To Whom It May Concern: Being Gifted Sucks Sometimes

To the parents who wish for their child to be gifted. To the teachers who think gifted children should easily excel in school. Or for that matter, to every person who believes being gifted is one of the most awesomest things anyone can hope to be:

Sorry, giftedness is not quite what you think it is.

Being gifted is hard. Growing up gifted can be a sad, lonely and adversity-ridden time. Being gifted sucks sometimes, maybe most of the time.

 

Hold on a minute. I know what you are thinking because I used to think that way, but hear me out. It’s not like I’m saying being successful sucks or being healthy sucks.

Look, you know that saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? Yeah, that one. Well, you may or may not have the opportunity to walk a mile in the shoes of a parent with a gifted child, so to help you understand a bit about giftedness, here are five things which can make the life of a gifted child suck. And cause stress, grief and heartache for their parents.

 

1. BULLYING—Gifted children are different, often very different.

Yeah, yeah, every human is different and yada yada, but we all cling close to the normal range, right? Gifted children are often a bit further away from what society views as normal, typical or average. Gifted children’s thinking and reasoning is quite different from typical kids their age. Their emotional and social development can be at a different level than what is typical for their age. And you know what happens to kids who are different, maybe a bit too different?

Bullying.

One of the fundamental reasons victims of bullying are targeted by the bully is because of their differences. Differences can make one stand out and therefore more likely to become a victim. Gifted children are often the victims of bullying by peers, by adults, and often experience bullying from their teachers.

 

2. VERY SENSITIVE WITH DEEP EMOTIONS—Gifted children experience the world in unexpected, intense ways.

Many of us when we first hear the term gifted, we immediately think smart. Yes, above-average intelligence is associated with giftedness, but our intellect also incorporates emotional and social intelligence as well as thinking and reasoning skills. What does this have to do with how a gifted child experiences the world?

Well, gifted children can be super sensitive and exceptionally emotional. When a gifted 2nd grader has a major meltdown because she misspelled a word during the school’s spelling bee, many of us immediately think she is being a sore loser, but in reality, this gifted little girl is beating herself up for not being the perfect speller she believes others expect her to be. This spelling mistake seems benign enough to us—hey, it happens to all of us, but to her, she feels she is a complete failure and will never meet the expectations others have for her because she’s gifted. This little gifted 2nd-grade girl is unable to view this mistake as no big deal; to her, it truly feels like a clear indication she will be a failure for her entire life.

 

3. FEEL LIKE A FAILURE—Gifted children do not always excel in school.

Wait, what? Doesn’t gifted mean smart?  No, giftedness is not the same thing as consistently making good grades, being a high-achiever and receiving high scores in school. Giftedness is not the same as school-smart. A student who makes straight A’s across the board, is part of the gifted program, and then goes on to achieve perfect scores in both the ACT and SAT may not be gifted. Conversely, a profoundly gifted child may not make it into the gifted program at his school because his grades are not up to snuff.

Imagine being the parent of a gifted child who hears from his teachers, “well, if you are gifted, why aren’t you making all A’s?” Personally, I’ve walked in those shoes.

Gifted children don’t always excel in school because traditional schools are geared to educate to the middle, the normal, the average range. Too often, teachers don’t understand the traits of giftedness and therefore don’t address the learning needs of gifted students. Also, gifted students can and do have learning disabilities such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and others. All in all, the typical, traditional school classroom is not really a good fit for gifted students, and with many of their educational needs not being met, it becomes difficult for them to excel.

 

4. FEW FRIENDS—Gifted children often have social struggles, finding it difficult to find like-minded peers.

I once took over recess duty for my then 1st grader’s teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week. I enjoyed watching all these 6- and 7-year olds playing and interacting with each other. I probably had a smile on my face as I watched my then 6-year old enthusiastically elucidating the bathroom habits of astronauts in space to his classmates. As he proceeded to explain the effects of gravity on waste expulsion and removal in space, his classmates quickly lost interest and danced off to play more interesting activities. My smile faded into tears as my son stood there, puzzled as to why his classmates were not as fascinated with this topic as he was and then left him standing there alone. This was the first of many times my gifted kids came to realize their classmates and peers weren’t interested in the same things they were.

From my experience, and as the parent of adult gifted kids, this difficulty in finding like-minded peers can be a continuous, heart-breaking issue throughout their childhood. Some gifted children never find a true friend until they reach college.

 

5. PEOPLE JUST DON’T GET YOU—Gifted children are very often misunderstood.

This is when giftedness really, really sucks for the child and their parents. The multitude of stories I could share about this—and, many of those stories are in my book.

The time a neighbor, a father himself, yelled at my son for not sharing. My son was just 8-years old at the time, but because of his advanced verbal skills, he was thought of as being much older. My son didn’t want to share his skateboard because it was broken and he was afraid the other child would get hurt.

The time my son’s math teacher pulled him out in the hall, angrily raising his voice and telling my son he was tired of his crap. My son honestly believed he was put into remedial math at his new school and figured he might as well help the teacher teach since he knew all that was being taught. My son wasn’t being arrogant; he genuinely wanted to help and thought this was a better use of his time to relieve his boredom than just doodling or talking.

The time, at a conference with my son’s teachers to discuss his growing anxiety and disengagement from school, a teacher angrily snapped back at me, “Thirty percent of our students are gifted”, which was her very stern warning to me that being gifted was no excuse for anything but excelling in school.

The time my gifted child was not allowed into a high school gifted program because his writing scores were not high enough. The director told me that although they were specifically there to serve high-achieving and gifted students, they were not a gifted school per se.

 

Bullying. Very sensitive with deep emotions. Feel like a failure. Few friends. People just don’t get you. Yup, way too often, it truly sucks to be gifted.

 

 

Want more to chew on?

9 Things the World Must Understand About Gifted Children

Dear Teacher, My Gifted Child is in Your Class

My Child is Gifted: Do You Think I’m Bragging Now?

 

Get the whole, entire story here.

Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling 

 

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum March Blog Hop. Click on the image below to find other terrific posts about the difficulties of being gifted.

 

38 Comments on “To Whom It May Concern: Being Gifted Sucks Sometimes

  1. This isn’t even all of it. The sales pitch would read something like this:

    Be gifted and get the symptoms of every mental illness absolutely free!
    Anxiety, depression, ADD, OCD, BPD, PTSD, CPTSD!
    But wait, there’s more! Because these aren’t actually mental illnesses but fundamental aspects of your personality, they are COMPLETELY UNTREATABLE!
    Sign up today!

    (exaggerated for comic effect, no disrespect meant to people with mental health issues or whose suffering is caused by the actions of others) Seriously, does anybody know how much of this comes from being mistreated and how much just comes with the gifted package, no matter what?

    And that few friends/people don’t get you thing never ends. Last year I tried to find some like-minded people so I went looking for the biggest bunch of weirdos I could think of, namely the BDSM scene. I was vaguely tolerated at best. First time at a sex club was like the first day of school – nobody wanted to play with me then either. When somebody in a rubber pony suit thinks you’re strange, that’s rock bottom (slightly altered for comic effect and to protect the guilty).

    Damn this sounds way too whiny. I need to stop reading identity politics Tumblrs.

    • I agree, it isn’t all of it, but I tried to soften it a bit for those who don’t understand gifted. Thank you for adding to my list–yours are spot on, also! I love that you added your own wonderful snark and humor–love it!

      Thank you again!

      • Thanks, glad you liked it. Even posting to a gifted site I still got the fear of how people will react if I pull out the control rods and ramp up to full power. On the reactor theme, a joke:

        Gifted people break the Myers-Briggs personality types. They come out as RBMK – prone to meltdowns when run on low power.

        How are we supposed to relate to normal people? I’m considering creating an artificial personality that is some combination of anthropologist, therapist and undercover cop. Then they could tolerate me and I could get at the most interesting parts of them. Motivational interviewing will probably be involved.

        • Truly, you are humorously gifted. I’m going to have to pass on the idea of becoming a anthropologist, therapist and undercover cop to my 17-year old–he’s not sure what he wants to major in in college. That might be an option, right? 😉

          Keep riveting us with your humor, please!

          • I believe it’s called ‘integrated studies’ 🙂

            Makes me think of all those academic fields suffixed with ‘studies’ that came out of identity politics, has anyone got around to ‘neurodiversity studies’ yet? Nick Walker teaches a course on autism at California Institute of Integrated Studies but I don’t know any that do gifted outside gifted education courses. There also should be ‘neurotypical studies’ where we can learn about them and they can learn what they are – like how ‘whiteness studies’ works *vindictive grin*. (at least how I assume it works, identity politics is a much bigger deal in America than Britain so I’m getting most of this second hand)

    • I literally fell out laughing at this very VERY accurate convent!!!

      Thanks man! 😂😂😂

        • If you had corrected to ‘covenant’ it would sound like we were discussing very weighty matters. 🙂

          Got another way gifted can suck. When you decide to try psychedelics and your mind bats aside a powerful hallucinogen like it’s nothing. (legal note – in Britain ibogaine is unliscenced but not illegal)

          Do you have stories? Care to vent your spleen?

  2. I think you hit all the gifted myths in this one post! Completely agree with all of this – and I’ll add, as a gifted adult, it doesn’t generally get much better either. Still a hard time finding friends, still encountering bullying (in a more subtle form) and still feeling like a failure at times. It’s hard!

  3. Wonderful post… thank you for voicing what so many have experienced and are afraid to share. I love your blog and your advocacy for gifted differences and needs. Thank you for everything you said! I am sending hugs to you and your sweet son.

  4. Celi, Great post. You highlight the many struggles gifted people face – especially those involving people who just don’t get it. So sorry your son had to endure so much of this!

  5. Yes to all these!

    I love the thought of all our kids getting together (magically the same age) to discuss astronaut bathroom habits. Wouldn’t they have had fun?

    My daughter’s doing an intensive Spanish course this week, in a class with 2 Russian men (one in his 60s, one in his 20s) and a Finnish woman (50s). I have no idea what they are all making of my 13 year old sitting there among them in her black emo clothes with her perfect Spanish accent and a scowl hiding her anxiety, but she’s probably no more out of place there than she was at school in England when she was 6!

    • Yes, our kids would have fun talking about all their out-of-the-ordinary interests with each other which is why gifted education is a necessity and not a luxury in public schools.

      Thank you, Lucinda!

  6. Very important information for gifted students, their parents, teachers, AND age peers. There is nothing special about gifted kids EXCEPT the curriculum designed for typical learners at a certain age level is never going to give kids who are gifted or advanced any opportunities to experience the exhilaration of working with hard to master content. When things come so easily to these kids from the time they start formal education, they come to believe they are ALWAYS expected to be easily competent. Too much of their energy goes into trying to prove that everything is easy because their experiences have trained them to avoid showing anyone they are working hard for fear they will be teased or even bullied when other kids notice these kids have to work really hard to master some content. In my view, every single student has a right to consistently experience new learning. After all, isn’t that what school is supposed to provide?

    • This comment confuses me. I thought we were all agreed that academic performance is only the tip of the very large and potentially cold and sharp gifted iceberg. We’re talking about crippling social rejection and serious emotional problems – a bigger chemistry textbook won’t fix that (trust me, I had a few). We are different in all sorts of ways, large and small. Two days ago I had to cut the label off new pyjamas ‘because I could feel it’. I’m 36 freaking years old!

      But this comment does convey the need for challenge without extolling the work ethic. A lot of ‘solutions’ to the problems of the gifted have a moral component that sound like the child should submit to external authority, and we all know how well that will go down. I would suggest that any solutions be opportunities to learn not conform. Instead of work ethic, think work capacity (the term actually comes from Russian weightlifting circles) and the value of being able to do more of what you like, want or need to do. If they need to learn to work in a group without taking over, teach them Crew Resource Management that airlines use to make the captain actually listen when the copilot is screaming they are about to crash into a mountain. If they are disorganised teach them the Vanguard Method, a system of organisation that makes doing the right thing, right first time, as quickly and efficiently as possible, second nature. I don’t think many gifted children would resist this kind of high-level knowledge.

  7. could you write a post on how to talk to teachers? my dad was a teacher in a small town, so my parents never could speak up very strongly when the librarian insisted that first graders pull books from a table of first grade books. the best my mom could do was get an exception for the highest reading group to pull second grade books.

    now I am grown up with a first grader of my own. our current problem is that he id expected to read to me the same leveled reader four days in a row. we don’t, and have been logging what we actually read instead. that seemed to work until the start of this quarter…now i am getting notes home directing me to log only the assigned books. the teacher also talked to my kid to tell him that he had to reread the assigned book every day.

    why am I engaged in what is esentially a power struggle with this teacher over what my son reads? (at this moment he prefers to read narnia. as long as he can do his homework, I don’t see the problem)

    • Frustrated is an apropos name. I’d be extremely frustrated, too. Holding kids back is a bad idea.

      First, I would ask to have your son’s reading level tested. Also, ask the teacher if she feels children should read books on their reading level, or on their grade/age level? Here’s an article I would print out and bring to the teacher, or send her the link: What If Michael Phelps Trained in a Kiddie Pool? It talks about holding gifted kids back and not challenging them in school.

      Sometimes forcing kids to read books that don’t interest them causes them to dislike reading. In schools, however, for documentation and testing purposes, all students must read the same reader. The teacher is required to use certain textbooks. Hopefully, you and your son’s teacher can work out some sort of compromise, but follow your gut–you know your child best.

      Best of luck and let me know if you need any other resources.

      • “There also should be ‘neurotypical studies’ where we can learn about them and they can learn what they are.”

        The Dalek and Cyberman episodes from Doctor Who would be a very good place to start.

      • Holding back kids is intellectual abuse, and needs to be legally prosecuted as such.

        What is Stephen Hawking was forced to read “age appropriate” material – i.e infantilized jingoistic political propaganda sugar-coated as “history”.

        It applies in the reverse, too.

        What if Stephen Hawking had some jock dumbo phys-ed teacher screaming and swearing and kicking him along a track?

        • I agree 100%! Many of us also use the analogy about a sports prodigy–if your child was a soccer prodigy, would you accept that he was forced to practice and play within his age group instead of an advanced group more appropriate to his skill level? The majority of parents would not accept their musically or athletically gifted child to be held back, why then do we do it with intellectually gifted children?

    • As a teacher (presently of the gifted, but have not always been), this is so bizarre to me and makes me angry! I’m 47, but I was lucky enough to have teachers who sent me to the class above for reading instruction or gave me more difficult work; I know it wasn’t like that for all gifted students. I’m incensed that this is still happening now. I was trained that there is a “sweet spot” range for students as far as reading goes — too difficult, and it’s hard to make progress because it’s so frustrating, and if books are too easy, learning is not taking place, and students are bored. That said, I’ve also read that for free reading (home reading should be this, in general, I think, until middle or high school and students are reading novels at home for homework), students should be allowed to read what they want to read, so they develop a love of reading, so even if something is too easy, but the student wants to read it because they love it so much, they should be allowed to do so. I’m so sorry this is happening. I would just put the reading book on there, sign it, and allow your son to read what makes sense for him!

    • My daughter had the opposite problem in the second grade. She was a very advanced reader and the kids had to check out books from the library that were their Accelerated Reading level. The other kids in the class were more on-level and “everyone” was reading Geronimo Stilton, a mouse sleuth, and talking about them at lunch. My daughter couldn’t check them out because they were below her reading level so she was being left out of the lunch-time conversation. The public library didn’t have the books. I could have bought the books for her but I suggested she have a talk with the teacher. She did, and the teacher presumably talked to the librarian as my daughter was soon happily bringing Geronimo Stilton books home to read. She was reading plenty of books at her level, it’s not like she was trying to get off easy, she just wanted to participate with the other kids.

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  9. I was told I was highly gifted in grade school, but I’ve never really felt that way. In fact, there was a lot of just general knowledge that my peers knew about that I was totally ignorant of until my 30s… namely basic finance, anatomy, sexual relations, etc. I was expected by my parents and teachers to just know things intuitively, but the world always seemed very mysterious.

    One of the problems, as I see it, is that public schools don’t do IQ testing. If you don’t know a kid’s IQ, how do you know what you are dealing with? It seems ridiculous to me. And of course, there’s a huge difference between a kid with a 145 IQ who can do calculus when he’s 12, and a student with a 120 IQ, who yeah is a little brighter than the other kids, but is expected to be a superstar because he’s had this “gifted” label slapped on him.

    • Phil, you hit on an important, often overlooked point–not all giftedness is the same. Just like all people are different, just like autism affects people differently, just like many other genetic conditions, behaviors and illnesses can all be different, giftedness is not the same in all people.

      The problem in recognizing giftedness is that it is too very often measured against academic accomplishment. Some gifted people have phenomenal memories, or visual-spatial talents, or are creative thinkers. Not all gifted children excel in school. So your suggestion to have IQ testing done is a good idea, but unfortunately not likely to happen because of funding.

      Another idea is to train teachers better to recognize the not-so-well-known gifted behaviors in students, and to listen to parents who say their child might be gifted. Also, doctors/pediatricians should be more knowledgeable on recognizing giftedness.

      Your last point, to me, is the major crux of why gifted children are so misunderstood. Giftedness has become synonymous with academic achievement, and that is wrong. There are definitely differences between a 145 IQ and a 120 IQ as well as “types” of giftedness (mathematical, creative, artistic, musical, language).

      Thank you for sharing you experience and insights as a gifted individual!

      • A big AMEN to the idea that gidtedness is not synonymous with academic achievement. My son scored an IQ of what they deemed a 150+ due to test ceilings, but does not do well in school. It is so very hard to convince teachers that he isn’t just lazy, but struggles with things that are HARD for him (like paying attention to the lesson instead of the song he is composing in his head or finding the paper he was supposed to turn in) and at the same time struggles with how little he is challenged with content. He is only in 4th grade and I am already exhausted from constantly trying and failing to make his education work for him.

        • Oh Heather, I truly feel your pain. I went through the same with my youngest and I know EXACTLY how you feel. It isn’t easy raising and advocating for you gifted child who isn’t living up to the silly stereotype of the super high-achieving, well-behaved student. Ugh! All I can say is I know where you are coming from.

          Keep advocating. Keep “schooling” the educators on what giftedness can look like in school. Just remember, the facts are on your side!

          Stay strong, Heather! You’ve got this!

          • Thank you 💞. I need all the support I can get ☺.

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