Mothers Mentor


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Mother's Day is celebrated in this country on Sunday, 14th May – just before national Gifted Awareness Week, which occurs 20th – 28th May, so it seems appropriate to combine these celebrations by considering how mothers mentor the development of talents in high ability youth.

Emeritus Professor Françoys Gagné, from the University of Quebec, in Montreal, who developed the Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT), outlined the difference between natural abilities and systematically developed skills, helping us to understand the elements that contribute to the development of talents. Initially, mothers provide genetic material that contributes to the creation of an individual's natural abilities; the foetal environment has an important impact and mothers also contribute to creating the context within which these abilities might become talents.

Dr Karen Rogers, writing in High IQ Kids about her time researching the profiles of children who had been assessed at Dr Linda Silverman's Gifted Development Center, in Denver, Colorado, identified that mothers of high ability youth tended to be older than those in the national population. Many mothers were avid readers and presumably, they modelled this for their child.

Dr Barbara Kerr, writing in her book, Smart Girls, Gifted Women, maintains that girls are more strongly influenced by their mothers, than are boys within the family; and she goes on to state that there is no evidence that girls of working or professional mothers are more likely to be gifted than girls whose mothers stay home – or vice versa; however, mothers often provided models and emphasised achievement. Independence, achievement. and active exploration were shown to be important, positive factors in the lives of career-oriented women, while Sally Reis and her colleagues' research emphasised the importance of support systems in the achievement of any high ability students. 

Mothers have a significant role in school selection.  Karen Rogers' research has shown the benefits of grouping – i.e., selecting special schools (based upon abilities and interests) – for students' academic gains and improved attitudes.  Until the time when students can enter a selective school, worried mothers are often the parents who channel their frustration and uncertainty to become activists and advocates by undertaking self-education, planning for assessments to be conducted, expending time and effort to identify and address their child's needs.

Despite many parents in this country being reluctant to be viewed as 'pushy parents', Ellen Winner, conducted research that identified that ¼ of high achievers had mothers who modelled hard work and pushed their child to work hard. Ambitious mothers conveyed a belief that offspring would succeed. These mothers modelled and expected hard work; they mentored their child to succeed.

​© Michele Juratowitch

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Last reviewed 19 May 2023
Last updated 19 May 2023