Why Gifted Children Have Social and Emotional Behavior Problems

Perfectionism and sensitivity may put them at risk

Bullied young girl.
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The characteristics gifted children have often lead to social and emotional behavior problems that can affect their development. To understand your gifted child completely, it's a good idea to see how your child's giftedness can influence his behavior.

Problems Resulting From Asynchronous Development

  1. Gifted children can intellectually understand abstract concepts but may be unable to deal with those concepts emotionally, leading to intense concerns about death, the future, sex, and other such issues.
     
  1. Gifted children's physical development may lead to an inability to complete a task they are capable of intellectually envisioning. (Perfectionism may play a role in this frustration as well.)
     
  2. A gifted child may be able to participate in adult conversations about issues such as global warming or world hunger one minute and the next minute cry and whine because a sibling took a favorite toy.

One Solution: Dealing with Asynchronous Development

Problems Resulting From Advanced Verbal and Reasoning Ability

  1. Gifted children can be argumentative and/or manipulative. (Adults often remark that these children are little lawyers!) Parents and other adults need to remember that, although credit should be given for logical and convincing arguments, a child is still a child and requires appropriate discipline, no matter how clever or cute the behavior may look. Children who see that they can manipulate adults can feel very insecure.
     
  1. Gifted children can be manipulative. (Parents and other adults need to take care that they don't allow this manipulation.)
     
  2. A gifted child may try to outsmart parents and teachers.
     
  3. Sophisticated vocabulary and advanced sense of humor can cause gifted children to be misunderstood, which can make them feel inferior and rejected. (This is one reason gifted children prefer to be around older children and adults.)

    One Solution: How (Not) to Argue With Gifted Children

    Problems Resulting From Perfectionism and Emotional Sensitivities

    1. Perfectionism can lead to fear of failure, in turn causing a gifted child to avoid failure by refusing to even try something (including doing a homework assignment!).
       
    2. Keen observation, imagination and ability to see beyond the obvious can cause a gifted child to appear shy, holding back in new situations in order to consider all the implications.
       
    3. A gifted child may require full details before answering questions or offering help, making him or her appear socially shy.
       
    4. Intense sensitivity can cause gifted children to take criticism, or even general anger, very personally. Childhood slights do not roll off their backs.
       
    5. Sensitivity and well-developed sense of right and wrong can lead to concern over wars, starving children, pollution and other injustice and violence. If they are overloaded with images and discussions of these issues, they can become introverted and withdrawn or even suffer from "existential depression.”

      One Solution: Helping Gifted Children Cope with Intense Emotions

      Virtually all the characteristics of giftedness can make gifted children feel “different,” even at a very early age. It's important, therefore, to get them together with children like them and with people who understand them.

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