Ease 2e Pressure with Two Mindset Shifts

Jacqui Byrne
The life of a 2e kid (a gifted kid with co-occurring challenges), can be marked by chronic disconnect – between what they need vs. what they receive; between how they’re perceived vs. what they actually experience. All of this can lead to startling behaviors that can leave the whole family feeling off balance.

If you’re new to this 2e journey and are feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re not alone. As a parent of 2e kids myself, I’ve felt those feelings on my similar journey. I’ve come a long way since then – from learning to understand my own kids, to advocating for their needs, to eventually founding a tiny 2e school that has grown from single digits to over 100 students!
But before any of those kids could be emotionally available for any kind of academic learning, they first needed to feel safe, to heal, and to trust. And that can only happen when the adults in charge are willing to really listen, believe and affirm those experiences.

I want to share with you two lines that reflect the perspective I aim for with my kids and with students. One is from one of the most highly respected experts in the field; the other is a bit of insight that has been circulating among wise parents for decades, though I haven’t been able to track down its original source. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say these two mindset shifts have the power to alter your family’s trajectory.

These phrases have proven to be almost universally helpful to our teachers as we begin the work of building trust with each new student – and many of our students’ parents have shared that they’ve been game-changing at home, as well:

  1. “Kids do well if they can.” -Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.
    This is one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Ross Greene, clinical psychologist and the bestselling author of several amazing books centered around his model of care known as Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS).

    What I love about Dr. Greene’s approach is that it actually takes the focus off of the unwanted behavior and places it where it belongs – on the unmet need or underdeveloped skill that’s getting in the way of the child’s success. Once you do that, the dynamic shifts in a wonderful way: It’s no longer you against the child – it becomes you and the child against the problem. And that changes everything.

  2. “They’re not giving you a hard time; they’re having a hard time.”
    Nobody likes being on the receiving end of an outburst, or having a simple request turn into a battle – and when these behaviors seem to strike from out of the blue, it can be especially difficult to keep your cool and not take it personally.
At our school, we’ve learned that if we adults can just take a beat, and remind ourselves that a dysregulated child is not giving us a hard time, but having a hard time, something amazing happens: Our frustration and hurt instantly deflate, and our compassion and curiosity start to bubble up in their place. We become invested in understanding and helping rather than correcting. And when a child picks up on that shift, that’s when they begin to feel safe enough to interact with us in more constructive ways. Try it at home!

As a parent, I credit these two mindset shifts with providing the clarity I needed to understand my 2e kids’ needs and advocate for them effectively. Shifting perspectives is not a one-time change; I had to relearn this lesson over and over, and sometimes interpret them differently depending on the child. And as an educator, I truly believe that the sooner more schools can adopt these ideas, the sooner we can start to close the gaps that 2e kids experience. This means creating environments where they really feel heard, helped, and able to do their best. By choosing to be allies with our students, and working to understand and alleviate the unnecessary pressures they experience, we can set the stage for these amazing young people to become their best and most authentic selves.