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Distinct Characteristics of Gifted Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My child is wonderfully smart this year as she got accepted in a gifted and talented class. However, she is very dramatic and sensitive. Also, she is very defensive and would not let other help her. What is wrong with her or that's how all smart kids act? How do I help her?

A: Gifted individuals can be very different from one another, and no single individual will exhibit all the distinctively known characteristics of the gifted. Furthermore, these characteristics may be manifested in both positive and negative ways. Your daughter is surely demonstrating certain characteristics distinct to most gifted children. The difference may be in the way she is manifesting it, which you may view as being negative.

It is important for parents to understand behavior of gifted children to be able to accept that bringing up these children is indeed more challenging that their non-gifted counterparts. Her ability to dramatize is due to her high sense of expression which she may have learnt at a faster rate than her age-peers. This is due to her ability to absorb information like a sponge. It is also a fact that most gifted children are easily bored by rote memorization and routine or repetitive tasks; thus may find schoolwork rather boring. It is good to allow her the opportunity to work things for herself to find meaning in her learning, and to avoid her from feeling bored. She may not need much help as she trusts her abilities and parents should do the same (trusting abilities of gifted children).

Allowing gifted children to work on their own challenges them and allows freedom of thought. Even when they may not be doing it right, let them know that you are available for help, but at the same time they may want to do things their own way, so allow that to happen. This is because they tend to sometimes over-rely on their intellect for coping with challenges which is not a bad thing at all. In fact, some of the greatest world discoveries are from mistakes!

Gifted children also have greater than average needs for independence, and prefer to work independently. This should be allowed to help develop thinking skills. Too much spoon feeding will only slow them down and make them dependent on other sources when they are not able to meet learning challenges. You daughter shows initiative, probably needs little direction, and can be very resourceful. As a parent, you may want to encourage and enjoy learning with her. Being sensitive, she may have noticed your frustrations and probably is retaliating even more as a manifestation of her own frustration. You must show that you trust her abilities by allowing her to make mistakes and instead of telling her that she is wrong, direct and guide her towards the right path. She needs to feel the sense of accomplishment for her work.

In addition, since she is in the gifted and talented class, her teachers may well understand the behaviors of gifted children and may be in a better position to advise you. They may also be able to get you in touch with other parents of gifted children. A strong support group is always helpful for parents. Best wishes!


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