No parent of a gifted child needs to be told about the extra measure of sensitivity, high energy, intensity, and impatience that is their way of experiencing their world.
But some professionals might benefit from viewing those traits as possible signs – not of some mental health pathology – but as unchanneled giftedness.
To be blunt, gifted kids can be more than a handful at home and school. The pace of mainstream life, with its hurry-up-and-wait and this-is-how-things-have-always-been-done attitudes, is not made for them. As a result, children with exceptionally high intelligence, creative ability, or athletic talent may cope with feeling different, bored, and unfulfilled in ways that look very similar to some of these diagnoses:
- ADHD – scattered attention, impulsivity, and inability to sit still
- ODD – strong willed disobediance of requests and rules, ending in power struggles triggered by feeling criticized or restricted
- OCD – urgent inner drive to make things perfect, intolerance of flaws
- Bipolar Disorder – mood swings based in the realization of how their differentness will always set them apart from others, risk-prone behaviors to prove physical prowess
- Learning Disability – kids gifted in art may be terrible at math, high intelligence in math doesn’t necessarily transfer to other realms of learning
- Sleep Disorder – vivid dreams, nightmares, sleepwalking and even bed wetting are common for boys who are gifted
- Communication and Relationship Problems – gifted minds may process language and social cues differently, creating awkward and inappropriate interactions with friends, family, and teachers
On the flip side, gifted children also tend to appreciate being sincerely enlisted in problem solving. If asked, they may well be able to tell you exactly what isn’t working for them and what they need.
If you can see that your pre-teen or adolescent doesn’t respond well to arbitrary, authoritarian rules and discipline, you might try more of a coach-approach to gain their cooperation. Request their input in defining the problem behavior that is unacceptable to you, and ask them to help you explore alternatives that would feel good to them, be effectively sustained, and make use of the talents.
Need more suggestions for parenting your gifted child? I’m here to help.