Gifted and creative children often have behavioral problems in school which resemble ADHD, ODD, or other disorders. Sadly, many of these children are reprimanded, medicated, and denied the ability to reach their full potential. When this happens, our entire society suffers. Imagine if Einstein, Churchill, Edison, and other great thinkers who struggled in school were held back and forced to be ordinary. What if we had labeled them as slow learners and medicated them? How might the world be different today?
I wonder why we assume children who misbehave are unintelligent. For some reason we’ve adopted this thinking in the public school system. We seem to believe that a child who does everything she’s told is smarter than one who questions and resists. We’re rewarding the compliant children and overlooking the free-thinking children who want to explore learning in unique ways. I’m not suggesting that children shouldn’t be taught to be respectful towards others. But when we require children to be the same, like robots… turning in identical worksheets, sitting in neat rows, and writing out problems the same way, we are not encouraging genius.
Here are ten characteristics of a gifted child, according to the National Foundation of Gifted and Creative Children (NFGCC). The child needn’t have all ten symptoms, but you will likely observe many:
- Cannot stay focused on a topic which is uninteresting to him. Is restless and fidgets.
- Hates making mistakes and gets mad at herself. She wants to be perfect. May “give up” and refuse to do work.
- Is very sensitive and compassionate and worries about people dying or has anxieties about world problems.
- Likes to explore and examine things very carefully. May take things apart or want to see things from an unusual angle. Resists memorizing facts and figures but prefers to understand the deeper meaning behind them.
- Is opinionated and might be rebellious toward adult authority. Rather than be blindly obedient, the child may frequently question how things are being done and imply that they could be done better a different way.
- Typically excells in math and reading, but prefers to do problems his own way or has unique interpretations. He may demonstrate a remarkable ability to solve problems, answers questions in thought-provoking ways, or shows unusual talent with art or music.
- Has high amounts of energy, and may have difficulty sleeping because she’s worried or thinking about things.
- Needs the adults around her to be stable and secure to function well.
- Is easily frustrated when his unusual ideas are misunderstood, or when there are not adequate resources to implement them.
- Sees herself as strange or different from everyone else. She may purposely choose to sacrifice her creativity in order to fit in, or else might withdraw completely and seem to have few friends.
What can I do if I believe my child is gifted?
- Contact the National Foundation for Gifted and Creative Children (NFGCC). Explore an alternate (i.e. private school or home) school setting for your child, where there’s more creative freedom and an open-minded approach to learning.
- Be careful not to be too critical of your child’s schoolwork, because criticism tends to shut these kids down.
- Don’t give false, exaggerated praise, because these kids see right through it and feel patronized or pressure. Instead of saying, “Wow, honey, that’s fantastic. You’re amazing,” show real interest in your child’s work. Ask questions about it. Take a while to really ponder it and discuss it. This kind of response is extremely encouraging and stimulating to your gifted son or daughter.
- Give him or her plenty of exposure to all kinds of stimulating environments. Go on family field trips, visit libraries, museums, etc. Follow your child’s lead. What things interest him? Would a wildlife preserve kindle your child’s interest in ecology? Would a botanical garden trip inspire her interest in plant life? What about concerts? Plays? Art exhibits? This child needs lots of interesting experiences to draw from.
- Don’t forget your son or daughter is still a child, and needs down time, too. Don’t drive him or her to produce, and don’t nag. Stand back and give gentle encouragement. Allow recreation time so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here.