a long year til the child genius appears ...

Acinonyx Wed 11-Sep-13 14:20:24

Yes, being in charge of g&t resources would certainly be a pretty light job wink

ModelVillage Fri 13-Sep-13 13:04:53

Wow, lots of replies!

Well, to answer someone who didn't understand my post: I have pretty normal children, so not harbouring secret G&t fantasies...

But I know about the theory that the brain develops until age two... The more babies are exposed to new things, stimulated, etc, (within personality and reason of course) the more synapses develop in the brain. If they aren't continued to be used then they will disappear again.. (Am sure you all know this, but typing it out for completeness).

I haven't done anything special with my kids despite knowing this btw... And although as someone pointed out G&t is nothing to aspire -and I agree- I am still wondering about the 'what if I had put lots of power parenting in'. And to me it makes sense to ask parents with highly intelligent kids about what they did specially with their babies/kids. (That's you ;-)

Acinonyx Fri 13-Sep-13 14:06:46

The brain certainly keeps on developing way past 2 so it's not too late wink. Research is pushing forward the deadline for brain development all the time - it maybe that even adults are in with a chance...

MrsMelons Fri 13-Sep-13 17:10:30

I think it can be a bit of both, DS1 (7) is naturally gifted, in particular with reading/writing from just under the age of 3,he also has almost a photographic memory.

We have never really pushed him or done any extra work with him but he just finds academic stuff easy and walked/talked etc early alsowithout a natural ability, he was our first of course and the first grandchild so he did have lots of 1:1 time but I am not sure these things can be taught completely . I think if we pushed him then he would do even better of course but I cannot see the need or point at his age. I was similar to him as a child, DH is dyslexic and found school in general a struggle.

We have never done anything differently with DS2 but he is now in Y1 and still only reading books that DS1 could read when he was 3.

I am amazed by all of DS2s achievements as much as DS1s though, in a way even more so as I have a feeling he will have to work so much harder.

MrsMelons Fri 13-Sep-13 17:14:20

BTW I think G&T varies hugely from school to school, there was a post on here a while ago where the OPs DD was on white level reading in Y2 and there were no other children on that level in her year at all so she was G&T whereas there were several children in DS1s small school on higher levels than that so I think G&T is not actually the same as gifted as such. I believe it is supposed to be the top 10% in the school/class.

DS1s junior school use CAT scores but I have no idea what they are grin

tumbletumble Sat 14-Sep-13 14:11:12

I'd say it's about 70/30 in favour of genetics. Obviously those numbers are a bit arbitrary, but I'm trying to say that, while both are important, nature contributes more than nurture.

DS1 is G&T (under the "very bright" definition rather than the "genius" definition mentioned by some posters). My other two seem bright too but it's a bit early to say. I am not a pushy parent at all, but I did/do read to them a lot.

BlackeyedSusan Sun 15-Sep-13 01:34:26

how we got a gifted child? had unprotected sex.

dd has tested gifted, she was just starting to read lime band chapter books just before she turned 5. ds on the other hand was not capable of reading a pink band one book at the same age. they have more or less been exposed to the same environment and done the same activities, just that ds did several years of pre-reading activities before he started to read (all the rhymes, word play and being read too) as he as just not ready. dd on the other hand was grabbing my finger at age one and demanding names be written, and was starting to distinguish mummy from daddy by initial letter i think. she progressed much faster.

if you spend a lot of time with them, they will progess at their maximum rate. I think that is different for everychild. they all learn at different rates in fits and starts, and in different areas.

one thing though. dd ws an only child until she was 23 months so may have benefitted from being the first. on the other had I was incredibly sick when pregnant with ds and she barely got attention for 3 months.

as far as I am aware they are not labelled g and t dd's school.

BlackeyedSusan Sun 15-Sep-13 01:38:31

oh and just because a child is tested gifted, does not mean they will achieve. neitherr her dad nor I were particularly dedicated learners though we are both happy with where we are in life, mostly. blush

difficultpickle Sun 15-Sep-13 10:38:41

BlackeyedSusan that is spot on. Ds has recently been tested as being gifted. Not a huge surprise to me but it is pretty meaningless and, I think, come as rather a surprise to his school. He is in the bottom sets and school have suggested we should look at a senior school that has a low entrance requirement. The Ed Pysch said that she is tasking the school to ensure he is given the support she recommends to enable him to get to the top of the top sets where his ability would naturally place him. I'm under no illusion that this will be an easy process or even achievable.

PiqueABoo Sun 15-Sep-13 14:44:26

None of these kids are chips-off-the-block with parents who go Google and read about this stuff?

Heritability of IQ: There's truckloads of research by generally credible scientists (as opposed to life-style columnists, political "think-tanks" and folk with something to sell) that say it's something like 70-80% when you are a mature adult. Heritability is a subtle concept and I suggest you go read about it from a less dodgy source than me because e.g. given an impossibly universal environment it would be 100%.

I emphasised "mature adult" because it apparently starts off low, perhaps 20% for a one year-old and increases with age (another brain twister, because one suggestion is that happens because as you get older you have more personal control over your environment).

pointythings Sun 15-Sep-13 22:11:13

I think it's a mix, but I don't know about real prodigies - the kind who end up at Oxford at 14. Mine certainly aren't anywhere near that league.

However, DH and I both have above average IQs. His is about 130, mine is 155 (we have both ended up tested for various reasons, mainly to do with people wanting to practice the WAIS-III on us. It is mind-bendingly hard work). We also both believe education is very important (though we are not tiger parents) and we both love reading - we've certainly fostered a love of books. Lastly both of us are interested in history, heritage, politics and nature, and a lot of our family activities revolve around that. We're the kind of people who enjoy going on roller coasters whilst talking about the physics and engineering involved.

Preeta Sun 15-Sep-13 23:01:58

I have a gifted son who can read at 28 months . But I don't think it was all nurture . He started talking on his own at 6 months . He has learned a lot on his own and we are hardly pushy as parents. We encourage his learning and curiosity but he shows signs of learning and benign extremely sharp.
I don't think nurture alone can really help and I am sure every parent does what is best in their capacity for their kids

Vietnammark Tue 24-Sep-13 17:02:05

I believe that the average child is born with about 60 points (for arguments sake let's assume they are IQ points) and through nurture they on average acquire an additional 40 points.

I believe that with excellent nurture these average kids may be able to increase their 60 inherited points by a further 70 points, thus pushing them up to 130 points.

Maybe super bright kids are born with 100 points and with excellent nurture this can be turned in to 170 points.

If my maths were correct then it would be very difficult to turn a child who was born with 60 points in to a G&T student, but a naturally bright student may be able to, depending on one's definition of G&T of course.

sydlexic Thu 26-Sep-13 00:09:23

I found with DS that no encouragement was required. I could not stop him learning if I wanted to. He was born that way. A higher thinker.

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