9 Things the World Must Understand About Gifted Children

9 Things the World Must Understand About Gifted Children

Three years have passed since I wrote the popular post, 8 Things the World Must Understand About Gifted ChildrenSadly, not much has changed for gifted children—they are still very much misunderstood.

Gifted children are often misunderstood by society and surprisingly, misunderstood even in our educational systems. Many of the common characteristics, behaviors and traits exhibited by gifted children have been misdiagnosed and treated as mental illnesses, behavior disorders and learning disabilities even though these behaviors are simply normal giftedness.

As a parent of a gifted child, it is truly frustrating, even devastating, to have your child misunderstood and subsequently misdiagnosed, mistreated and miseducated—all because not enough is known about the social and emotional quirks of gifted children.

This misunderstanding of gifted children is not a recent phenomenon—this is a decades-long dilemma which has negatively impacted the lives of our gifted children, sometimes tragically. Reason would have us believe that providing the facts and information on gifted children would rectify the misunderstanding—“Here are the facts on gifted children. Now do you understand? Good, let’s fix the problem!”, but there is an emotional thread running through the misunderstanding.

Envy, competitiveness, lack of compassion and resentfulness are emotions others may feel towards gifted children because they are intellectually advanced. And our gifted children seem to be very much affected by these negative emotions cast on them from others— from both adults and children. Why? I would have to say because people just don’t understand that gifted children are so much more complex than the smart, perfect, life-is-easy little people the world thinks they are.


I’ll repeat the original 8 things I feel the world should understand about gifted children and I’m also adding one more:


1. There is more to gifted children than their intelligence.  

Gifted children are affectionate, fun-loving, innocent, and yes, sometimes they do misbehave. Their IQ’s do not make them circus freaks, Doogie Howsers or anomalies.


2. They are emotionally very sensitive.  

Gifted children may take a small, negative comment and internalize it to the point that they may start to hate themselves or believe everyone hates them. Comments or situations others may not think twice about can wreak emotional havoc on a gifted child.


3. They may think like an adult, but can also act like a much-younger child.

Two words: asynchronous development. Gifted children’s reasoning and critical thinking may rival most adults, but that doesn’t mean they should be expected to be able to socially and emotionally handle adult situations. And they definitely should not be disciplined when they don’t act like the adult they seem to be–discipline should be realistic. They are still children and they should be treated with respect.


4. They have a strong sense of right and wrong.  

With many gifted children, justice and fairness must always prevail and is worth fighting for. Little white lies, pretense, double-standards, exaggeration or faulty reasoning just don’t fly with a gifted child. So, don’t go there.


5. Gifted does not mean perfect.  

They are not perfect; they are human beings just like everyone else. Please do not expect them to be perfect little soldiers just because they are gifted.


6. Being gifted does not equal straight A’s in school.

Not all gifted children are high achievers. Many times, gifted children because of their emotional sensitivities may suffer from anxiety, fear of failure or perfectionism and other emotional factors which can prevent them from being successful in school. Also, when their learning environment is not meeting their educational needs, gifted children often become frustrated, disengaged and bored which leads to underachievement in school.


7. They are not gifted in everything.

Gifted children can be grade levels ahead in math and science, and then struggle in English and reading.


8. They have a very keen sense of social dynamics. 

Gifted children often have the ability to size-up an adult or teacher who may not be acting like an adult should. They can understand the social dynamics of a situation and may zero in on peers or adults who are acting out of envy, competitiveness or resentment. Gifted children can be quite intuitive and may know what you do and understand why you do it.


9. No, not every child is gifted. 

“Every child is gifted.” This popular sentiment seems to be a prevalent response and defense for those children who are not intellectually gifted. The gifted label is a medical, educational and psychological term used when identifying children who have advanced intellectual abilities often determined by an IQ above 130. Being gifted should not be confused with having gifts and talents. Saying every child is gifted is like saying every child is tall, every child is athletic, every child has curly hair or  every child excels in math.

For as long as gifted children have been misunderstood, there have been parents and educators who have tried to set the record straight by tirelessly advocating for gifted children. Articles have been written, studies have been conducted, groups have been formed, parents have conferenced with teachers, and the facts about gifted children have been publicized, but by and large, the world still does not understand our gifted children, and our gifted children have suffered because of this misunderstanding.


This post is part of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, June 6-24, coinciding with New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week, this year June 13-19th, 2016. Click the image below to see more on the blog tour!

new zealand blog tour image

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