Gifted Children


Photo by Michal Parzuchowski

Around six to ten percent (3-5 million) of today’s students are gifted children. These students are different than your normal students or even challenged students in their learning style, depth of understanding, and potential.

Yet we sit here wondering what to do with these children and teach them like all others. It is time to wake up and make a difference in their lives by pushing them to their fullest potential.

What is a gifted child?

So what is a gifted child one may ask? Or how do we know if a child is gifted? A gifted child is one who gives evidence of high achievement capability such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or in specific academic fields. They think differently than other children and often think “outside the box”. Not all of them are gifted in all areas but rather some are in just one area. Just because they are gifted does not mean that they are a genius. Only a fraction of them are actually geniuses.

You can already pick them out at a very young age. These children also need services and activities not normal to the everyday school happenings, to help develop the capabilities they have. Sensitivity is a very common trait in these children. This is where many of their behavior problems actually come from instead of willful disobedience. The prime time to start dealing with these children are between the ages of seven and nine.

A gifted child has many positive signs along with negative. I will only list a few of the number of things I found. They learn information very quickly and do their work very fast as well but their work is often sloppy and they become disruptive in class if not called upon. They think independently and are self-motivated but then tend to challenge authority and do not handle criticism well. They also do not work well in groups. Some are interested in many different things and enjoy challenges but then leave some tasks incomplete and become overwhelmed if they take on too many things.

Problems to beware of

We have a problem on hand if a gifted child is not dealt with properly. Depression is common in these children. Not only is that alarming but also the fact that the suicide rate is growing. This often occurs when they hit the teenage years.

There are three different kinds of depression that they are likely to experience. The first one comes from the desire to live up to the standards that are set too high. The second one comes from the feeling of not being accepted by others as a human being but rather treat them like computers or achievers. The third type is called “existential depression”. This comes from their intense concerns about the basic problem of human existence. Yes, all three of these are similar in the fact that the underlying factor is anger. When they deny the fact that they are angry and pretend it does not exist, they will become depressed. They become angry at themselves for their shortcoming and feel powerless.

We need to help them overcome their depression. It is not just a stage they are going through. It is hard to help them overcome it though. They need to help their child realize that they are angry or frustrated. By helping them realize what is going on inside them, you will be able to help reach them better.

Most of the gifted will develop a large vocabulary at a young age. They cannot communicate with peers their age and they don’t realize it. Because of this they tend to gravitate toward older children and adults. This is not all good. Yes this type of relationship satisfies the child and even makes the parents proud but tends to separate them from the classmates their age and reduces the amount of friends they have. It appears to the classmates that they are trying to be to grown up. Also, the gifted child tends to become a “parent” toward the children around them.

This does not mean that they do not want to be accepted by others. In fact, they will tend to seek acceptance by emphasizing some kind of personal strength that others often recognize. Parents and teachers tend to overemphasize these strengths. This can cause perfectionism in the child. They think they have to be perfect even when they are not pressured by others. They will set very high standards for themselves that they cannot even attain which leads to failure. Not reaching the goals that they set for themselves causes extreme failure in their brain. Instead of letting the child get to this point, we can help them. We need to teach them how to set attainable short and long-term goals for themselves. One idea is to let them draw or write up a goal contract for themselves. Get them to show it to you then you can tell them if it is ideal or not. This way they can learn to set goals properly.

As mentioned earlier they have great imaginations. This can be interpreted wrongly by the child. They begin to think that they are not loved or accepted. They read into ordinary situations completely wrong and jump to conclusions. We can help them develop ways of checking this fear properly and interpreting correctly what the others mean.

Most of these children feel like they are waiting all their lives, waiting on students to catch up. But this never seems to happen. We can guide the child to turn their time into great opportunities. They can use this time to observe things, or if we supply them with a steady supply of books, he can use his knowledge and understanding with others who are trying to catch-up. Through this they will learn to value the ones who don’t seem as smart as they.

Our task is to nurture.

We have a large job on our hands in helping these children develop. We need to help them feel good about themselves and their spot in this world. They can develop empathy for the ones who are less gifted than they are. If they can learn how to appreciate them and put themselves in the shoes of the less gifted, they will have fewer frustrations. The gifted child must learn to have self-discipline along with patience and understanding.

One of our goals should be to help them realize that even though they are different, they still have a lot in common with the people around them. Gifted children have emotions and needs like others. Gifted children may feel them more keenly than others though. We cannot expect them to find their own way around. Having said this, they do need to learn how to be reasonable. We need to help them sort out when they are being unreasonable or when they need to stick by where they stand or even when just to drop it.

Bribes are particularly ineffective with gifted children. They can tell that we are trying to manipulate them. A bribe is part of a contract that you are offering to them to induce them to do something they don’t want to do. They work better with rewards. Do not worry. Gifted children do not grow up expecting rewards. In fact, they are often uninterested in material rewards. To get cooperation you must ensure trust and a feeling of shared goals. This of course does not happen overnight and takes time.

Gifted children need discipline more than most people realize. Now there is a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is trying to give direction from the outside and can decrease a child’s intelligence. Discipline on the other hand is teaching a child self-control which will benefit them in the long run. It gives them the opportunity to discover and depend on their own power. Gifted children often need fewer constraints than others. The boundaries we do put in place for them should allow room for growth and experimentation. Through the experiences gifted children often learn sooner than the others. This experience is what they need to make better judgement later on in life.

Having said all this doesn’t mean you will never have to punish. Yes, there are times you will have to firmly set restrictions. The thing about these children is they are curious if you will be consistent and actually carry out everything you say. Not only that but they will tend to argue with you.

So what do we do with these children? How can we help them? What is the best way to reach them in school? I don’t know all the answers. Studying all of this has definitely opened my eyes. If you have any input or something that you have gained from reading this, please share.

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