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Gifted Children and Curiosity

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Our oldest son is what I call my "high-needs child." I'm wondering if any of his behavior is indicative of high intelligence or if you have ideas on how his brain is working.

He's 5 years old and EXTREMELY inquisitive. He asks questions like no one I've ever met, and we've heard the same from the daycare and from our sitter. He's super-sensitive. He's always been fast at picking up on things (early walker, talker, knew colors, numbers, etc. early), but what stands out about him is the constant questions and the way he mulls over things. I've even had theological discussions with him about heaven and transformed bodies and death and resurrection and who-knows-what else.

It gets to a point where my husband and I are just tired of being questioned all the time. And it's not about minor things like "why is the sky blue?" It'll be something really bizarre. Like we were watching "Master and Commander," and our son became very interested in the medical scenes, how there was no medicine during surgery and the sailors could feel everything. We had days worth of dialogue over the state of medicine in the late 18th Century.

I'm just wondering if this characteristic is anything you've seen before. He stands out so much in that respect.

His younger sister is much different, and I often wonder if she might be the gifted one (very imaginative, quieter, long attention span, makes such unique observations and comparisons), but at least I can figure her out. Our oldest son has left me confused (and exhausted!). Any advice?

A: Gifted children come in many types - a diverse group with many different exceptional gifts and talents; e.g., mathematics, language skills, music, sports, etc. Whatever form their gifts may take, gifted children are passionate about their interests once they discover them. They are known to focus tremendous energy on the topics that absorb them, often to the exclusion of other activities. From your description, I believe that you son is gifted, and I have worked with some gifted children who resemble your son. It is hard to tell if your daughter is gifted since there is minimal information.

A distinct characteristic among the gifted is curiosity. Gifted children are driven to explore their world, to know it and to categorize it. Therefore, questioning, a skill that many gifted children possess is used to satisfy their curiosity. You will note that the types of questions asked are of a different level, not the ones asked commonly by his peers. The ability to ask such questions is a gift in itself. As parents/teachers, we need to feed them with the necessary information. Otherwise, they will be left puzzled and very dissatisfied – and this dissatisfaction can be manifested in negative ways.

In fact, you need to work on this skill to make sure he is getting what he needs. A gifted child would want to know something about everything and the younger they are; the more they would be dependent on you. You may want to set some boundaries as endless questioning can take a toll on your energy and may not be fair to other people in the house.

I would suggest some strategies to deal with his questions. Firstly, when he asks he anything, ask him back to gauge how much he knows and help him find out. Ask open questions like “what do you think”, “how come”, etc that will stimulate his imagination. Remember, the answers need not be correct all the time. This will help him get into the habit of thinking out his questions which is very useful. Reading is an excellent way to find answers and you will find that to feed his curiosity, he will learn to read faster! The internet is a great source as well. You can look up stuff he asks on the internet. As parents, we'll have to face the fact that these days, children absorb so much more – more than adults! Make sure you have encyclopedia, thesaurus and other reading materials to enable him to look up anything he may not be sure of. This is also a skill he can learn early.

If you want to know his strengths and weaknesses, you can test his intelligence using a reliable and reputable test. Interpretation by a qualified psychologist may even help you determine his learning journey at this stage. What ever you do, keep answering those questions! Good luck in your journey!


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