Gifted Kids, p.6
Problems can arise when parents and educators disagree about a child's abilities. "Some people think their child is gifted when he's actually learning at a normal level," says Peter D. Rosenstein, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children in Washington, DC.
Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., observes this phenomenon all the time as a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and in her consultations at elementary schools across the country. "Parents today are anxious, loving, educated, and well-intentioned. But, absolutely, they're trying to categorize their kids as gifted when they may not fit the criteria."
Dr. Winner agrees. "Some parents try to mold their children into something they're not," she says. "You can't mold children. You've got to respect the abilities each child has and doesn't have." To do otherwise does a disservice to the child. "I've seen many kids in high-level academic programs who think they're not smart," Dr. Mogel says. "That's the consequence of being in a program that is too challenging."
She's even seen parents enroll their children in very competitive schools and then send them to a tutor four days a week so they can stay on top of the material. "They don't want the school to realize that the child is in a program he shouldn't be in," she says.
What would cause parents to do this? Peer pressure is part of it, Dr. Mogel says: Parents talk to other parents and compare notes. But anxiety also plays a role. The parents that people like Deborah Stipek, Ph.D., dean of the school of education at Stanford University in California, see every day are worried about their children's futures. "We live in a society that is anxious about achievement, so parents, understandably, want to maximize their children's opportunities."
A decline in the quality of public education can also be a factor. "Some parents are very unhappy with public schools, and they believe that gifted programs are the best place to get a solid education," says Dr. Stipek.