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Misbehaving Gifted Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: What can a teacher do to avoid a gifted learner from misbehaving and give examples?

A: When a gifted child starts misbehaving, adults need to find out the reason and understand the thin line of difference when dealing with this child compared to one with average abilities. This also really depends on the age group of the child. Since the information given is limited, I would give a general view.

First and foremost, as an educator, you would need to find out why your student is misbehaving. Often, the main reason for misbehaving for a gifted learner is boredom rather than seeking attention, which is generally the case for most children. When this happens, the environment may be wrong for the child. You may want to investigate what is going on in your classroom that does not fit the learning, emotional and personality needs of the student. Is this student behaving the same way in other classes as well? These behaviors may continue if the student is not given appropriate instruction that is deep and paced right for her/him.

You may also want to determine if the student is really misbehaving or if there is a misunderstanding of what normal gifted learners do. Sometimes, just because of their advanced capabilities (usually in the cognitive domain), we assume that they are adults and expect a certain kind of behavior which is more mature and more compliant than their peers. But that does not mean that they do not act like kids sometimes and make bad choices. In reality, gifted students are more apt to perceive the arbitrary nature of some rules and resent what they see as totalitarian authority. That is why you may need to explain this to them, and also ways to get themselves heard without them having to be rude or threatening.

A teacher should always listen, observe, interact, and learn from their students. Your job as an adult is to help students communicate their feelings and guide them toward a positive resolution of the problem. The following website may be general but I believe rather useful for teachers: DisciplineHelp.


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