I just finished both a book study and a training that focus on this topic. It has really challenged me to think about how I talk to children in general and gifted kids specifically. It is not that the information is new to me, just that I needed to be reminded again. . .
When I was teaching first grade, one of my students was invited to visit the principal as a reward. Returning to the classroom, he discussed his conversation with her, finishing with, "And then I told her 'I know what sarcasm is...'"
I think about that often. Gifted children tend to prefer the company of adults but this is not a hard and fast rule.
Gifted children tend to prefer the company of adults who are intellectual peers.
They do not prefer the company of adults who are condescending or belittling. Really, who does?
I am constantly amazed at the ways adults infringe upon children. People tickle my daughter's toes. They get in my son's face. They crowd children's personal space. My son is introverted as well as gifted which only adds insult to injury when they refuse to respect his boundaries or laugh at his declarations.
The one that gets me most is the way that they talk to them when they are trying to engage them in conversation. I gag when I hear people "dumb down" their conversation. I roll my eyes when they change their tone of voice and go babyish to make meaningless observations to children. I just have to sigh when they make up ridiculous and pedantic explanations instead of answering their questions matter-of-factly. I think the most frustrating is when adults mock children subtly, thinking the child doesn't understand.
(And don't get me started on people who tell stories about their children when they are standing.right.there. Seriously, what if you were standing next to me and I proceeded to tell someone else a story about you as if you weren't even there?!)
It's good for all children, but it's necessary for gifted children. You cannot gain their respect without effective communication.
People frequently comment on my children's "adult vocabularies" and laugh at the way that they use sophisticated vocabulary. It's really not that complicated. When we talk to them, we talk to them as people. People capable of rational thinking and comprehensive answers. While they may not take it all in, I am always pleasantly surprised at what how they do in addition to the ways they incorporate that knowledge into play and learning.
We talk to our children as if they were our friends. People with whom we enjoy conversing. While they are children and may have childish conversation at times, more often than not deeper thoughts are at the heart. They may not always articulate those thoughts as clearly as an adult would. However they are learning the art of communication.
At the same time, we are also able to maintain our position as their parents by having boundaries on topics, of course. Talking to them as people is not the same concept as treating them as adults.
It is our privilege to be their guide, teaching them what meaningful dialog looks like as we go. Instilling a respect for other people's opinions regardless of age. Modeling active listening as well as related responses. Teaching them to play the devil's advocate and to respect different view points.
When we talk to our children as if they are people, they become people with whom we delight to hold conversation.