Welcome to the first of a three part series I am doing on resiliency. Simply defined, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It involves several components, three of which I am going to focus on in these posts –

  • Mastery
  • Connections
  • Emotional Intensity

Gifted individuals, both children and adults, are hardwired in ways that present unique challenges to overall resiliency. And while these posts will take a look at some of the inherent problems facing the GT population, I do not want any reader to interpret this to mean that GT individuals are MORE prone to resiliency challenges. I would actually argue that the very nature of giftedness may serve as a well of internal resources helping improve resiliency for most. But we will get into that in a follow up post or two.

For now, let’s look at mastery – a definition and the ways in which GT kids may struggle with this domain.

Mastery specifically refers to a person’s ability to understand and analyze the cause/effect relationship between effort and results. It involves how a child views his or her individual ability to master the environment; whether or not he or she believes that working hard will, in fact, lead to improved outcomes.

Mastery involves the attributes of optimism (the ability to see the glass as half-full and feel positive about the future), adaptability (the ability to change and adapt to environmental/situational changes), and self-efficacy (different from self-esteem, this specifically relates to a person’s belief that he or she has the ability to perform successfully in a given situation).

As seen from the definition above, there are several areas in which gifted kids may struggle related to the very nature of giftedness. Some of the more typical challenges may include the following:

Optimism –

  • Feelings of inadequacy due to a mismatch between ability and previous achievements
  • 2E situations
  • Perfectionism and the belief that making errors means you are not gifted
  • Fear of failing resulting in poor risk taking
  • All or nothing belief structure (“I either know it all, or don’t know anything”)


  • The belief that teachers/parents have unrealistically high expectations for performance
  • Same rigidity, perfectionism, and fear of failure discussed above
  • Inflexible in thinking processes
  • Intensities (you will see this come up a lot)
  • Resistance to accepting help
  • Resistance to change
As you can see, there are a lot of potential problems facing our gifted children related to the very nature of giftedness.
So what do we do to help? I think the answer is two-fold (as always). First, as parents and/or educators, we need to accept our own difficulties in these areas. Identify them, and work to consciously correct our inaccurate thinking. Reframe “normal” for ourselves. Then we need to help our children do the same. Talk with them about their feeling related to this domain – help them see where their thinking may be not only counterproductive, but just plan incorrect. Help them learn to recognize the times and ways in which their thoughts are inaccurate.
By doing this – by understanding mastery and the ways it can adversely impact kids, you are positioning yourself to act as an “emotional” coach for them – something that I believe will lead to improved outcomes.
What do you think? Can you see ways in which your own thinking (or the thinking of your children) works again their development of strong mastery?

7 thoughts on “Resiliency Part 1 – Understanding Mastery

  1. I think this article might help my daughter who doesn’t like to try things if she thinks she won’t easily do well. She is gradually improving though. At first, she didn’t want to try out for honor band because it required longer minimum practice hours, *and* you have to audition to qualify and I think she was afraid she’d audition and not make it. We talked her into getting the required hours (it helped that her dad practiced with her (trumpet for him, clarinet for her) for almost every practice session and that it was okay if she didn’t make it, as long as she tried her hardest. Also, her brother and sister both tried out for honor band when they were in 5th grade, ten years ago. Her brother made it, but her sister didn’t (they just had a plethora of flutes, so she had higher odds against her), they encouraged her to try out. She made it to honor band.

    1. Good for her – and good for you guys for helping her to “redefine” success. That is so fabulous!

  2. Christine, these are such important points! I can especially relate to the need for adults to recognize our own difficulties and to show children that they don’t need to learn everything at once. I can definitely say that I have learned more resiliency as a parent than I ever did before, and the knowledge that I can gain mastery that I thought I might never have it a very good feeling.

  3. Christine, important points and concise in the break down which provides the opportunity to communicate to children as well as integrated by adults (gifted or not).
    The process of offering the information – allows the child/youth/adult to gain mastery with who they are and how they function with control, ownership, choice – the tool of decision making.
    Thanks for such a direct way to explain complexity to the complex.

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