Monday, October 26, 2009


Originally, I was going to write a post about gifted children, and the challenges in identifying and parenting a gifted child. While we have always believed Carolyn was ahead of other kids, I have recently been doing some suggested research on parenting a gifted child specifically. I was going to write about that. Now, I'm just too exhausted.

Tonight, we endured a 45-minute screaming freak-out from the kidlet. What was the freak-out about? She had been told that using a hairbrush she found on the playground could result in her getting lice. Cue atom bomb.

This isn't the first time she's gotten wigged out by ideas of bugs in her hair. A couple of months ago, while at daycare, one of the kids put a mop on her head and told her that now she had cockroaches on her head. She insisted that she had to wash her hair because of the aforementioned cockroaches. When the teacher at daycare wouldn't let her soak her head in the sink, she flew into a rage, hitting a teacher, screaming and crying. Of course, there were no cockroaches, but the damage had been done.

Tonight was close to the same. In fact, the tantrum went on for a solid 45 minutes, insisting that since Melissa told her that she *might* get lice, that meant she would. And that she wanted clean hair and didn't want to be itchy, so we had to cut off all her hair RIGHT NOW! She kept repeating it, over and over and over - "Just cut my hair off! I don't care if people laugh at me! Just cut it off NOW!", all the while tears streaming down her face and screaming as loud as she could.

She finally calmed down after her Grammy called and explained that we would just comb through her hair and if there were any lice, we'd find them. Of course, we'd already explained that, but she wasn't upset with Grammy. And she went to bed, and off to sleep. And we were exhausted. Emotionally, physically, mentally spent.

But this behavior, as I'm learning, is not unexpected. Gifted children often have to deal with "overexcitabilities", extra sensitivity to certain stimuli. These include intellectual, sensual, imaginational, psycho-motor and emotional stimuli. Carolyn exhibits at least some of the signs of each of these, with some very strong. From the book "A Parent's Guide To Gifted Children":
"People with emotional overexcitability may show frequent temper tantrums (beyond the age of three) and displays of rage, possibly related to losing a game, feeling left out, needing to be the best, or not getting their way.  Their emotions can be extreme, and also puzzling, to adults."  Id.  Sadly, children with this overexcitability are often accused of  "overreacting."
 Hmm... sounds familiar.

Kids who suffer from this type of overexcitability are often described as "sponges". They soak up everything, sights, sounds and emotions. And when the things don't work out the way she expects - boom. As Miss E over at "Loving Your Gifted Child and Much, Much More" explains:
I learned early that she wouldn't fall apart over not getting her way, she would fall apart over her perception of reality being different than the reality itself.  It LOOKED like she was having an "I want my way" tantrum to the casual observer, but it was actually that she


that the situation was different than the expectation she had created for it.
In Carolyn's mind, the possibility of getting lice was a reality. She had already processed in her mind that she had lice, that it would itch, that it would mean she had dirty hair, and that the only solution was to cut off her hair. And no amount of discussion, explanation, or reasoning was going to convince her otherwise.

This happens a fair amount. She paints pictures of how things are, and when they turn out not to be that way, things go south. I don't believe she's trying to be difficult - she just sees things a different way. Of course, once she gets locked into an emotional situation, it's done until she can't get back in control.

This results in an exhausting battle. In the end, we just stand there, letting her scream, keeping her from kicking the walls or breaking anything. And eventually, she calms down. Eventually. Meanwhile, you're spent watching your child go off the deep end, screaming in your face to cut off her hair.

We'll work through this, and we'll all figure out how to teach Carolyn the skills to get better control of her emotions. But in the meantime, we'll be a little more tired.

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