Gifted Children Who Think They Are Little Adults

And What to Do With Them

Boy wearing hat and holding a fake mustache to his face
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We’ve all heard of child-like adults, adults who have the heart and spirit of children. Gifted kids are the opposite; they are adult-like children, who often seem to think and act like adults. More importantly, they sometimes feel like adults. This feeling can lead to frustration for both the gifted child and the adults around them.

Frustration of Gifted Children:

Because they see themselves as adults, gifted children may expect to be treated like adults.

They can feel insulted if they are not asked for their opinion or if they are not allowed to make their own decisions. However, no matter how intelligent these children are, they are still children and simply don’t have the kind of life experience and understanding to make the kinds of decisions they often want to make. A three-year-old, for example, cannot be expected to make decisions that could affect their future, nor should they be expected to make decisions involving the running of the household.

Unfortunately, these children don’t have the kind of maturity it takes to even know that they don’t have all the knowledge and understanding that making some decisions requires. Many gifted children also have a strong sense of right and wrong and believe that being treated as less than an adult is grossly unfair.

Their frustration can lead to a number of behavior problems. They can get angry or rude, and even become bossy and demanding.

Frustration of Adults

Parents of gifted children who feel as though they should be treated as adults also feel frustrated. They feel like life is one constant battle, as they find themselves continually arguing with their children over rules and decisions. They are constantly asked to justify their reasons to their child who is always asking why he should have to do something he doesn’t want to do or not be able to do something he does want to do.

The parents are worn out by temper tantrums and other emotional outbursts. They may begin to see their child as emotionally immature, a view that is often supported by teachers’ comments.

How to Handle It

  1. Try to See Things From Your Child’s Perspective
    These kids see themselves as adults and may genuinely not understand why they are being treated as children. It doesn’t mean you need to treat them as adults, but it does mean they should be treated with respect. Nothing will upset these children more than a condescending or patronizing attitude.
  2. Give Reasons, But Don’t Debate
    If your child needs the reasons behind rules, requests, and denials, then by all means give them the reasons. Sometimes that’s all they want to know. However, don’t fall into the trap of debating with your son or daughter. Gifted children can be excellent debaters, even the very young ones, and parents often find themselves caught in something like a courtroom debate. (See Little Lawyers and How (Not) to Argue with a Gifted Child) It is still important for children to know that the parents have the ultimate say in what happens in the home.
  1. Give Your Child Some Choices
    Consider the possibility that these gifted children need to feel as though they have some control over their lives. Children are constantly being told what they can and can’t do. Try giving them some control. Let them make some decisions, but limit the decisions they make so that you still maintain control of the household. For example, you might ask your daughter if she wants her peanut butter sandwich plain or with jelly. You might ask your son if he wants to clean his room before or after dinner.
  2. Treat Your Child With Respect
    Even though your child can’t make major decisions, he or she can certainly be allowed to express an opinion and that opinion should be listened to respectfully. Listening to an opinion does not require you to agree with it and it’s important that your child understand that from the beginning.

Life with a gifted child is not always easy, but it can be made easier when parents understand their gifted children and what lies behind their children’s behavior.

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