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Relationship between Giftedness and Behavioral Problem

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q:  I have a 5yr old son who has been in full time education since April 04. He is in his first term of Yr1 and is the youngest child in his class. I've always considered him to be a bright boy but assumed he was probably no different to most other children of his age. When he started pre-school his nursery teacher emphasized that he was very articulate, had very good general knowledge, and always had a great deal to contribute in discussions. She had a feeling he would be a bright boy.

His Yr1 teacher asked me, several weeks into his first term, if I realized how bright he was and she considered him very bright/gifted. The fly in the ointment however is that his behavior at school during break-times is letting him down severely. He annoys and antagonizes other children when not being closely observed. His behavior at home is sometimes challenging but generally we have no significant problems. He understands that certain aspects of his behavior at school are not acceptable and the reasons why. His teachers are puzzled with his behavior in the playground - they have said it is similar to that of a child with learning difficulties who has problems interacting socially.

I have been advised to go to my GP for referral to a child psychologist. I wonder if he simply has behavioral issues that he and I and perhaps the school need to learn how to deal with or could there be a lack of intellectual stimulation in certain situations that causes him to misbehave? I have considered collecting him from school at lunchtimes to remove him from the potential misbehaving situations, I've also considered moving him to another school that has organized clubs/activities during the lunchtimes so he can focus and learn while still being in the company of other children. He does like other children and is capable of playing 'nicely' but often chooses not to. Do you have any suggestions?

A: From your description, it is indeed hard to say what your son may be going through and it would be unfair to assume. There are many questions in mind; how young is he exactly compared to his peers, is he in a gifted program that challenges him, is he bored in class, does he only misbehave during break times, what about lesson time, how does he misbehave, does he really understand his behavior as you mentioned, what do his teachers suggest, etc. Many underlying details need to be understood before making any kind of judgment. In addition, if it is a behavioral problem (whether linked to giftedness or otherwise), I believe you may need to seek help from a child psychologist.

If he is only misbehaving during breaks and not during lesson time, he may not be bored with the lessons. Have you tried asking him to determine if there is anyone or anything provoking him to misbehave? At 5, he is still emotionally and cognitively unable to understand his own behavior, and this appears to be the case as he is still misbehaving at school. It is hard to assume that he understands unacceptable behavior and knows the reason by merely explaining to him.

I do not think you should be taking him away during break time, as avoidance of the problem will not solve the problem itself. The same applies to transferring him to another school. If he is capable of playing fairly with other kids on his own accord, there has to be something missing when he misbehaves. I wish I could suggest further but there are many missing links here and as I mentioned earlier, it would not be fair for me to make assumptions and give advice based on that. For now, I think you should try to arrange to see a child psychologist as soon as possible, as behavioral problems in children are likely to get worse if left unattended. My best wishes to you.


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