By Gail Belsky

Maybe a teacher has said something, or a grandparent. Maybe you've just thought it yourself: My child is so smart and talented ... could he be gifted? What you may not know is that for children to achieve that status, they must meet a very specific and uncommon set of criteria.

"It's a rare percentage of children who fit that description; they have to score 132 on an IQ test," says educational psychologist Michelle Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. And that's not all. If your child is gifted, she must also display the following six traits:

1. Intense interest in one area

2. Extreme curiosity

3. Keen focus

4. Heightened sensitivity

5. Extensive vocabulary

6. Great reasoning

So what is your smart, talented child if he doesn't meet all the criteria? He's smart and talented -- with his own passions, curiosity and interests, says Borba. And unlike giftedness, which is innate, smarts and talent can be nurtured and developed. Here's how:

Notice her natural interest.

It's not hard ... if you're looking for it. See what your child spends time on, lingers over and comes back to on her own. Then notice it, making your child aware: "Wow, I see you really like music."

Encourage rather than push.

The interest has to purely be your child's. If he really loves what he's doing, you won't have to push. But you will have to support his interest and give him access to it: Take your child to free concerts, play more music at home, rent an instrument and sign him up for lessons, or find free ones online. "Parents need to push the opportunities, not the interest," says Borba.

Keep it fun.

Give her the tools and time to explore her interests, and then step out of the way. Let her immerse herself in her chosen activity without interruption. Foster the love she has for it. "Lifelong love of something becomes a hobby, and often becomes a lifelong career," says Borba.

Watch your expectations.

Wherever your child's interest lies, it's his interest, not yours -- and not any other child's. It's what captures his imagination and gives him pleasure. Maybe he doesn't have one particular interest, but is curious about many things. Then he's well-rounded, says Borba, "or he's looking at other options. He's not ready for one thing." Don't compare your child to other children or their particular strengths.

Maybe your child has the gift of empathy or of strong social skills. "If you see that, you should be nurturing that too," says Borba. So instead of wondering whether your child is gifted, ask yourself this: How can I support and nurture the gifts, talents and interests my child has?


Parenting - 6 Signs Your Child Is Gifted