Gifted children are often seen as little adults. Popular wisdom states that they will flourish if left to their own devices. Because their minds are so highly developed, teachers and parents often expect them to act as models of good behavior. Yet aggression is not uncommon in the gifted child. As with any child, if a gifted kid’s needs are not being met, frustration and acting out often occur.
Gifted kids are not intellectually challenged or engaged in the average age-normed classroom. Many feel unmotivated to complete projects that they see as time-wasters, and they often resent attempts to cast them as project leaders or teachers for less-capable peers. As your child spends time in an unchallenging environment, he might grow increasingly bored and frustrated. As these feelings escalate, aggression is a common result.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, gifted children are often perfectionists. They set impossibly high standards for themselves and perceive anything less than flawless performance as a failure. Some perfectionists withdraw, refusing to attempt any activity that carries a risk of failure. Others are willing to take on the challenge, but become angry and resentful when they fail. Aggressive behavior is an outlet for these feelings.
The Colorado Department of Education also points out that gifted children are often ostracized for their differences. They have trouble forming peer bonds with other kids their age, and are at risk for harassment or bullying. Many gifted children are introverted, while others lack the social awareness necessary to build bridges across the chasm of differing interests and intelligence. While some gifted kids internalize their social difficulties, becoming anxious and depressed, others turn their feelings outward. Gifted children who feel rejected might compensate by becoming aggressive.
One of the biggest misconceptions about gifted children is that they are consistently more mature and easier to teach than their peers, according to “Psychology Today” writer Lisa Rivero. In reality, most gifted children develop asynchronously. This means that while your child might be years ahead of her peers in some areas, she might lag behind them in others. For example, she might be able to solve complex mathematical equations in her head, but struggle to manage her emotions at an age-appropriate level. Some gifted kids have a secondary diagnosis such as Asperger’s Syndrome or Attention Deficit Disorder, but even those who do not meet clinical diagnostic criteria often struggle with inappropriate behaviors.
As with all children with special needs, gifted children require individualized assistance. Build a team that includes your child’s teacher, the school’s special education department, and outside professionals such as a therapist. Develop an action plan for managing both her educational and behavioral challenges. Become an advocate for your child, working with all of her team members to find creative solutions that meet her needs.