I guess the first thing I should do is give you my definition of boundaries so that my blog will make sense. When I speak of boundaries in my life, I am referring to the lines I “try not to cross.” These are all self-imposed and all relate to better health – physically and mentally – in my opinion. For instance, with the exception of an occasional school event, I do not work on Friday evenings. As soon as I am done at school, I walk out without any homework. My evening will most likely involve a movie, whether at the theater or at home. I also give myself a break on my Weight Watchers plan. On Friday evenings, there is no such thing as points.
My parents taught me at a very young age that there is no “land of done.” Work that is there today will still be there tomorrow. That sounds like procrastination, but you have to understand that my family members work 80-hour weeks almost every week. We wear many hats, and there will always be something else that needs doing. It is for that reason that I made boundaries. Otherwise, I would be consumed by work.
The pendulum of education enlightenment is beginning to sway back toward the benefit of giving kids more frequent breaks. Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, recently made the news because they have begun offering four fifteen-minute recesses a day with their kindergarten and first graders. Yay! I once taught in a school in Texas in which no one but PK and K got even one recess under the guise that there was too much to teach to offer breaks. What?! I am happy to report that the kids at Lawton Academy have received three recesses a day in elementary and two in secondary since our inception sixteen years ago. We see the value of instructing kids in social settings… especially gifted kids who don’t always see the benefit to being nice and playing fair.
I see changes happening in business as well. The Internet is full of stories of four-day work weeks actually raising productivity. I think these companies have set some really good boundaries for their employees, and consequently they have happier employees.
So, how do we transfer this practice into working with or parenting gifted kids?
For the gifted person, boundaries must be chosen, not dictated. When potential students tour my school, I point out all the fun things we do that are documented with pictures in one hall in the school. I don’t want them leaving thinking only that the school is hard. “We work hard, yes. But we play hard, too!” Then I quickly point out that the “playing hard” is only available to those who “work hard.”
It’s important to note that gifted folk are kings and queens of procrastination… for no other reason than that we can be successful when just winging it most of the time. Letting gifted kids set boundaries for themselves is a dangerous proposal. Some set the bar way too low so they don’t have to give much effort. Others, burdened with perfectionism or just such a competitive nature that they must be the best in everything, make the bar unreachable. The trick is to set a range from within which the gifted child may set his/her boundaries. For instance, acknowledge the need for a break after school and let your child choose during which hour-and-a-half that evening, he/she will do homework. Have consequences ready for failure to stick to that plan. If the child knows the consequences beforehand, and she feels she will not be able to meet the boundary parameters, she can renegotiate. If, instead, she simply fails to honor the agreement, she has chosen the consequences and has no one to blame but herself.
Allowing a child to experience this kind of decision-making process under your guidance can create an adult who knows how to budget time and benefit from taking those much-needed breaks.