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Gifted or Hard-Working? Which is Better for Long-Term Success for our Children?

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Giftedness is revered in our culture and viewed as a guarantee to a child's future success. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Giftedness is no guarantee for success. In fact, the world is full of gifted failures and yet we, as parents, often hope and pray we have gifted children. This is then a parenting misperception used to validate a parent's sense of worth.

Problems with giftedness and the value of hard work:

1. Unearned status: Gifted children are treated to believe their gift makes them more special, important or better than others. Yet truly gifted kids carry more of a burden with their giftedness than it is really a gift. They have a status they did nothing to earn, which makes them seem better than others, when in reality many of our gifted kids do not understand their gifts. Their giftedness can actually cause them to not fit in, to get attention they did not seek or earn and to stand out when they don't need or want the attention.

2. Entitlement: If your children are gifted don't tell them. It puts an unnecessary pressure on them, makes them feel different or more privileged than others and they may begin to count on it for favor, love and recognition. They do not learn that life is challenging and that it is only hard-work and humility that will get them through those challenges.

3. Success without effort: Because gifted children succeed at an early age with little effort they are unable to take a deep and rewarding ownership of their success. Without ownership, they have no connection between their hard work efforts and their results. This interferes with them being able to take genuine pride in what they accomplish. Because they actually don't do anything to succeed, they do not know what to do to succeed in the future or in the face of failure. They attribute their success to their ability and not effort so when they fail they will soon attribute their failure to the lack of their ability rather than a lack of effort. This is much harder on their self-esteem later in life.

4. Soon they are the same as everyone else: As gifted children age they reach a level where everyone is successful. As adults, they end up in fields where their peers have become masters as well. If they haven't been taught hard work, they do not know how to maximize their gifts at older ages where they are equal in ability but not in effort. Their inborn talent is no longer sufficient to be successful or to stand out. Because everything had come easy to them, they did not learn the skills of persistence, resilience, creativity, patience or discipline that will enable them to become truly successful.

5. It Is about hard work: The greatest predictor of success is how many hours are devoted to any goal. The more someone practices a skill, the better they become at what they are trying to accomplish. It means that children learn the value of taking the necessary time, sticking with a goal even when it is not enjoyable, persevering in the face of obstacles and failures and developing the skills necessary to become successful at the end of a long road. This is what builds character, resilience, success, self-worth, fortitude and confidence.

To raise successful children we must not only reward their ability. It is the hard work behind their natural abilities that will guarantee their life-long success. Our children need to fail, they need to learn how to get back up, not give up on a goal, get creative, find a new direction and keep going. Hard work develops strength of character, and without this, their natural ability can only take them so far.

Little life message: Teach your children that if they work hard enough they can achieve all their dreams.