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Ten Rimm Canons of Achievement for the Gifted By Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D.


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

INTRODUCTION The first moment of holding your infant in your arms is engraved in your memory permanently. Just thinking about that wonderful moment brings a smile to your lips and joy to your heart. Your feeling of joy, however, was unrelated to your child’s intelligence, creativity or talent. It was related only to that wonderful bonding that comes with holding your newborn or newly adopted child. You definitely were not thinking of your child’s talent. Your first wishes were for good health and normalcy. Your preschool gifted child, your school-aged talented child, or your extremely intelligent teenager is always a baby, child or adolescent first. Giftedness is only a secondary description. When this order is reversed, children suffer from pressures to be what they cannot be instead of unique human beings who hopefully fulfil their potential. How Children Become Gifted Gifted children definitely do need parental guidance, but motivation and pressure can be flip sides of the same coin, and gifted children are at high risk for internalising pressures. They often exhibit talent early. They may speak in whole sentences when other similarage children know only a few words. Some observe environmental details that are not even noticed by others. Their questions may reveal a depth of understanding not typical of preschoolers. They may construct complex puzzles or Lego® blocks or take things apart in a manner that indicates extraordinary spatial understanding. They may learn letters, numbers, colours and shapes with speed and interest, come to adult-like mathematical conclusions, read spontaneously or show extraordinary musical talent far beyond typical children. All of these behaviours are encouraged by high praise. The praise both facilitates learning but also can become internalised as too high expectations. Only a part of children’s giftedness is genetic. Much of their talent develops because parents and other adults provide enriched environments. Parents can experience the joy of enhancing their children’s learning in many shared ways beginning with encouraging a love of reading and including an appreciation of culture, the arts, the environment, exploration, science, government and the world community. They can help children to explore community resources including: museums, parks, libraries, conservatories, aquariums, observatories, nature centres, theatres and concert halls which add to their children’s learning. Parents truly are very important teachers. Their investment of time and interest and their modelling of a love of life and learning provide the very best opportunities for their children.

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The Challenge of Parenting Your Gifted Child There are many variations of “right� ways to parent, and your personal family and cultural values should be your guide. Nevertheless, there are some basic principles that underlie good parenting. With the complexity of our media-driven culture, it is particularly important for families to embrace these foundational principles. In my books How to Parent So Children Will Learn (Great Potential Press, 2008) and Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child (Great Potential Press, 2008), I emphasise these supportive concepts. Based on research and on my own clinical experience with gifted children, I have developed ten canons of achievement for guiding gifted children. The Ten Rimm Canons of Achievement are targeted toward encouraging children to fulfil their potential and grow toward being happy, achieving adults who will hopefully make positive contributions to our world. If these are goals with which you as parents agree, then these Rimm Canons will be extremely helpful to your family.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE SECTION i

INTRODUCTION

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

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DR. RIMM’S BRIEF BIOGRAPHY

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HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

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CANON 1: Children develop confidence and an internal sense of control if they are given power in gradually increasing increments as they show maturity and responsibility.

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CANON 2: What adults say directly to children as well as what they say to each other about children within their hearing (referential speaking) dramatically affects children’s behaviours and selfperceptions.

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CANON 3: Children are more likely to be achievers if their parents join together to give the same clear and positive message about school effort and expectations.

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CANON 4:

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CANON 5: Children will become achievers only if they learn to function in competition and collaboration.

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CANON 6: Children will continue to achieve if they usually see the relationship between the learning process and its outcomes.

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CANON 7: Overreactions by parents or teachers to children’s successes and failures lead them to feel either intense pressure to succeed or despair and discouragement in dealing with failure.

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CANON 8:

Parents should avoid confrontations with children unless they are reasonably sure that they can control the outcomes.

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CANON 9:

Deprivation and excess exhibit the same symptoms. Children feel more tension when they are worrying about and avoiding their work than when they are doing it, and they only develop selfconfidence and resilience through struggle.

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CANON 10: Children learn appropriate behaviours more easily if they have effective models to imitate. Parents can be good role models and are most frequently available to children.

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REFERENCES

Children become oppositional if one adult allies with them against a parent or a teacher, making them more powerful than an adult.

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DR. RIMM’S BRIEF BIOGRAPHY Dr. Rimm is a psychologist and the director of Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Families from all over the world come to her for guidance. She has authored more than 20 books including: How to Parent So Children Will Learn and Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It (both 2008 National Best Books award-winners from USA Book News). In addition, Dr. Rimm has written Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret Lives of America’s Middle Schoolers, Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child, Raising Preschoolers, See Jane Win®, How Jane Won and See Jane Win for Girls. See Jane Win®, a New York Times Bestseller, was featured on television on the “Oprah Winfrey” and “Today” shows and in “People” Magazine. She has also co-authored (along with Gary A. Davis and Del Siegle) Education of the Gifted and Talented—a most frequently used graduate school textbook in gifted education, now in its 6th edition. Her internationally validated creativity tests, Group Inventory for Finding Creative Talent (GIFT) and Group Inventory for Finding Interests (GIFFI), are used by many school districts in the United States for identifying creative children for gifted programming. Dr. Sylvia Rimm’s nine years as contributing correspondent to “NBC’s Today Show” and as a favourite personality on public radio, make her a familiar child psychologist to worldwide audiences. Katie Couric, TV journalist and former co-anchor of “NBC’s Today Show” said, “Dr. Rimm is a welcome voice of calm and reason—someone who offers practical advice with almost immediate results. She is a guardian angel for families who need a little or a lot of guidance.” Dr. Rimm has answered thousands of letters in her nationally syndicated parenting advice column with Creators Syndicate. She speaks and publishes internationally on family and school approaches to guiding children toward achievement. Dr. Rimm draws additional experience from her inspiring husband, her very successful children: two daughters and two sons and their spouses, and nine interesting and fun-loving grandchildren.


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK The booklet provides some Ten Rimm Canons of Achievement for Gifted Children, will be a welcome guide for many parents who search for guidelines for raising their gifted children. The guidelines are based on well-researched information on children’s intellectual, social and moral development. They also take into consideration the variable precocities of gifted children and are sensitive to the research on intensity and social-emotional issues of gifted children. If you are reading this book, you likely want your children to achieve their potential. You and your partner may or may not have discussed your values for raising your children, so you could be projecting the future for your children with different visions. It is time for a parent conversation about dreams and expectations for your child (or children) so that you understand each other’s visions and can work together. Parent Discussion The discussion you have with your partner about parenting could have two parts. First, you can share your dreams or wishes for your gifted children’s accomplishments in their lives. Here you may dare to imagine great wealth, amazing power and extraordinary contributions. It would be good for each parent to understand this wishful thinking that the other parent projects. While it is likely to be unrealistic, it clarifies the directions of each other’s values. In order that you do not bias each other’s dreams for your children, you could write them down before you discuss them. Part two of your discussion should temper your dreams with reality. Although your children may be in the top 5 percent of any talent area, multiplying that percentage by the number of children born each year in China and the world, will give you an incredibly large number of gifted children and will make your wishes more realistic. Many hope their children receive an excellent education through university, graduate or professional schools. Some parents may wish that their children enter particular professions. Others may predict that their children would be happiest creating their own businesses or vocations. Parents can explore together these hopes for their children. Regardless of parents’ wishes, children will create their own dreams and goals as they mature, but it is helpful for them to have the advantages of their parents’ wisdom and experiences. I encourage parents to think in broader terms and guide their children toward finding careers in which they are deeply interested and can make small, positive contributions to our world. It is also important that young people know they will require sufficient earnings to support themselves.

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The Next Steps The next step in using my booklet is to read the canons in the Table of Contents and decide where you’d like to begin. Perhaps you would like to discuss one canon a week and follow the order in the booklet, or you would rather skip to any one canon that seems to jump out as a priority. One canon each week will provide parents time to not only talk about it, but also to practise the suggestions or tips with their children. Some are more complex and will need review from time to time. As children mature and change, these principles can be applied in different ways during varying stages of development. You will make mistakes and have differences. You will adapt the canons to your own cultural values and circumstances. There is no need to expect perfection of yourselves or your children. Regardless of how well you parent and how much you love your children, there will be much you cannot control. Hopefully, you will simply enjoy this parenting journey because, indeed, it is a challenging and exciting one.


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

RIMM CANON 1 Children develop confidence and an internal sense of control if they are given power in gradually increasing increments as they show maturity and responsibility. Your children require leadership and limits to feel secure. Envision the letter “V”. When children are small, they are at the base of the “V” with few choices, little freedom and power, matched with few responsibilities that go with their small size. As they mature, parents can give them more choices, more freedom and increased power, paired with more responsibilities. Children will feel trusted as they are only gradually empowered. If parents reverse that “V” like this, “Λ”, and children are given too much power, too many early choices and too much freedom, they will be over-empowered before they are ready to make responsible decisions and will feel as if you are taking away their freedom when you set reasonable limits. They will expect to be treated as adults too early. Ordinary limits will cause over-empowered children to become angry, depressed and rebellious because they will feel powerless compared to the power they experienced too early. Gifted children’s adult-sounding vocabulary can easily trap parents into assuming they should make decisions earlier than average children, putting them at high risk of being empowered too soon. A quote from one of my articles reads, “If gifted children were meant to run our homes, God would have created them bigger.” Their IQ scores may be high, but they are happier, more secure and confident if they understand that their parents and teachers have the wisdom and experience to guide them. Examples for Rimm Canon 1: Example 1: A mother of a gifted 5-year-old girl asked me how to respond to her daughter’s message. The girl had said to her, “Stop trying to control me”. I asked the mother how she had responded, and she told me that she assured her that she was not trying to control her. I suggested a better answer. Instead, I said, "Reassure your daughter that you and her dad are very wise, will guide her well and can teach her much." The mother’s first response would give the child power beyond her ability to use it and would cause her to become more demanding. The child would actually feel less confident and secure. The second will reassure her and permit her healthy child status. Example 2: For my book, Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret Lives of America’s Middle Schoolers (Rodale Publishing, 2005) I surveyed 5000 children between ages 8 and 14 and met in focus groups with several hundred of them. Many children assumed they should have far too much power. One 10-year-old boy said, “My parents

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will not listen to me. My dad thinks I should be treated differently because I am a kid. I want the same treatment as my parents”. A 12-year-old girl said, “We need more freedom; parents are just too overprotective. It is not fair that we should be bossed around by our parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” Many young children felt entitled to too much power. Example 3: In my clinical practice I have worked with many gifted teens who do not comply with parents or refuse to do school work for teachers they decide are not teaching them well. They are angry because they believe they should make all their own decisions. These children receive A’s from teachers they like and F’s from teachers they do not appreciate. They underachieve and close doors on opportunities. When I was in Hong Kong speaking to parents of underachieving gifted students, quite a few parents shared similar stories of teenagers who wanted to drop out of school as soon as possible because they did not respect some teachers. Tips for Rimm Canon 1: Tip 1: Do not give gifted preschool children too many choices. Be positive and directive. Do not ask preschool children if they would like to eat, take a nap, pick their toys up or even which parent should read to them. Instead, be positive but directive by saying, "It is time to eat or nap”, “Now, please pick your toys up before we read our story” or, “Today daddy will read to you”. Choices they can make including which toys they want to play with or making healthy food choices from those already served at meals. Tip 2: Increase choice, freedom and power gradually several times each year. Each birthday, beginning of the new school year or start of another season, you can give children new privileges and responsibilities. For example, you can say, “Now that you are 8 years old, you can ride your bicycle to your friend’s home, you can watch television for an hour each evening and help to do the dishes with me each day.” You are making it clear that each new season or age affords more choices, freedom and responsibilities, helping children feel as if they are gradually being appropriately empowered. Tip 3: Believe in yourselves as parents. Envision yourselves as wise, thoughtful parents. Take your time listening and thinking before you respond to your children. They will respect your responses, and you can stay consistent and follow through.


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

Remind yourselves that you are the adults and have the authority to make good decisions on behalf of your family. Tip 4: Do not disempower yourselves as parents. Try to never say to your children in exasperation, “You get me so frustrated I cannot handle you." While every parent feels that way sometimes, saying it causes children to feel empowered but insecure. When you feel like you cannot take charge, take time out to calm down but pretend you are in charge anyway. Your children will be more likely to respect you. If you are having difficulty relating to this problem, consider the terrible class results if a teacher told the students she could not handle them. Tip 5: You can reverse overempowerment, but it is not easy. If you have overempowered children who argue constantly, do not call them lawyers or they will be encouraged to argue even more. Instead, here’s an anti-arguing routine, abbreviated from my book, How To Parent So Children Will Learn (Great Potential Press, 2008) that will be helpful: a. When arguers come at you (they always choose an inconvenient time because they instinctively know you are vulnerable), remind yourself not to say yes or no immediately. Instead, after they have made their request, ask them for their reasons so they can never accuse you of not listening. Also, they will feel better because they have had plenty of time to talk (talking makes them feel smart). b. After you have heard their reasons, say, “Let me think about it. I will get back to you in a few minutes” (allow yourself more time to process a larger request). c. There are three benefits to the second step of this anti-arguing process. First, it permits you to continue to be rational (that is what you wanted to be when you accidentally trained your arguers). Second, it teaches children to be patient. Third, because arguers are often bright, manipulative children, and since you have not yet responded with either a yes or no, they know that their good behaviour increases the likelihood for your saying yes. Therefore, while you are taking time to be rational and while they are learning patience, these arguing children will be on their best behaviour. How nice! d. Think about their request and their reasons. Do not be negatively biased by their pushiness. If your answer is yes, smile and be positive and enthusiastic. Arguers rarely see adults smile.

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e. If your answer is no, and you do have the obligation to say no sometimes, then say no firmly. Include a few reasons as part of your refusal. Absolutely never change your decision and do not engage in further discussion. Do not let them make you feel guilty. It is healthy for children to learn to accept no’s. f. If they begin to argue again, review with them calmly that you heard their request, you listened to their reasons, you took time to consider them, you have given them your answer and your reasons, and discussion is now over. Do not get back into discussion of the initial request. g. If they continue arguing and they are younger than age 10 and not too big, escort them to their room for a time-out. If they are too big for you to time them out, go calmly and assertively to your own room and close and lock your door. If they beat on your door, ignore them. Relax with a good book. Finally, they will learn that parents have earned the privilege of saying no. They will also have learnt that they have the opportunity to remain children. They may not appreciate the latter, however, your home will become a more pleasant and positive place to live, and your children will find that you are positive, fair, rational, but not a wimp and they will respect you.


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

RIMM CANON 2 What adults say directly to children as well as what they say to each other about children within their hearing (referential speaking) dramatically affects children’s behaviour and self-perceptions. Praise conveys your values to your children and sets expectations for them. Lack of praise conveys the message that you do not believe in them. Reasonable praise, like: “good thinker”, “hard worker”, “smart”, “creative”, “strong”, “kind” and “sensitive” sets high but reasonable expectations that are within your children’s reach. Likewise, words like: “perfect”, “the best”, “the smartest”, “natural athlete”, “most beautiful” and “brilliant” can set impossible expectations. Children internalise those expectations, which become pressures when children find they cannot achieve those high, impossible goals. Gifted children are at risk of collecting extremely high praise from many sources. The words become a doubleedged sword. They can motivate them, but unfortunately they may also cause them to be less resilient and lead to underachievement. Discussion about children within their hearing (referential speaking) also sets expectations for them. If they hear you talking to grandparents and friends about how jealous or mean they are, if you refer to them as little devils or “ADHD kids”, if they are constantly described as shy, anxious or fearful, they assume you are telling the truth and believe they cannot control these problem behaviours. The words that surround your children develop their persona. Positive, reasonable words will motivate and encourage them. Continual negative descriptors will cause them to lose confidence and underachieve. Examples for Rimm Canon 2: Example 1: I was discussing a gifted 10-year-old girl’s progress with her because her mother had earlier indicated she was perfectionistic. The girl explained that she loved to do things perfectly and laboured over her work to be sure it was all correct. She also admitted that she hated to write stories. I explained to the girl that it was good that she worked hard to do excellent work, but that was not perfectionism. Perfectionism means over-working things even when they are excellent because you fear not being perfect. Perfectionism means avoiding challenging tasks because you fear making mistakes or when you make a mistake, getting unduly upset about it. After I helped her understand perfectionism, she added the following:

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“I think I do not want to write stories because the teacher could criticise them, and that would make me feel dumb.” This girl’s problem is certainly perfectionism. She, like many highly gifted children, has heard extreme praise for her extraordinary intelligence from parents and teachers. Peers consider her unusually gifted. Living up to those superlative, highly competitive expectations that she has heard about herself are at least part of the cause of her extreme pressure to feel perfect, best or smartest. Writing stories that do not allow her to know if the teachers will evaluate them as perfect feel so threatening to her self-concept that she avoids them for fear of any criticism. Example 2: I was giving a talk to a school faculty in the morning and parents the same evening. A teacher who heard my advice in the morning was also a parent. She reported the struggle she had with her 12-year-old son who refused to do his homework unless she was sitting with him. She said that she tried to encourage him by reminding him of how smart he was and how if he did his homework he would surely get all A’s. Instead, I suggested that the mother tell her son he was becoming much more mature now and needed to work independently in his room at his desk. Then when she managed to get him working, she should comment to her husband, within the boy’s hearing, that she noticed he was becoming a much harder and more independent worker. That evening, she returned with the parent group and reported that he had moved to doing his work in his room and she had talked to the boy’s dad (within his hearing) about his new efforts at independent work. She reported to us that she was shocked at how hard he had worked without any of her help for the first time. While it may take them further talk changes to modify their son’s bad habits, they made an impressive start. Example 3: While talking to parents about a 10-year-old son, the father wanted to ask a question about his 4-year-old daughter as well. He said she was extremely shy and wondered if that was because she was the youngest child. I asked the parents if they referred to her as “shy” in conversations. They admitted that they did frequently, as did grandparents and family friends. She had been effectively labelled as a shy child. I explained how the parents could change the label by taking the word “shy” out of their vocabulary, and instead, commenting both directly and referentially how social and friendly she was becoming. The parents were elated to receive the simple advice that they easily implemented.


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Three years later, they came for another visit with a question about their daughter. They were concerned because she had become too aggressive. Their words had gone too far, and it was time for more moderate talk. Tips for Rimm Canon 2: Tip 1: Praise gifted children moderately; postpone superlatives until they are mature enough to understand that excellence takes great effort. Consider your values for your children and use words to praise them that represent those values. Also use words that represent what will help to motivate them. Words such as: “smart”, “good thinker”, “hard worker”, “creative thinker”, “kind”, “sensitive”, “caring” and “persevering” are all positively empowering words to use. They set high but reasonable expectations and place value on effort. Tip 2: Do not discuss children’s problem behaviours with others within their earshot (referential speaking). If you call your child “pokey” or “lazy”, he’ll stay lazy because he will begin to believe it is part of who he is. In the same way, such words as “shy”, “mean”, “anxious”, “ADHD” and “jealous” become part of children’s personas as they surround your child.

If your child has been diagnosed with a disorder, ask the child to leave the room when the doctor or psychologist explains the disorder. Physicians are often not sensitive to the problems these diagnostic characteristics can cause children. If they are described as inattentive, impulsive or hyperactive, children may believe they cannot control these behaviours. The truth is that the disorder only makes them harder to control. You can explain it to your children after the appointment so that they do not assume they have no power to do anything about their problems.

Tip 3: Use positive referential talk deliberately to help children fulfil their potential. Talking to a partner or friend within the child’s hearing can build children’s confidence and can redesign their persona more positively. Examples such as, “She is not as shy as before”, “She never gives up” or “He is so kind to his little sister” will help your children to live more positive lives.

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RIMM CANON 3 Children are more likely to be achievers if their parents join together to give the same clear and positive message about school effort and expectations. When parents are respectful of each other and resolve their differences by compromise, children respect both parents. Leaders in a family that lead in two opposite directions confuse children. Children do not respect parents who show no respect for each other. Describing a child’s other parent as an “ogre” or “dummy” may make the parent feel like the good and understanding parent temporarily, but sabotaging another parent or grandparent will backfire, and children will no longer respect either of them. This is especially hard after divorce, but it is even more important for divided families. Parents and grandparents who are united and respectful teach children to both be respectful and resolve their differences peacefully. When parents hold teachers, education and learning in a higher regard, children will value education. When parents share stories about their best teachers, they elevate the children’s teachers as well. Parents who set expectations for higher education early will cause their children to assume education continues to university and graduate or professional study. Examples for Rimm Canon 3: Example 1: An 11-year-old boy was tested as having average ability although his parents indicated that as a young child he was an early reader, had unusually good vocabulary and seemed gifted. His mother could not get him to do his work. His father told the mother (within hearing of the child) that she was too strict with him. After they came to Family Achievement Clinic, they learnt to be united. The father took special time with the son to encourage his study. The boys’ achievement test scores gradually improved. He was moved to high track classes and became very independent. His IQ score increased to the gifted range. His self-confidence and motivation improved continually. By high school he was an excellent student. He is now a physician. Example 2: A 6-year-old gifted boy refused to do his work in class. He told his teachers that his workbooks were not creative enough for him and were boring. He came home and complained to his father that school work was boring. His father told him that school had not been creative enough for him either. The teacher wanted to refer the child to special education for his emotional problems. The family came to Family Achievement Clinic, and I discovered the underlying issue of his


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father’s unintended support for the underachievement. The father then explained to his son that doing his workbooks was important for his brain. The family devised a reward for doing his daily work. The teacher provided special computer time for the child when he completed his workbooks. The boy quickly reversed his underachievement. Creativity was always important to this child. He is now a nature video photographer and creates videos for the Discovery television channel and National Geographic. Example 3: A 10-year-old girl was very fearful. Her father did not understand her fear and would scold her. Her mother would tell the father to stop scolding her. The girl became more fearful. After coming to Family Achievement Clinic, the parents learnt to work together. Now the mother has stopped being overprotective and the father does not scold her. Although the daughter continues to be somewhat anxious, she has made great strides in her confidence. Recently she discontinued her ADHD medication which she had used to help her pay attention. Her grades have improved dramatically, and the teacher is surprised at the changes. Tips for Rimm Canon 3: Tip 1: Stay united with your children’s other parent and be willing to compromise on differences. It is alright if children know you have differences that you resolve privately by discussion. It is not good if they think one parent is always strict and the other is easier. They will try to manipulate the easier parent against the strict parent and will thus get in the habit, when challenged, to search for an easy way out. They will believe the easier parent is on their side against the stricter parent. They will feel more powerful than their strict parent who expects them to work hard, and they will become manipulative. Tip 2: Say positive things about your child’s other parent so the children know that you respect and love each other. Be sure to say good things daily so that your children hear you. Your children will respect all parents if they believe you respect each other. Tip 3: Hold teachers and learning in high regard. Tell your children about your favourite teachers and say positive things about their teachers. If you have differences with teachers, meet with them privately and discuss issues respectfully.

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Tip 4: Be respectful of your own parents, your children’s grandparents. Your children are watching you. If you are disrespectful, they will assume that they should become disrespectful of you when they grow up. Tip 5: Grandparents should be supportive and respectful of their adult children and the adults their children have married (in-law children). Grandparents can do fun activities with their grandchildren, but they should never allow their grandchildren to do things their parents forbid unless the parents themselves are willing to make exceptions. Tip 6: Do not support a parent who is physically, sexually or verbally abusive to your child. This important exception to united parenting can be difficult to uphold in the following cases: a. A parent is not certain of whether the behaviour is considered abusive. b. A parent is fearful of the other parent. c. A parent does not have the confidence or finances to leave the abusive parent.

In all three situations, calling an abuse agency or seeing a counsellor can help the parent protect the child. All children deserve safety.


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RIMM CANON 4 Children become oppositional if one adult allies with them against a parent or a teacher, making them more powerful than an adult. Canon #4 is a corollary to Canon #3. It is what results when parents and caretakers are not united, and competition invades the family. Most parents are concerned about being good parents, but for some, that wish to be good parents is internalised as being the best parent. A parent’s effort to be the best can cause the other parent to feel that they can never be good enough. Parents may see themselves as being the best parents by being kind, caring, loving and understanding. The other parents may see themselves as being the best, based on having high responsibility and discipline expectations of their child. The parents do not see their partners in the way the partners see themselves. The parents who see themselves as kind and caring are viewed by the other parents as being overprotective. The parents who see themselves as expecting discipline and responsibility are viewed by the other parents as being too rigid and strict. Because they do not see each other in the same ways they see themselves, they decide their own ways are better, so they believe they must change the other parents’ approaches to parenting. After fruitless efforts to change each other, parents give up and decide that they must balance out the other parents by becoming more extreme in how they act. The kind, caring parents become more protective in order to shelter the children from the parents they assume expect too much. The expecting parents become more demanding to balance out the perceived overprotective parents. The more the first expect, the more the others protect. The more the second protect, the more the first expect. The “balancing act” draws them further and further apart, leaving the children caught in the middle, believing they can never meet one parent’s expectations, but absolutely certain the second parent will approve of almost everything and will also help them find an excuse for their evading responsibilities. If children face parents who have contradictory expectations and lack the confidence to meet the expectations of one of their parents, they turn to the other parent who not only unconditionally supports them, but accidentally teaches them to find “an easy way out.” The kind and caring parents, without recognising the problem they are causing their children, unintentionally protect their children when they face challenge. When children have grown up in an environment where one adult has regularly provided an easy way out for them, they develop the habit of avoiding challenge.

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The balancing act increases in complexity when there are three or four parents involved. Each parent is desperately anxious to provide the best parenting to keep their children’s love. After divorce, parents are more likely to believe they can tempt children to love them by protecting them the most, doing too much for them or buying them more. Examples for Rimm Canon 4: Example 1: “Father is an ogre” is one harmful ritual that takes place. The father is viewed by outsiders as successful and powerful, the mother as kind and caring. A closer view of the family shows a father who has expectations that are perceived as being too high by the mother and the children. The children learn to bypass father’s authority by appealing to their kind mother to avoid his requests. Mother either manages to convince Dad to change his initial decisions or surreptitiously permits the children to avoid their responsibilities. Children quickly learn the manipulative manoeuvres. Mother unintentionally encourages her husband to seem like an “ogre” by her determination to protect her children from a strict father. Dad may escape through his continuous work, which further convinces his children to avoid being like their “workaholic” father. As children mature, their learnt opposition to their father often generalises to angry opposition to other authority figures as well. Underachievement almost always results. Boys are particularly affected. Example 2: “Mother is the mouse of the house” is a ritual where mothers are made to seem like dummies and results in rebellious adolescent daughters. It begins with a conspiratorial relationship between father and daughter (Karen). It is a special alliance that pairs Dad and his perfect little girl with each other but, by definition, gives Mom the role of being weak or incapable. During early childhood, Dad never says no to Karen. She knows how to always get her way. Mom admires their relationship and everyone agrees that Karen is “perfect.” Preadolescence arrives and Mom notes that battles are taking place between her daughter and herself. Karen often goes to Dad because she does not want to do what mom expects. Dad takes Karen’s side against her mother. Karen shows signs of maturing physically, and Dad suddenly begins to worry about his perfect daughter. Dad begins a tirade of cautions about cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and most of all, boys. He feels he must protect his perfect child from the evils of growing up.


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He decides it is time for rules. Rules mean no’s and Karen has really never accepted a no from Dad. Those no’s feel terrible. She appeals to Mom. Mom sees her first opportunity to build a closeness to her daughter. Now there is a new alliance—Mom and Karen against Dad. When that works, Karen is happy. When it does not, Karen returns to Dad. Karen manipulates back and forth. Karen is in high school. Her parents suddenly realise it is time for a “united front.” Mom and Dad are on the same team, and Karen stands alone against them. They are saying “no” more frequently, even when she performs her best manipulations. She reaches out to her peers and finds some who are having similar problems with their parents. They help her to understand that some parents are so strict. Karen now has her own team. Together they will prove they can oppose their parents. Mom and Dad are anxious. Karen hangs out with the “losers” and her parents have found cigarettes in her room. How can they trust her? They ground her, but Karen climbs out the window. They think she is sleeping with a “loser” boy. Her journal, which she leaves out on her desk, says she “hates” her parents. She is disrespectful, ignores their rules, and her formerly A and B grades drop to D’s and F’s. Her parents cannot understand what has happened to the sweet little girl they remember. Rebellious Karen, who had too much power as a small child and whose father unwittingly encouraged her to compete with her mother, feels rejected, unloved and out of control. Girls like this take various rebellious paths, but they all signal the same sense of lack of power, which they feel because they were given too much power as children. Some believe their parents (especially their fathers) do not love them, and they must have love. The wink-of-the-eye between Daddy and his little girl that puts Mother down as the “mouse of the house” becomes the preadolescent daughter’s roll-of-the eyes at her mother. When Father says no as well, that daughter feels rejected by both mother and father, increasing the likelihood that she’ll go from bed to bed in search of love to substitute for the rejection she feels.

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Tips for Rimm Canon 4: Tip 1: Make it clear to your children that you value and respect the intelligence of your spouse. Do not put down your spouse. Use conversations with your children to point out the excellent qualities of your husband or wife. Tip 2: Be sure to describe your spouse’s career in respectful terms. In that way, neither of you feel as if you are doing work that the other does not value and your children will learn to value your accomplishments. Tip 3: Do not join in an alliance with your children against your spouse in any way that suggests disrespect. Sometimes parents do this subtly, as in, “I agree with you, but I am not sure I can convince your mom (or dad).” If you communicate to your children that you value their other parent, it will almost always be good for your children, for your spouse and for you. Tip 4: If your children are rebellious, reassure them frequently that their parents’ love them. Be positively firm in not permitting them to manipulate either of you. They may perceive your good relationship as a betrayal of themselves. You should assure them frequently that parents can love each other and still love their children. Tip 5: When your children come to you to complain about their father or mother expecting too much of them, be alert not to get caught in their manipulations. They are hoping you will help them avoid what the other parent has asked them to do. You will want to respond in kindness while maintaining a message of respect for your spouse. If the child says, “Mother (or Father) expects too much of me,” an appropriate answer is: “Your mother (or father) expects this of you because she knows you are capable. If she did not expect it of you, it would mean that she did not believe you could do it. You should be pleased that your mom expects it. After you do it, Mom will be proud, and you will feel good.”

This kind of response, whether related to Father or Mother, gives children a message of confidence. Most of all, it provides the united expectations that permit your children to build self-confidence through achievement.


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RIMM CANON 5 Children will become achievers only if they learn to function in competition and collaboration. Children should learn early that winning and losing are temporary. Although they can love to win, they should understand how to function when they fail or lose. They thrive when they have experiences of both failure and success and can learn to use failure constructively to build later success. Home, school and society are all both competitive and collaborative. It is not possible to continually withdraw from competition and remain confident. Parents and teachers can gradually teach children to learn to function both collaboratively and competitively. Some environments should be encouraged to increase competition, while others should increase collaborative opportunities. For gifted children, the fear of failure can be paralysing. They often believe that giftedness should make it possible to learn everything easily. Parents can teach their children to be resilient. Children can learn to creatively view their failures and losses as learning experiences. When failure occurs, they can identify the problems, remedy the deficiencies, reset their goals and grow from their experiences. As coping strategies, they can laugh at their errors, determine to work harder and/or redesign their achievement goals. Most importantly, they can see themselves as falling short of a goal, not falling short as people. The most difficult kind of competition to cope with can be within the family. Emphasis on cooperation within the family, rather than competition, is key. Children can be encouraged to be supportive of each other, and parents can praise them for being supportive. They can view their siblings’ achievements as something in which they can share. Teaching siblings to cheer for each other’s performance is a valuable counterbalancing technique in dealing with children’s difficult feelings of sibling rivalry. Some children live in highly competitive families and achieve in many activities, but winning needs perspective. It is good for kids to value excellence as long as they do not feel valued only for their excellence. Parents’ messages that, “We like children who win” or, “... who are the smartest” should be changed to, “We like children who try”, “. . . who are responsible”, and, “... who make sincere efforts”. If children feel as though they have to perform “best” to earn their parents’ love and attention, they will only participate in activities in which they are certain they can excel and where they can avoid feeling pressured and anxious.

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Parents build unlikely dreams and unreasonable competitiveness by suggesting that if their child practises regularly, she may skate in the Olympics someday. There will be time enough later for such lofty goals if your child displays extraordinary talent. At this early date, competition with her friends is a reasonable standard to set for both fun and glory. Competition in the family can be difficult. When another sibling is born or a parent remarries, the child may feel irrationally and extraordinarily jealous, although he knows he is expected to be happy about the new member of the family. I call this concept “dethronement”. Dethroned children typically exhibit negativity, anger or sadness. It is not unusual to find gifted siblings where one is a high achiever, and the other an underachiever. As we reverse the underachievement of one, the achiever often feels threatened. It is important for children to know they can have a whole smart family. Examples for Rimm Canon 5: Example 1: In my research on the childhoods of successful women, winning in competition was the most frequently mentioned positive experience. Furthermore, many women described defining moments when they learnt from their losing experiences. Winning can be exhilarating and motivating for all children, and all children can learn from losing experiences. Here is an example from that research: A very successful attorney who was both gifted and dyslexic remembered a defining moment from failing in competition. Although she struggled with reading, she believed she was a talented singer. She and her friend tried out for a singing solo. Because she was shy she sang her song beautifully but quietly. Then she watched her friend, who she knew did not have as good a voice, sing her song loudly and with confidence. Her friend got the part. At that moment, she realised that if she did not give something her best, she would never have opportunities to be what she could be, and she determined to change. The next year, in a new school, she went immediately to her teacher and explained her reading problem. Her teacher arranged to get her the help she needed, and after years of hard work, she finally concluded that if she worked three times as hard as an average student she could be really intelligent. Eventually, this woman graduated at the top of her law school class. She reminded our readers, “Sometimes when you think the worst thing has happened to you (losing), it turns out to be the best thing.”


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Example 2: Jennifer was a hard worker and an all-A student until high school. That was when she got her first B. She told her father that she did not think it was worth working hard if she only got a B. She stopped working, and her grades quickly decreased to D’s and F’s. She left her good friends and found “loser” friends. She came to me before her last year in high school and wanted to go on to the university. Gradually she worked harder and improved her grades enough to get into a university. There she continued to improve. She realised that she could not get A’s in everything, but she did well and found a good career in business. Tips for Rimm Canon 5: Tip 1: Remind children that no matter how good they are at something or how bad they are, there is always someone better and always someone worse. While you can enthusiastically share your children’s victories and commiserate with their defeats, explain to them that first place is only temporary. If they are first on one level, they will soon be competing on a higher level with others who were also first. Tip 2: Teach children to admire and respect those who perform well. Even while your children are winning, they can learn to notice and communicate their admiration to other performers. They will feel better about their jealousy as they value the performance of their competitors. Tip 3: Make family and friendships as non-competitive as possible. It is normal to feel and express jealous feelings, but you can teach your children to feel good about having a whole, smart family or feel excited about having a friend who’s successful. You can also teach your children to be sensitive when a friend does less well than they. They can understand that they may never be as smart as a brother or sister, but being second or third best is still smart. Tip 4: Personal best competition builds confidence. In order to develop a skill in which children lack confidence, they should learn to compete with their own past performance (personal best).

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Tip 5: Team competition teaches children to share wins and losses. After learning personal best competition, they can try team competition where they share winning or losing with others. They can join music, math, science or creativity teams where they both compete and collaborate. Tip 6: Do not let them put all their “eggs in one basket”. If they are best at academics, then sports or music can be the place to learn resilience. If they are best at sports, then math or music teams may help to decrease feelings of pressure. Tip 7: Balance competitive activities with non-competitive interests for relaxation and fun. Art, reading, music, dance and physical fitness activities provide tension release. Tip 8: Tell your children that you have a whole smart family. Avoid labelling them. It is obvious that all children in the family are not genetically alike and that some children may have differences in intellectual, artistic, musical or physical abilities, but it is equally obvious that family competition seems to encourage children in the family to seek special attention in different areas. When parents label their children, it limits their confidence in other areas outside their label and pressures them in their labelled area. Tip 9: Give these messages about family competition to your children: • Cheer for your siblings and they will cheer for you. • You may be second best in your family but might be best if you were in another family. • Doing the best you can do is more important than being best in the family. • Learn to enjoy your experiences and improvement without continually comparing yourself to your siblings. • Effort and attitude count.


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RIMM CANON 6 Children will continue to achieve if they usually see the relationship between the learning process and its outcomes. Children acquire an internal sense of control by investing themselves in an enterprise and finding that they have performed well. This same sense of self-efficacy is reinforced by discovering that lack of effort leads to less successful outcomes. Children are usually aware that there are differences in abilities, in teachers’ perceptions and in levels of difficulty of assignments and tests that can also affect scholastic outcomes. However, if curriculum is inappropriate and children make little effort and highly successful outcomes follow, or when they make a serious commitment to study with little success, or when the relationship between their work and their grades seems random, they lose that sense of internal locus of control. They begin to attribute their grades to luck or lack thereof. They blame teachers for their failure, or they claim that they are really not very smart. Frequently, they may say that they should study harder, but they rarely follow through because they do not truly believe that studying will have an impact on their grades or their learning. Examples for Rimm Canon 6: Example 1: 10-year-old Rachel was a Outcomes happy student. She had all A’s on her report Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 card and had good social adjustment and friends. Her mother observed her doing work Transitional Achievement Underachievement far below her ability and came to Family Effort Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4 Achievement Clinic for further evaluation. Rachel’s test scores showed her IQ score to Transitional Underachievement be in the 140’s. Her achievement test scores Underachievement were compared to children in her grade and the grade above. They were in the 99th percentile for her grade and in the 90’s in the grade above. Rachel admitted that her school work was very easy, but she was having fun and liked her friends. We recommended a grade skip for Rachel immediately on a trial basis. Rachel was hesitant but was willing to try the higher grade as long as she knew she could return to her grade if she was unhappy. She wanted to stay friends with her present classmates, but she thought she could make new friends as well. The first week was stressful for Rachel — mainly because she was trying to balance old and new friends. Within three weeks she was happy about the change and confident

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again in both her school work and her friendships. Four years later, Rachel is very glad she skipped a grade and feels she has the right amount of challenge and her grades continue to be very high and mainly A’s. Example 2: Robert, a 7-year-old boy, had behaviour problems in school. The teacher thought he was immature and had Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and encouraged him to walk around the room when he had completed his assignments to release his high energy. His work was always correct but carelessly done. He often called out his answers instead of waiting patiently for his turn. His teacher recommended that his parents have him evaluated for ADHD. In testing Robert, we found him to have an IQ score in the high 140’s and achievement test scores more like a gifted 9-year-old. His math scores were particularly high and that had been the class where he had created the most mischief and was particularly bored. We asked Robert if he would prefer to go to 3rd grade for math and he eagerly agreed that he would love it. We made it clear that his behaviour would have to improve because more was expected of 3rd graders. Robert’s grade skip actually caused his behaviour problems to disappear although from other experiences, that does not always happen. The last time I saw Robert he had finished 11th grade (age 15) and could graduate to the university based on course completion. The high school had no other math or science courses for him, but he and his family decided he would stay in high school a last year to enjoy the sports and social life of his senior year. He took university credit-bearing courses at a local university for his academic work. Although he was young, he had a small group of good friends. Neither he nor his friends were dating girls yet, but Robert asked a girl to senior prom. He was very happy that he had skipped grades and engaged in his university classes. Example 3: Paul was struggling with all his school work except math in 3rd grade. He was in a gifted school and had scored 138 on his admission IQ test. Paul was retested to identify his problem. His verbal score on his IQ test had decreased from 133 to 118. His achievement test scores showed scores appropriate to the gifted school for math but below grade level scores for reading. He was diagnosed as having a potential reading disability and given additional daily tutoring in reading. Although he continued to struggle in reading for the following years, he was successful in math and science and was appreciative of the support he received in reading. He made good reading progress, although it was not commensurate with his math or with most other gifted


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students in language arts and reading. He and his family understood that he had a double exceptionality and could make progress in all areas but might always need some additional assistance in the language arts area. Tips for Rimm Canon 6: Tip 1: Be an advocate for differentiating education for your child and for your school. When you are supportive of differentiating education for all children, you will find that teachers, administrators and school boards are more likely to be responsive to your requests. If schools include differentiation of curriculum for all children, your child will also benefit. Tip 2: If you believe your child’s needs are not being met, contact his or her teacher for a conference. Listen to what the teacher has observed about your child. Explain your concerns. Discuss possible plans for experimental changes or further evaluation. Do not include your child in this meeting or your child could be caught up in the opposition that can unintentionally occur (See Canon 2). Tip 3: Be respectful of your children’s teachers and administrators. Although you will need to be persistent, be willing to compromise as you explore your children’s appropriate placement. Tip 4: Find professional help from psychologists who are experienced with gifted children. An outside psychologist or one within the school can conduct an evaluation to document the special needs of your gifted children whether they are for differentiation, subject acceleration, grade acceleration, a learning disability or mental health problem. A psychologist who specialises in gifted children will also be familiar with the intensities and pressures these children internalise and can also help you with some parenting issues related to your gifted children. Tip 5: Find alternate learning environments for your gifted children. Your present school may be able to help you to find supplemental learning environments for your gifted children like the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) or other groups that provide enrichment classes during the school year and breaks. HKAGE may also be able to guide you toward resources for evaluation and parenting guidance.

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RIMM CANON 7 Overreactions by parents or teachers to children’s successes and failures lead them to feel either intense pressure to succeed or despair and discouragement in dealing with failure. Your pleasure, not your ecstasy, is an appropriate response to your children’s successes. Not only does the latter not seem genuine, but it encumbers them with the pressure to perform at continuously high levels, which may feel impossible to them. As children become more confident in their successes, you may increase your level of delight without fearing that they will feel overwhelmed by pressure. A moderate problem-solving approach to their failures helps your children cope with losing and view mistakes as a normal component of learning. It helps them learn to accept criticism and to patiently persevere. Your overly negative or fearful responses to mediocre performances cause children to fear failure and lack confidence. If you assume they will not be successful, they may accept your assumption and avoid effort. Your anxiety is contagious and will cause children to avoid challenges and new experiences. Examples for Rimm Canon 7: Example 1: Daniel was in his last year of high school. He was known as a “brilliant” student and had already been admitted to a prestigious university for after graduation. Parents and teachers alike had praised him as extraordinary and a genius throughout school. He wanted to take a Higher Level Physics IB Diploma class but failed in Math that all other students had already completed. He, his parents and teachers were confident he could take the course without the preparation other students had because of his “brilliance”. Daniel met his first struggle and failed a test because he had misunderstood the process. He was embarrassed and became extraordinarily depressed and had suicidal thoughts. No one could imagine that Daniel, usually so optimistic and successful, would find a failed test a reason for considering suicide. He was counselled, but he may struggle more when he enters the university and must cope with other challenges. Hopefully, he will receive the assistance he needs and will adjust. Had people not overreacted to his extreme abilities, perhaps he would have taken the challenge in stride. It would also have been helpful if the teacher had not allowed him to take the course without the proper mathematics preparation. Perhaps it was better for him to cope with his first failure at home with his parents than at the university level where he would have less support.


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Example 2: In my early days of working with gifted underachievers, I discovered they might quickly go from F’s to A’s at first. I would greet their sudden high achievement with extreme excitement because I was surprised by the immediate progress. My great excitement would often be followed by a child’s F performance again. I learnt to be approving but not overly excited as children improved. Now I encourage them but explain the importance of consistency and suggest they set their grade goals a little higher than where they are, because it will take patience for them to find themselves change from underachievement to high achievement. That approach has been much more effective than my over joy which caused extreme anxiety and backsliding. Example 3: Parents of underachievers often come to my clinic frustrated because they have already taken all privileges from their children for their poor grades or behaviours, but the children refuse to change. I explain that it gives children the message that their parents have given up on them, leaving both parents and children feeling angry. When children see no hope of improvement, they give up and do not even try to do their work. Tips for Rimm Canon 7: Tip 1: Cheer for your children’s successes, but avoid over enthusiasm. Celebrate your children’s successes moderately, but do not jump to the conclusion that their successes will lead them to great fame. For example, winning a gold medal for swim team does not necessarily lead to the Olympics, but only the next level of swim team competition. Don’t destroy their dreams, but only indicate that there is much work and competition that would go between their club’s gold medal and the Olympics and that it is too soon to have such high expectations. For now, you would like them to enjoy the activities and do their best. Tip 2: When children lose in competition, help them understand how to be good sports and not give up. Try not to make excuses for them or blames judges or referees. Instead help them learn from their losses and improve their skills. They will grieve a little and you too may feel sad, but it is important not to feel too sorry for them since losing is part of life. If you feel too sad, they will assume that the loss is worse than it is.

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Tip 3: Do not treat your children’s lesser quality performances with anger and punishment, although reasonable disappointment can be effective. Punishments, in contrast to consequences, cause children to dig their heels in with anger or give up in discouragement. If they feel they cannot do anything about their performances, they will not even try.


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RIMM CANON 8 Parents should avoid confrontations with children unless they are reasonably sure that they can control the outcomes. Entering a confrontation without the ability to control the result only provokes further active or passive opposition. For most children, it is less effective for adults to command or demand than to persuade, inspire, model, share efforts, cooperate, encourage and create a positive alliance. Make a realistic appraisal of what will be effective with a child before plunging ahead without thinking through potential effectiveness. Arguing continually with children only encourages more arguing. Threatening them with punishments that you do not or cannot follow through with will teach them not to respect your boundaries. Overpunishing them causes them to feel angry and oppose you further. If you stay in alliance with your children, they will want to please rather than displease you and they are more likely to find their identity and their individuality in line with the positive values and expectations you have set for them. Examples for Rimm Canon 8: Example 1: Some parents allow their young children to sleep in their beds with them. As the children get older and the parents want privacy, they explain to their children that they must now sleep independently. While some children listen immediately and adjust well, others refuse to obey. Parents come to me with this struggle because they are in a constant argument with their children every evening. Parents need to make boundaries clear. By explaining to the child that they will lock their own door, the child understands they mean it and the confrontations do not continue. After a night or two of hearing their child cry at their door and perhaps fall asleep on the floor, children learn that their parents have set a boundary. This is an outcome that the parents can control but were afraid to follow through with. Example 2: When children are non-compliant about a parent rule, like getting homework done or coming home on time from a social event, parents typically set a consequence. A reasonable consequence like losing video games or television for a night can easily be enforced. On the other hand, if parents are too frustrated they may not think before they set a consequence and take a sport or an activity away from the child. That almost never works because a team often depends on the child and the child has a responsibility

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to attend a practice or a rehearsal. The parent almost always relents and thus cancels the effect of the consequence. Particularly for adolescents it is very important to be thoughtful about appropriate consequences. Example 3: It becomes more and more difficult to control outcomes with teenagers. You may tell them they cannot leave the house until their homework is done, which could have worked nicely when they were younger, but by the teen years they may leave anyway, so it is better not to set that as a consequence. Tips for Rimm Canon 8: Tip 1: Positive consequences are easier to control than negative ones. Your praise for work well done or activity rewards like family games after hard work can be followed through on rather easily and are less likely to cause anger. Tip 2: Take time to think through negative consequences before you give them so that you are certain you will be able to follow through. Punishments are often delivered in anger and easily become overpunishments or they are difficult to carry through. You can tell your children there will be a consequence, but you are thinking it through first. In that way you become a role model for being reasonable, fair and consistent. With extra time to think about the consequences, you can select one which will be effective. Tip 3: Hear your children out before you decide on consequences. Hopefully you will be able to trust your children more if you hear them out before you provide consequences. Gifted children are deep thinkers, but they too can be manipulative. You can help your children develop respect for your boundaries by building a habit of listening to their thoughts, taking your time to make decisions, and then being firm in what you decide.


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RIMM CANON 9 Deprivation and excess exhibit the same symptoms. Children feel more tension when they are worrying about and avoiding their work than when they are doing it, and they only develop self-confidence and resilience through struggle. Sometimes we evaluate children’s psychological symptoms in misleading ways. For example, we assume that attention-seeking children have not received enough affection, that angry youths have not been given enough power or freedom by their parents and that children who exhibit tension have been pressured too much by adults. All of these may be true, but children exhibit identical symptoms if they are accustomed to receiving too much affection, if they have had too much power over their parents, or if adults have done so much for them that they have not learnt to cope with any pressure. Too much and too little are equally problematic, but one needs to determine which is the culprit before providing appropriate assistance. Children who exhibit symptoms of tension usually do not need to have their workload reduced or simplified. For the most part, they only want your assurance that they can accomplish their lessons and a clearly structured plan for producing their completed assignments. Providing visual reinforcement of accomplishments will help them successfully complete their work. Their tension will diminish as they work harder. Children can be “vaccinated” for some of their anxiety by gradually learning to cope with small amounts of tension. Parents’ belief in children’s independence, rather than giving more help than they actually require, will foster their confidence and diminish their anxiety. Rescuing children from reality erases their motivation and diminishes their resilience. It is difficult for parents and teachers to calmly witness children struggling. However, to deny them the opportunity to push their own limits is to deny them efficacy and success that comes from accomplishment. Obviously, children who make sincere efforts without ever attaining success will not be encouraged to achieve. Some assignments can be too difficult. When persistence results in reasonable successes, children build the confidence and the resilience to cope with challenges and disappointments. Examples for Rimm Canon 9: Example 1: James, a 7-year-old boy, was an excellent was reader and was reading in a gifted reading group. When the teacher gave instructions for written work, he repeatedly

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asked her to give him further instructions. Sometimes he seemed sad and worried as well. His teacher assumed that his worries came from too much pressure placed on him by his parents because they expected too much of him. She reassured and helped him regularly and recommended that his mother give him more help at home. The teacher would have learnt much more by asking his mother about what happened at home when James had homework to do. She would have discovered that instead of lack of attention, James received too much attention and help at home. James would have benefited from both his mother and his teacher insisting on his working more independently and thus building his confidence. Instead, both were responding intuitively without thinking through his real problem and were unwittingly causing him to be more dependent and anxious in both settings. Example 2: Derrick, an 11-year-old boy, is an over-anxious child to the extent that he is in special education for his anxiety. Early in the school year he had to give a talk in front of the class. He returned home that day and told his mother that the teacher had embarrassed him in front of the class and he was too anxious to go back to school. His mother could not convince him to go and she was angry at the teacher for embarrassing her son. Finally, at my advice, she called the truant officer to come to take her son to school. The call was enough to encourage him to quickly dress for school and take the bus. Derrick’s mother planned a meeting with the teacher and wanted my recommendations so that she could advise the teacher not to make Derrick speak in front of the class and certainly not to criticise him. I explained that Derrick would never get over his anxiety if he learnt to avoid normal assignments. I advised her that Derrick should continue his responsibility of speaking and that the teacher be allowed to criticise him as part of his learning. I suggested she could ask the teacher initially to criticise him privately but eventually to treat him just as the teacher treated other students. Derrick would eventually become less anxious as he found he could perform the assignments that he earlier did not think he was able to do. I also pointed out that because Derrick was overanxious and sensitive, he probably believed the teacher’s criticism to be worse than it was. His mother should tell him to notice that the teacher corrected almost all the children to help them improve their skills. Derrick is doing much better now, but I continue to work with his mother. She is a very anxious but loving mother. Example 3: An environmental engineer who participated in my See Jane Win® research on the childhoods of successful women (See Jane Win — How 1000 Girls Became Successful


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Women, 2013) remembered that school was very easy for her as a child. She remembers deliberately taking on the challenge of playing a musical instrument which was difficult for her. She said it was her sister who had natural musical talent. She learnt from her music study to break down difficult pieces into small parts, so she could study and perfect them. Later, when she was in engineering school taking challenging mathematics classes and feeling very anxious about not understanding her work, she recalled what she learnt from her music study. She coped with her anxiety by breaking down the difficult work into small parts so she could master them. Thus she became a successful and accomplished math student and engineer. Tips for Rimm Canon 9: Tip 1: Do not rush to assume intuitive problems from symptoms. One must thoughtfully and carefully understand the child’s environment and history before concluding that the symptoms are indicative of specific problems. Many different results are in the same symptoms. Understanding the causes leads to the best responses to problems. Tip 2: Consider your goal for highly sensitive children when responding to their sensitivities. It is not enough to agree with their feelings. It is important to understand their emotions and to help them cope with them in ways that will not lead to continuous avoidance. Children will only build self-confidence if they learn to cope with their oversensitivities and anxieties and move forward toward their goals. Tip 3: Engagement in effort and interests is extremely helpful in coping with anxiety. Keeping children busy doing things that are productive and positive is effective for diminishing their anxieties and increasing their confidence. Tip 4: Vaccinate your children against anxiety by permitting them small tastes of coping successfully with their worries. Nothing helps children deal with stage fright than the applause they hear after a successful performance. After a standing ovation, they learn to cope with criticism and failures. Small successes in areas where they are most worried add up to confidence and risk taking in the future.

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RIMM CANON 10 Children learn appropriate behaviours more easily if they have effective models to imitate. Parents can be good role models and are most frequently available to children. Parents should be aware of the positive effects as well as potential problems of modelling attitudes and behaviours that children can copy. Parents’ descriptions of their partners to their children will also encourage their positive role model identification. Nurturance, power and similarities are the three characteristics that encourage children to identify with one parent or the other. If parents are not available or are inappropriate as models, then the school, community or other family relationships can be used to inspire children toward positive imitation. Schools can also provide mentorship programmes and excellent teachers as role models to students. Examples for Rimm Canon 10: Example 1: When I visit with children at Family Achievement Clinic, I always ask them who they are most the same as, their mom or dad. Some children choose one, others choose both and a few choose neither. I then ask them how they are the same. Some interesting responses I have received follow: a. I am like my dad. When my mom asks my dad to do something around the house, he does not answer. When my mom asks me to do my homework, I do not answer either. (A response from a child who did not do chores or homework.) b. I am like my dad. He is against everything and I am against everything. (A response from a child who argued regularly with his teachers.) c. I am like my mom. She is a mom and I want to be a mom. d. I am like my dad. I want to be doctor when I grow up. He helps many people. e. I am like my mom and my dad. I like to have talks with my mom and I like to play sports with my dad. f. I am like neither. I am like my Aunt. She was an underachiever when she was young, and I am too, but I think I will change like she did. Example 2: Troy, a high school senior, was elated when he came to my session. He exclaimed, “I finally know what I want to be! My drama teacher is really happy in his career so I think I will try for teaching drama.�


TEN RIMM CANONS OF ACHIEVEMENT

Tips for Rimm Canon 10: Tip 1: Be positive about your own work and that of your child’s other parent. If you arrive home and complain about your work daily, your children will become anti-work kids. They will complain about their school work and household chores. If you do not like your work, attempt to find better work and remind them that education provides more career choices. Tip 2: Be a role model of ethics, optimism, activity and hard work. Your children are watching you, and they are aware if you accept too much change from a cashier, violate speed limits or are disrespectful to your parents. They notice when you are pessimistic and complain. They will lie and cheat if they see you lying and cheating, and they will be honest if you insist on honesty and model it. Being a good role model is not easy. You do not have to be perfect, nor do they, but recognise that they will mirror what you model. Tip 3: Make time for learning and fun with your children. Too many parents have sobbed in my office because they did not find time for their children when they were growing up. Enjoy and develop interests together. Tip 4: Emphasise the importance of family and friends. If you want your children to make friends and have good social skills, you have to stay friends with your siblings and parents and model enjoying yourselves with good friends. Tip 5: Keep adult status and fun time for each other and adult friends. Adult fun, weekly dates and a few adult vacations will keep you excited about life and give your children something to look forward to. It will help them understand that your work provides you opportunities for pleasure. You will be modelling reasonable balance in your own lives. Tip 6: Introduce your children to other adult role models. You may have colleagues or friends who can be excellent role models or mentors to your children. You can admire their teachers who can also become role models for them.

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REFERENCES Adderholdt-Elliott, M. (1999). Perfectionism: What’s bad about being too good? (Rev. ed.). Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit. Baldwin, A. Y., & Vialle, W. (1999). The Many faces of giftedness: Lifting the masks. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Ceci, S. J., & Williams, W. M. (2007). Why are not more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. (2004a). A nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students, Vol. 1. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa. Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. (2004b). A nation deceived: How schools hold back America’s brightest students, Vol. 2. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of engagement of discovery and invention. New York, NY: Harper Collins. Dabrowski, K. (1967). Personality shaping through positive disintegration. Boston, MA: Little Brown. Davis, G. A. (2004). Creativity is forever (5th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. Davis, G. A., Rimm, S. B., & Siegle, D. (Eds.). (2011). Education of the gifted and talented. Needham Heights, MA: Pearson. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society, (2nd ed.), New York, NY: Norton. Goertzel, V., Goertzel, M., Goertzel, T., & Hansen, A. (2003). Cradles of Eminence: Childhood of more than 700 famous men and women. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Hetherington, E. M., & Frankie, G. (1967). Effects of parental dominance, warmth, and conflict on imitation in children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 119-125. Karnes, F. A., & Riley, T. L. (2005). Competitions for talented kids. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. Kohlberg, L. (1967). Moral and religious education and the public schools: A developmental view. In T. Sizer (Ed.), Religion education. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children. New York, NY: International Universities Press. Rimm, S. B. (2000). Gifted athletes, artists and musicians/grandparenting/holidays. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 11(2). Rimm, S. B. (2001). How to raise a happy achieving child. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 15(3). Rimm, S. B. (2003a). A united front/parent rivalry. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 16(4).


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Rimm, S. B. (2003b). Marching to the beat of a different drummer/learning disabilities. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 12(2). Rimm, S. B. (2003c). See Jane Win for Girls. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit. Rimm, S. B. (2005a). Growing up too fast. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 16(1). Rimm, S. B. (2005b). Growing up too fast: The secret world of America’s middle schoolers. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Publishing. Rimm, S. B. (2005c). How are your children’s social skills? Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 15(4). Rimm, S. B. (2005d). How overempowerment leads to underachievement. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 16(2). Rimm, S. B. (2005e). Teaching healthy competition. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 16(3). Rimm, S. B. (2006). Keys to parenting your gifted child. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 17(2). Rimm, S. B. (2007a). Children with fears and fearful children. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 18(3). Rimm, S. B. (2007b). Helping girls build optimism and resilience—The I CAN Girl. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 18(1). Rimm, S. B. (2007c). Keys to parenting the gifted child. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Rimm, S. B. (2007d). Raising amazing boys. Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 17(4). Rimm, S. B. (2007e). What’s wrong with perfect? Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids Newsletter, 18(2). Rimm, S. B. (2008). Why bright kids get poor grades and what you can do about it. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Rimm, S. B., Comale, M., Manos, R., & Behrend, J. (1989). Underachievement syndrome: Causes and cures. Watertown, WI: Apple. Rimm, S. B., & Lowe, B. (1988). Family environments of underachieving gifted students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 32(4), 353-59. Rimm, S. B., & Rimm-Kaufman, S. (2001). How Jane Won. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. Rimm, S. B., & Rimm-Kaufman, S. (2013). See Jane Win. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Rogers, K. B. (2002). Re-forming gifted education: How parents and teachers can match the program to the child. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Sisk, D. A. (1990). Expanding worldwide awareness of gifted and talented children and youth. Gifted Child Today. 13(5), 19-25.

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Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Torrance, E. P. (1965). Rewarding creative behaviour. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Webb, J. T., Amend, E. R., Webb, N. E., Goerss, J., Beljan, P., & Olenchak, F. R. (2005). Misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses of gifted children and adults: ADHD, bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, depression, and other disorders. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press. Winebrenner, S. (2009). Teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit.


Contact Us The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education Sha Kok Estate, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong Tel : (852) 3940 0101 Fax : (852) 3940 0201 Email : academy@hkage.org.hk Website : www.hkage.org.hk

Copyright Š 2013 by The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education Ltd. Printed in Hong Kong. All rights reserved.


Ten Rimm Canons of Achievement for the Gifted  

The booklet provides some Ten Rimm Canons of Achievement for Gifted Children, will be a welcome guide for many parents who search for guidel...

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