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My child is getting ready to take the WISC for a gifted assessment. He is a complex person and I am concerned about what I should tell him about the test process. For background, you should know that he is the youngest of two boys. His older brother is gifted and is extremely competitive….
Question: My child is getting ready to take the WISC for a gifted assessment. He is a complex person and I am concerned about what I should tell him about the test process. For background, you should know that he is the youngest of two boys. His older brother is gifted and is extremely competitive. Despite all of our family’s attempts to curb my older son’s competitive nature, he persists in turning everything into a game with “winners” and “losers.” To make matters worse, my older son is very athletic and my younger son has had some balance and coordination problems due to chronic ear infections. As a result, my younger son is easily frustrated and will give up if he perceives any hint of something challenging. He is reluctant to try any new activity and is a great perfectionist. No matter how many times my husband and I have explained that his older brother is two years older and very different person, my younger son holds himself to the same performance standard as his older brother. My younger son is a very bright child and has been reading since he was three. He learned this on his own, and I made no attempt to teach him. However, he is an analytical and introspective child who does not like to be the center of attention. He also has a highly developed sense of humor and likes to turn things into jokes. I had to tell his kindergarten teacher that he could read, because my son would not read in front of her. She was trying to teach him the alphabet and he was already reading chapter books. I know that my younger son is bright and, intellectually, he is certainly ready to take the test. But I am concerned about what to tell him the test IS. If I say it is just a pleasant meeting with a nice lady who will play some logic games with him, he will get bored and not take it seriously. On the other hand, if I tell him it is a test of some kind, he will become anxious and probably give up the first time he encounters a difficult question. Please help!
Dr. Har’s answer
It is not uncommon for gifted children to experience feelings of anxiety or intense worries of needing to be “perfect” sometimes. As this mom has observed, such feelings can often lead to children actively avoiding or refusing to try activities if they think they will not be able to do them well, or if they think they won’t be the “best.” In my own research, I have found that one strategy that encourages kids to participate is to explain to them that they are helping someone else learn about children. For instance, in this case, mom can tell the younger son that he will be talking to a researcher or scientist who is interested in how kids learn and figure things out (which would be 100% true), and that he would be helping to contribute to what the world knows about kids and how they grow up, and that, therefore, he would be an important part of science and learning by participating. Kids (even young ones) understand the concept of “help” very well, and so if the situation is presented in this manner, it should positively encourage the younger son a great deal.