by Hanna Vock
The communicative climate
In every kindergarten there is a special communicative climate. It is determined by the way in which the children and parents are treated, but also how the management treats the team and the colleagues with each other. It is also very important how the children communicate with each other.
Gifted children often experience irritations here. They are always irritated when the level of communication does not meet their expectations. Especially in the first weeks after entering the kindergarten they are surprised and try to understand the way of communication if it deviates from their expectations.
Especially highly gifted children, who are also particularly talented in languages, sometimes run against a communicative wall, which will have to be explained.
…in a nutshell…
Gifted children often have communication problems in kindergarten. They are often not well received by the other children with their already pronounced language, they do not find adequate communication partners among them. Some of them react confused, they „annoy“ or they withdraw (linguistically and at all).
In order to avoid this and to help them to communicate appropriately, it is worth taking a closer look at this problem.
Specific Problems Gifted Children Face in Kindergarten
In general, the quality of communication and the quality of relationships are closely interrelated and interdependent, regardless of giftedness:
Good communication facilitates good relationships, and good relationships facilitate good communication.
Good communication is important
- for the current well-being of the communication partners,
- for the level of respect felt between them,
- for the level of trust in the relationship,
- for the extent of perceived/recognized authority,
- for the effectiveness of interaction.
It is important for the promotion of highly gifted students:
The dissatisfied partner can largely withdraw from a communication that is perceived as unsatisfactory or incriminating.
This is exactly what highly gifted children often do.
How can this be expressed?
- Some children literally fall silent in the kindergarten. They speak very little, even if they speak „like a book“ at home.
- Some children refuse to communicate with certain people, for example, they only ever talk to the same educator, the one who, from the child’s point of view, is the only one who communicates appropriately with them, from whom they feel they are best understood and taken seriously and from whom they expect the most interesting answers to their questions.
- Some children are unsettled because they cannot reconcile the way of speaking in the family with the language code in the kindergarten. The consequence of the uncertainty can then be a reduction of the linguistic utterances.
- After a short time, some children adapt so precisely to the (often simpler) use of language in the kindergarten that no one would think that the child could perhaps speak in a much more differentiated way.
To get an impression of how precise and differentiated highly gifted children can speak at an early age, please read:
Examples of: Elaborated Speech, Large Vocabulary, Great Joy in Configuring Language
Parent´s Observations on Children under the Age of 3 – (German version)
A little digression: What is communication?
1) It is a process that is carried out (almost simultaneously) in several processes:
- Via the sensory organs, body language, phonetic, written or factual information is collected and passed on to the brain.
- The intercepted signals are processed (filtered, classified, evaluated) in the brain. The time required for this can be fractions of a second or minutes, hours and, in exceptional cases, many years.
Because the evaluation of some signals challenges the entire personality; and with grown life experience it can be carried out anew and with different results.
- There is a reaction to the stimuli that have arrived. The basis for this can be instincts or feelings or habits or conscious decisions, often a mixture of all of these.
- The answer is given. This means that communicative signals are sent outwards (to the current communication partner, to the wider environment) and also inwards (in the form of feelings, conclusions, physiological or psychosomatic reactions).
The answer can also mean not giving a visible answer.
2. contents of the communication can be (according to Watzlawick and Von Thun):
- Information about one’s own state (self-food level),
- Information about wishes, demands, claims (appeal level),
- Information about facts, knowledge, observations, assessments (factual level),
- Information about the communication process itself and about its evaluation (relationship level).
Good communication works well at all these levels.
What does inadequate communication mean for children’s feelings?
I would like to give you an example that I experienced when I first worked as an educator in a kindergarten at the age of 40.
With a lot of verve I started the first working week, but after three days I was „devastated“.
At first I trusted my husband. I expressed my concern that I was wrong, that I was not suitable for work and – worst of all – that the children did not like me. They hardly talked to me, but often turned around and just walked away.
It was an awful feeling,
that gave rise to strong self-doubt…
… although I was an experienced woman with two adolescent children, two university degrees and a lot of professional pedagogical experience.
How would a three- or four-year-old child who comes to kindergarten and walks in front of such a communicative wall feel?
Once the discomfort had been expressed, I was able to confide in my young colleague: „I’m doing something completely wrong, tell me what I’m doing wrong“.
My colleague watched me for a while and suddenly started to laugh out loud: „Hanna, the children don’t understand you. You make exactly three mistakes: you talk too fast, you speak in too long, complicated sentences and you require far too much knowledge.“
Uh-huh. I was used to rapid language development and rapid learning from my own children at an early age; and so I had managed to say to a three-year-old in kindergarten:
„Julia, can you just see if there’s any water left in the watering can – we have to water the flowers on the windowsill, they’re almost drying out.“
I had expected Julia to take care of it and know what to do, or that she would make it clear that she didn’t feel like it or had other plans. But Julia looked at me with big eyes and just walked away.
With the help of my colleague, I understood that I had to relearn:
„Julia! … come to the windowsill. … look, there’s a watering can. Put those down and take a look inside. … Is there water in there? … No? Then we must get water. … Can you do that?“
To my amazement it turned out that Julia had no plan; she had probably only associated the taps in the day-care center with washing her hands and brushing her teeth, but had not generalized that one could get water for all possible purposes there.
… „So let’s take a look at this flower. The earth is completely dry. It’s not good for the flower, it needs water. Can you give her some water?“
And lo and behold, it worked;
the children accepted me as their communication partner and showed me their sympathies.
For most highly gifted three-year-old children, however, if they are left alone with it, because nobody sees their problem, such a relearning might be a hopeless overload.
Strategies of highly gifted children
In such a situation, highly gifted children naturally also try to make themselves bearable.
Some children try – increasingly desperately – to draw attention to their communication needs.
– For example, they keep giving lectures to the other children, which often do not meet with any understanding or interest at all; so there is also no positive resonance, but perhaps even annoying comments.
– Or they try to place their questions and inquiries or their realizations to a topic in the chair or morning circle, which takes (from view of the educator and also the children, above all the younger ones) disproportionately much time.
– Or they try again and again to draw the educator into longer discussions, to „attach themselves to her“, to win her for difficult games – even if the situation in the group actually or supposedly does not permit this. At the same time they reap a lot, albeit friendly, rejection and the resulting frustration. Because they do not push and push because they want to gain advantages (for example through more attention), but because they want to satisfy a basic need that most other children can satisfy to a large extent among themselves.
– Some try to adapt by withdrawing. They have many questions, a lot of knowledge, many ideas (which is their great talent), but they do not express them because they realize that they are not successful in the long run, but rather make themselves unpopular. This self-limitation is detrimental to their personal development and well-being.
Ways must be found to avoid this; only in this way they can remain active, well-tuned children who can integrate themselves.
See also: Permanent Frustration because of Being Underchallenged and Facing Incomprehension.
What can you do?
In my own practical work in kindergarten, it took me a long time to realize that I disadvantage particularly gifted children when I – unintentionally – suppress their questions and thoughts. I wanted to pay the same amount of attention to all children and take up the same amount of ideas from all children.
At some point I realized that the knowledge, ideas and thoughts of the particularly gifted children were a valuable resource for the entire group. They only had to be helped (by me and my colleagues!) to make them interesting and understandable for some other children.
As this became more and more successful, it became clear that the other children were by no means jealous or felt relegated when I addressed the highly gifted child(s) in a different way, presented them with different challenges and helped them to pass something on to the group.
– A play developed with three children was presented to the group and then imitated by other children in free play.
– A picture book that a boy had designed and labeled with my help alone went into the Kita library as a particularly interesting copy and served as an example for other children’s own creations.
– The same happened with a board game invented and made by two children.
– A girl gave a little talk about the life and care of turtles when we bought turtles for the kindergarten. I had helped the girl with the lecture, because she had no experience with it; but the group gratefully accepted the important information and asked the girl again and again in everyday life (the turtle care); it was good for her to feel like an expert.
– I asked a boy who was particularly interested in science to help me try out and prepare experiments; he thus became my experiment assistant for a long time.
It is important not only to „serve“ the special interests and abilities of the highly gifted children, but also to find talents in all children that make it possible for them to take up a special position in the group, a role of experts, for a while.
This can be the knowledge about football, about technical tricks, the mastery of dances…
„Professors, Step Forward!“ is a good practical example of how to get started.
It is also very helpful to make Advancement in Small Groups an integral and everyday part of kindergarten work.
See also: Examples of a Positive Communicative Climate.
For communication between educator and highly gifted child
As soon as it is indicated that the child thinks and speaks more complex than his or her peers, a special talent, possibly a high talent, should be taken into consideration.
See also: Indicators of Possible Intellectual Giftedness.
To check the communication between you and the child, you can use the following questions:
What body language, phonetic and phonetic signals do I receive from the particularly gifted child?
- Which body-language, neonatal and phonetic signals does the child receive from me?
- How do I assess his signals?
- Is the communication between me and the child good or difficult / disturbed / too little right now? (If it is difficult: is it a short phase or a permanent condition?
- How well am I aware of what the child’s inner mind is currently occupied with?
- Have I asked the child recently what he or she would like to learn in kindergarten?
In case of loss of trust or authority, the child will limit communication! Children regulate their communication very precisely.
How do you rate the statement of parents: „My child tells nothing / almost nothing / little about kindergarten at home“?
For communication between the highly gifted child and the other children of the group
- Watch closely: Which signals in body language, speech and language are received and sent by the child in the group? Especially important are the first days (!) and weeks in kindergarten.
- For slightly older children, please also use the
Children’s Questionnaire on Communication.
Possible consequences of unsatisfactory communication between the highly gifted child and the other children:
- Retreat, silence, avoidance of communication, solidification.
- The child’s conclusion: „I’m somehow wrong here, I don’t get along well here.“
- „I’m dumb.“ or „The others are dumb.“
- Preference for single play (or possibly playing with a single good friend), loneliness.
- Very clear preference for communication with adults.
- Which of these points apply to the highly gifted child?
Last but not least, a quote from a novel set in an American Indian reservation in the 20th century.
A boy, who was already 12 years old, came into a new family after long, painful experiences among people who did not understand him and therefore did not have adequate communication with him.
„In the beginning Wakiya-knaskiya was like a newborn child who does not think or dream, but looks, listens and takes in. He hardly said a word, but he heard everything.“
From: Light over white rocks by Liselotte Weißkopf-Henrich, see bibliography and giftedness, depicted in literature and film.
Wakiya had come to people who understood him. And after the time of wonder he began a happy and rapid spiritual development.
Date of publication in German: October 2016
Translation from German: Hanna Vock
(Sorry, there is no money for a professional translator. If you discover any gross errors, please let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.