Bad News For Parents Raising Special Snowflakes: Every Kid Is NOT Gifted And Talented

shutterstock_166952843I’m right there with the rest of the parents who think my children are the most special, amazing creatures on earth. I have to stop myself from bragging about all the things my sons do that are totally mundane and absolutely normal for young children—walking, saying “Elmo,” and learning to high-five on command. Clearly, this is the work of a genius.

I would probably be thrilled if my children were recognized as Gifted and Talented by their schools, once they reach school-age in a few years. I personally was in Gifted and Talented classes and AP classes throughout my school years, and look at me—all I got was the opportunity to publicly brag about it.

Momastery recently wrote a blog that loudly proclaims, “Every child is gifted and talented. Every single one. I know this is true.” The blog was written in response to this situation:

Last week, one of my mama friends called to tell me a story. Her daughter had come home from school and while she was eating a snack she said, “Mom, I’m sorry but I’m not gifted. They sent home letters today to the gifted kids. I’m not a gifted kid.”

I’m going to be honest. That scenario kind of breaks my heart, but I still can’t get on board the Special Snowflake Train on this one. Momastery goes on to say:

Every single child is gifted. And every child has challenges. It’s just that in the educational system, some gifts and challenges are harder to see.

I agree with the sentiment, really, I do—but this is not the response I would give my child in the same situation. You see, if every child really was gifted on the same level, that takes away from the exceptional gifts that some children may truly have—piano prodigy, baby Einstein, what have you. It may sting, but not every child can be in the Gifted and Talented program. It may be difficult to explain, but not every child can get a consolation prize for their “gifts.”

I truly believe every human being is valuable and unique with something special to offer. But I also don’t think there is any harm in telling your kids that they are sometimes average. My kids often won’t be the best in what they do, but they are still valuable as people.

Just as importantly, my kids may not have super special gifts that are celebrated in school and that put them on the path to becoming a doctor or scientist. Sometimes I fall into the trap of musing with my husband about what our kids will be when they grow up. But I know what the final answer is: Even if they are completely average, they are still important. Even if they never tap into their gifts, they can still have self-worth.

Let’s take the pressure off this situation and be more honest about it. Some kids will have visible gifts, and others won’t. All kids have personal value, but not all kids are gifted.

(Image: Serhiy Kobyakov/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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    • CMJ

      That sentiment is exactly why kids think they can get away with, and do anything they want.

    • Emily A.

      “All kids have personal value, but not all kids are gifted.”

      Right on! I really can’t see how all of these “you’re all wonderful” trophies-for-all antics are going to help kids later in life. (See: milennials who think entry-level jobs are beneath them.)

      • Bethany Ramos

        I will remind myself of this when my kids don’t get the trophies!

      • Emily A.

        I have a 4-year-old who refers to his baseball trophy as “the trophy I got for going to baseball”. It stopped mattering to him after about two days.

      • Bunny Lou

        Ehh.

        Millennials “think” entry-level jobs are “beneath them” because at this moment most of them have college degrees, they got college degrees because their parents hovered over them all through school saying “IF YOU DON’T DO XY AND Z THEN YOU’LL BE NOTHING BUT A BURGER FLIPPING LOSER FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!” So now here most millennials are, with college degree(s) and no jobs for them.

        True, many of them should have taken a good look at their English major before going through with it. But even then, I know a guy with TWO bachelor degrees, he’s working as a manager at a tea shop. Neither of those bachelors have anything to do with tea…

      • Emily A.

        Yeah, but that’s not entry-level. I am talking about the folks who won’t be an assistant at a company – a place where there are clearly options to move up – because they think they should be starting higher, because they’re awesome, because their mom has always said so.

        FWIW, there’s nothing wrong with managing a tea shop. Or, for that matter, flipping burgers. Be the best at whatever you’re doing. Just don’t think that you’re too special to be doing it.

      • Brittany Anne

        I truly don’t think all Millenials are like that. I don’t even think enough of them are lazy and entitled that you can use them to stereotype an entire generation. I’m sure they’re out there, but every generation contains entitled assholes.

        I would also point out that I’m a Millenial and have never met a peer who would ever be so elitist about the job they think they deserve, but that’s just anecdotal evidence, which isn’t worth a whole lot, I know.

      • itpainsme2say

        Ya most of us are angry that entry level positions require prier experience not just education. Even if we were elitist who fault is that when parents and every teacher we ever met said we were special and we could be anything we wanted to be. Fly high little babies there is no way you’ll fall.

      • JustaGuest

        Yeah, I think telling people they can be whatever they want is a real problem. Because, honestly, you can’t. I’m 5’4″ – the chances of my joining the WNBA are pretty much nonexistent. It’s good to encourage people to have dreams they have some chance of fulfilling. (Aiming high isn’t necessarily a problem, either, but be aware you might not make it – a career in politics could be rewarding to a person even if they aren’t ever president, say.)

      • itpainsme2say

        Ya my problem came when my school started going down hill, taking away all the extra classes i.e. drama, wood shop, and fashion, then hiring substandard science (the most popular and highest paying subject to take nowadays) teachers who were more interested in being our friends or lording over us how they didn’t have to be there because they wrote our book then teaching us anything. So good luck to anyone in my area ever amounting to anything but sure if you just try you can be anything you want.

        Sorry got a bit ranty.

      • Audrey

        Ditto. I don’t think I’ve met a single Millenial who wouldn’t take an entry level job offered to them. In fact, most of us have worked internship upon internship upon internship trying to gain enough experience for a so-called entry-level job. What interns do now used to be entry-level jobs, until companies realized they could bring in some poor sap to work for free instead of paying someone a living wage. And then everyone wonders why unemployment among college grads is such an issue, and college debt is through the roof.

        So yeah, I don’t really appreciate being told that we’re all entitled little brats when we’ve come of age in a genuinely terrible economic time and are the first generation since the Great Depression who will be worse off than our parent’s generation.

      • pixie

        I think Millennials are the new “Gen X-ers”; the ones that get picked on. Each successive generation gets called lazy and entitled by the former generations (and I know Millennials don’t follow right after Gen X). Usually it’s for reasons they can’t control, like the changing job economy where entry-level jobs require so much more experience than they used to, jobs are being taken up by older generations who were laid off or retirees needing more money. Like you said, there’s some elitists who don’t want to work the so-called “entry-level” jobs, but most of us would just love to have any job we can get.

      • G.S.

        Hey, I’m a Millenial, I’ll be an office assistant. Hell, I’ve just finished a temp job assembling boxes for four months for a minimum wage. Now I just cram dog treats in a bag and make $40 less. Options? Possible dental benefits? Tell me when to start this office job, I’ll take it!

      • Natasha B

        I agree. I had to train in a douchewaffle once, only a few years younger than me, who walked around complaining HE should be above me (I DO have a bachelors, but started as an assistant at the company, and then, TA-DA, promotion) and he was so smart and he should be making more than everyone else and blah blah blah blah he was a special snowflake blah blah blah. He was also a lazy ass Dudebro with zero willingness to learn. He lasted about 6 weeks. Hope he’s flipping burgers now. My next trainee was a middle aged man with no bachelors, but a willingness to learn and work hard. He’s still with the company
        And yes, I’m a millennial. And was in TAG blah blah. But my parents also raised me to believe you have to work hard.

      • AP

        There’s almost no chance of moving up in a company if you become an assistant. I’ve done it. Once you’re an “assistant” you’re an “assistant” for life. Maybe you’ll get paid more to fetch the San Pellegrino of someone more important than you currently do, but you will get passed over for all non-drink fetching jobs in the future because drink-fetching is your profession.

        THAT is why Millenials won’t take jobs like that. They’re dead end.

      • ninjalulu

        I was an 80s baby. I didnt finish college (dropped out after my first year) and started with the hospital i currently work at. I have been here 10 years. There is no where for me to go without a degree. But! The last 3 people to be hired in my area were within 10 years of retirement. That is because they want experience along with education. It is impossible to get hired here now with no experience. The interns we have are treated like volunteers, except the volunteers get more respect due to being elderly than the college age volunteers.

    • pixie

      I agree with you. It’s ok to be average, it doesn’t mean you don’t have value.

      Though I personally have beef with the whole acceptance into the gifted program thing. In grade 4 we had testing to see who would be placed in the gifted program. The testing was 3 stages and you had to score a certain level on each one in order to pass to the next. Myself and one other were the only two who made it to the final stage. When the results came in, my parents were told that I was definitely intelligent enough to be in the gifted program but I wasn’t organized enough (I was 9…), so they weren’t going to put me in the program. Instead I had to sit through classes that didn’t meet my needs challenge-wise and just cruised through the rest of elementary school and through high school without actually putting in a whole lot of effort and having a good number of teachers that didn’t inspire or challenge me to actually put in more than the minimum amount of effort. (don’t get me wrong, I had a handful of fantastic teachers that did get me to try very hard and I excelled in those classes, just most of them seemed like they didn’t want to teach). It took me until first year of my undergrad to actually realize that I could do a lot better if I put in effort and it took me most of that year to figure out how to go about that. Thank god my undergrad profs were pretty spectacular with giving me the inspiration I needed to want to give it my all.

      • auntiea

        I qualified for the gifted program in 2nd grade. Looking back, the program was a huge joke, really. I’m not sure the district still offers it. I refused to go. I flat out refused to be bussed to another school one day a week. My teacher that year was terrible to me that year, but my mom wasn’t going to force me to do something I didn’t want to do. I failed my subtraction test that year and also got my first and only recess taken away.

      • pixie

        The gifted program was at the school I already attended (well the school I ended up moving to anyways for grades 5-8 because we moved houses) and most of the time was spent with the other gifted kids except for classes like gym, art, and music. My biggest thing was I needed to be challenged in school and not given the same thing that everyone else was, which was catered to nearly the lowest level in the class and my teacher couldn’t understand why I finished my work so quick and then spent the rest of the time reading.

      • itpainsme2say

        Omg my teacher (the reg one) hated me too and would get mad at me for not doing her work while I was at the other school and take my recesses away. Then I reported her because really what did she think we were doing for hours at the other school and she got reprimanded but she only got meaner. It was the first time I felt like an authority figure actively hated me and I never got over the fact that some people could have so much power over you that you could do nothing. I now have a mistrust of authority, so thank goodness you got out of the program because there really was no communication between it and regular teachers

      • Tea

        I had one of these, too!

      • Jallun-Keatres

        This was me. I was usually at the top of the class and in high school I felt like honors and AP classes were just unnecessary busy work in a room full of neurotic 5.0′s. I refused to take honors and did nothing above the bare minimum. My problem is I refuse to get an A for the sake of getting an A. I’m here to learn, not to please.

        Actually, in my 8th grade journalism class I went above and beyond and got “scolded” for it (“I only asked for ONE of these,” she said of my newspaper) and after that I never did above minimum. Sad really.

      • pixie

        Yep, I fully learned the mentality of “well if my teachers don’t care or don’t want me to go above and beyond, why bother?”

      • AP

        I didn’t learn that until I get to work: no one cares if you do more than B- work at your job, and if you do, you’ll end up exploited. So phone it in and don’t try too hard.

      • AugustW

        Yay average!
        I’m average. I get good grades because I work my but off, and I study. I’m smart in some areas, but some things just totally mystify me.

    • rrlo

      On one hand children are so special. They are unique, and smart and look at the world in such special and amazing ways. And reminding them of that can’t be a bad thing.

      I think the problem is when parents uses this special thing to say that their kid is somehow better or more valuable than other kids. Everyone is special but everyone is equal in their worth as little humans.

      I am also not too bothered by the “everyone gets a trophy” thing. Trying and participating should be celebrated. If giving everyone a trophy means that they would be encouraged to compete the next time – why not?

      IMO, we should be teaching our kids that we are all special and unique – but we are of equal value as humans.

      • Véronique Houde

        But if everyone gets a trophy, there’s no meaning to the trophy. Might as well just call it a gift for showing up. Kids aren’t dumb and they figure this out pretty quickly, hence trophies lose their meaning altogether.

    • Robotic Socks

      LOL there’s a line in a small movie that started off saying something like,

      “the worst thing you can tell your kid is that he’s really smart… then he’ll never study.”

      Apparently, my dad knew this, as he always told me I’m below average and that I needed to study even harder than my class mates to keep up.

      • Emily A.

        I had a friend in college who found out how she had scored on an IQ test when she was about 12 (off the charts)… even she admits that that did her no favors!

      • pixie

        A combination of knowing that I scored high enough on the testing to be in the gifted program but not being allowed in because I was unorganized and having a lot of teachers who didn’t even try to inspire me to challenge myself or put in effort did no favours for me. I could practically sleep though class and get 80s so that is what I did.

      • Paul White

        Novice! I slept through high school and got 60s! I’m better at being lazy!

        Or something….

        Oh crap….

      • Robotic Socks

        See! Never tell smart kids they’re smart!

        LOL

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Don’t praise a kid for their innate talents. Praise them for perseverance or effort. I was deemed “highly gifted” by the idiots in charge of these things at a young age, and it caused way more damage than it was worth. So I got pulled out of class to do extra work every once in a while, whoop de do. Not being a freak and learning how to build a social life would have been much more productive. I still struggle with anxiety and have trouble with perceptions of my own abilities, because to me having to work at something = incompetence. When my godson’s mother called crying to tell me that her son was “Only reading at a grade three level” (in kindergarten), I had some rather harsh words for her.

      And as a teacher now, unfortunately, I can see some of the results. Kids over-scheduled beyond all reason and prone to panic attacks if they get small things wrong. Kids who are placed in the wrong grade level because their mothers bully the school into saying they’re “gifted”, then wondering why their kids are behind. Kids who refused to do work at all anymore, because they were fed up. They just quit, and I was not entirely unsympathetic. Parents – please. Do NOT aspire to a gifted child.

      • itpainsme2say

        This so much this for me. To many expectations not enough support, my anxiety was ignored in favor of my bad behavior (I quit caring).

    • BLANKEN

      Why does,
      7/10 people who comment on this subject say something along the lines of
      “Oh I tested off the charts for IQ, and I was sooo talented but the
      school system is stupid and useless.” I have zero respect for
      anyone who was spoon-fed through these gifted programs. The truth is that you
      don’t have to be smart to do well in these programs and they give a huge but
      unfair advantage to upper-middle or rich class kids. No one here knows what a actual
      bad school is. The children who make it through there and on to college are the REAL talents. Average is not black and white a lot can change from environment.

      • sup time

        It reminds me of my friends in high school. They were all the gifted, high achieving students. They would make fun of me for “being dumb”, because I wasn’t on principal’s list. I look at them now, there’s only one other person who has their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. (Just in case it isn’t clear: I’m the other one.) Seriously, being good at school in high school, doesn’t mean that you’ll be good at university or that you have the skills to make it through when things get tough. I honestly don’t know if I would make it through university now (in the internet age) but I’m glad I works as hard as I did to make it through when I did.

      • CW

        Oh, puh-LEEZE. I know very well what an actual bad school is. The middle school that my kids are zoned for has a gang problem. The ‘burbs aren’t what they used to be…

      • Vikky

        I grew up in a school where 2/3 of the kids were on the gov’t free lunch. I was in the gifted program. I was not “spoon-fed,” but I graduated and went on to college–which I would not have without the GT program.

    • C.J.

      If every child was gifted then gifted would be average. I tell my children that everyone is good at something but no one is good at everything.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      When I started 3rd grade I went to a brand new school and I hated my 2 years there. Looking back, I can see that between 2nd and 3rd grade I suddenly wasn’t at the top of the class anymore. I felt so lost at having a hard time learning material instead of knowing it already or picking up on it quickly. It sucked.

      Also I was tested for “Challenge” but my teacher forgot to send me off every time. When I finally went, it was just science experiments that I’d already done. Boring. I was okay with not being G&T after that lol

      • Guest

        Same here. I was in G & T and “Challenge Math”. In third grade I realized I had I idea what was going on in challenge math and felt like an idiot because the others did, it was useless info, and somehow it allows me to miss learning long division entirely. I otherwise appreciated the programs where it was basically a book club and a random misc class of writing which I loved.

    • K-Dub

      I think you totally missed the point of that Momastery blog post. It had nothing to do with academics and everything to do with recognizing that every child has a special gift, even if it’s not in the classroom.

      • Véronique Houde

        Oh she perfectly got it. What I feel she has issue with is saying that every kid is “gifted” meaning “extra” ordinary. But put this in a logical sense : if there are extra-ordinary kids, there must be ordinary ones to compare this with. Hence, not all kids will be classified as such. Hence, some kids in school will just be plain old vanilla normal and there’s nothing wrong with that. So the author is saying that every kid has something UNIQUE about them. But that doesn’t mean that this makes the kid special in any sense of the term.

      • Bethany Ramos

        Well said.

    • Jessifer

      i grew up in a rather isolated area so we didn’t have a gifted program. However, once I started kindergarten it was clear that I was not being challenged enough, so they moved me up to grade 1 instead. The following year they wanted to move me ahead another year but my parents refused, not wanting me to be in a class with kids 2 years older than me. Being so young when it happened, my memory is a little fuzzy but I remember other parents being so incredibly angry at the fact that I skipped ahead a year and not their kids. A few of them went so far as to complain to the school board. One mother in particular was so vindictive that while I was waiting to make the transition into first grade and still in my kindergarten class, her daughter had a birthday party and everyone in the class was invited except me, because “technically” I wasn’t in her class anymore. What a bitch! Yeah, she sure taught that 5-year-old smartypants a lesson! *massive eye roll*

      • itpainsme2say

        That has to be the sadist story about the sadist human being I’ve ever heard. I wonder how her kid turn out when she had such a bully for a mom.

      • Jessifer

        I think her daughter turned out okay but her son is always in and out of jail.

        When my birthday came up later on, my mother invited all the girls from both my former and my new class for a sleepover including that woman’s daughter. My mother may not be book smart like I am but she is incredibly wise. She taught me that when people treat you like that, you take the high road instead of stooping to their level.

      • itpainsme2say

        Good on your mom for not treating an innocent girl as a threat to her baby like that other mom

    • KarenMS

      I don’t like the term “gifted.” It’s a little mystical for my taste; almost religious sounding. “Talented” seems like enough. Maybe “academically talented”?

      • Justme

        But academically talented and gifted are not the same things. I have plenty of students who are bright and work hard to achieve their good grades…but they are “gifted.”

    • Savannah61

      There is a FANTASTIC book called “The Leader in Me” which tells the story of how schools have taken the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People & integrated into their curriculum & daily operations. It’s fantastic & highly motivating. The premise is that everyone is a leader of something, everyone has something to contribute, whether it’s academics, arts, sports, or something else. The schools that have implemented this model have been wildly successful. It’s hard to explain it all, so you should definitely look it up!
      Every child is definitely not academically gifted. But every child can contribute & every contribution is important.

    • Justme

      This is probably one of my favorite diagrams that shows the difference between gifted and bright:
      http://www.ode.state.or.us/teachlearn/specialty/tag/r5brightchild.pdf

      • Bethany Ramos

        Great resource!

    • tk88

      Good parents have ALWAYS thought their child was the smartest, most beautiful, all around best kid in the world. They should, because they are their children. The problem these days is that parents seem to think that EVERYONE ELSE should also think these things about their child. Also, people’s preoccupation with having a “gifted” child just shows they don’t know the realities of it. Often, gifted children aren’t the happiest. Give me a non-gifted kid with a cheerful and optimistic disposition any day. Being gifted doesn’t mean your kid will have a good life, so stop bitching about others not recognizing how “special” your child is, and just recognize it yourself.

      • Bazcat

        I’m the mother of 3 kids(4 months, 3 years, and 10). My oldest is highly gifted. It has been hell getting him anywhere close to the education he needs in our small rural school district. He skipped a grade and is still bored with most of his grades a 97% or higher without ever trying. Before the grade skip, he was coming home in tears every day because math class was so boring. Having a child at either extreme of the bell curve is insanely hard. Having a child at the high extreme end of the bell curve just means you have fewer resources, fewer legal protections, fewer options if you’re not filthy rich, and people tell you to shut up when you complain about it because you’re kid is smart. At times, I feel like a horrible mom for hoping my younger two aren’t gifted. I want normal bright kids who don’t struggle in school, but not as scary smart as their older brother.

      • tk88

        This is exactly what I wish people would understand, and I’m sorry your son is struggling with this. Why don’t you see if there are any local universities who have a professor or two who would be interested in tutoring him for nothing/a reduced fee? Or even allowing him to sit in on some college classes. Plenty of intellectuals would love to just have the privilege of teaching a child of your son’s aptitude. Or maybe look groups like MENSA–they may have scholarships or something for private or boarding school that might better suit his needs. If all else fails you could try homeschooling (I’m normally against this but if you’re in the middle of nowhere and he’s that miserable it might work.) You’re not a bad mom for hoping that, you just want your other kids to be happy. But at least if they are gifted as well, you’ll know how to deal with their emotions better. Good luck!

      • Bazcat

        We’re at least an hour away from the nearest university.He has not had an actual IQ test,so MENSA isn’t an option at the moment. Even though its 90 minutes away, he does go to some weekend workshops at IMSA(Illinois Math and Science Academy). He would like to go there for high school, but that’s still a couple years away. Homeschool won’t work as I’m a single mom, plus he’s thrives on the social interaction at school.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Here’s what I tell my kids whenever we talk about anything talent/”gifted” related: everyone has *A* gift. Some people are good at school; some people can fix anything; some people make beautiful art; some people are terrific listeners.

      I’m a big believer that we need to change our societal mindset from “Be THE best” to “Be YOUR best.” Labeling kids as gifted or not gifted doesn’t encourage them to do that; challenging them does. I was a major reader as a kid (still am!) and my teachers would often give me a choice of some more challenging books for assignments, simply because the new vocabulary etc. in the other books wasn’t new to me. It was a great way to encourage myself to stretch my abilities without implying that there was anything “special snowflake” about me other than that I really liked to read.

    • AugustW

      Every child IS gifted in things and talented in things. Just not all the things, all the time.
      My daughter is on the spectrum. She is severely speech delayed, and even after surgery to fix her hearing nearly a year ago, she still sounds deaf.
      That said, she can get onto my ipad and my phone, no matter how complicated I make the passwords. If she sees me do them once, she is in. She is also quite a little athlete.

      So she’s gifted in technology, talented in sports. And she’s in a special ed preschool.

    • CW

      Every child has strengths and weaknesses, but just like not every child has the talent to be a varsity athlete or play for the regional youth orchestra, not every child is intellectually gifted. The school should’ve handled the GATE notification letters in a more tactful fashion, however. Notify the families privately.

      • Ro

        What confuses me is how many children are gifted in one class. In all my years of schooling I was never aware of anyone I knew or went to school with being gifted. Yet, somehow there are enough gifted children in one class that a student refers to the situation as sending letters home to ALL the gifted kids?

        There is a big difference between gifted and talented.

    • Carrie

      I feel sad for any child who has been told by an adult that they are only average. Schools recognize students who are academically gifted, but what about the multitude of other gifts that schools do not focus on? Music, dance, art, computers, cooking, gardening, working with animals… these are all gifts too. They are no less important than academics. Flipping burgers can lead to owning a restaurant if a person believes that they are capable.

    • Ro

      I don’t understand what’s wrong with being average? I was average. I had strengths such as being a good reader, always ahead a few grades. I was an okay artist and a decent writer. I was proud of my strengths even though I was rarely the best at anything. Occasionally I daydreamed about being super amazing at certain things and blowing people’s sock’s off with my talents, but I wasn’t plagued by these thoughts at all.

      So far my kids seem pretty average and it doesn’t bother me a bit. They have strengths of course, but I never feel compelled to refer to their strengths as gifts or to wax poetic about how unique and special they are. At least not with anyone other than my husband and mom, lol.

      I have a friend who mentioned to me that her 2 year old daughter (whom I know very well) may be gifted. Their daughter is funny, loves to draw and is quite good with a pencil for her age, but I never once thought she was gifted. For some reason I find it extremely annoying that they actually think she is gifted, to the point where they are considering enrolling her in the gifted school.

    • Jayamama

      I think you meant for the title to be “NOT every kid is gifted and talented.” What you wrote means that every child is dumb.

      Maybe I’m just gifted at grammar. :P

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