Gifted Children

Genius Behavior in Children

High Standards and Big Visions

Genius children see the complexity and potential in a project other kids might miss. They can also be perfectionists, notes Gifted Canada, an organization dedicated to identifying and supporting gifted children. The result can be directing or bossing other children while playing. Unfortunately constantly critiquing and directing their peers, in highly descriptive and advanced vocabulary, can lead to strained peer relationships. On the other hand, in some circles, other kids may seek genius children for authority and leadership during a particularly challenging task.

Intense Concentration

Genius children have unusually high concentration abilities, although Gifted Canada notes that such focus usually only applies to activities of their choosing. It's not uncommon for a genius child to spend hours building an intricate block tower or train set in an almost trance-like state that leaves him unresponsive to you calling his name or asking him a question. And, when you do tap him on the shoulder for dinner, there's a good chance he'll resist leaving his project.

Imaginative Abilities

Not only do genius children see endless possibilities to a single scenario, but they're also highly aware of details and complexity, which supports their extraordinary imagination. A genius child may spend significant time daydreaming, fantasizing or creating by himself while his peers are off playing a cooperative, but less complex or imaginative, game. Because his abilities is much greater than his peers, the Davidson Institute of Talent Development, reports that 37 percent of profoundly gifted children have imaginary friends. What's more, genius children will describe these imaginary playmates and experiences in vivid, passionate detail.

Curiosity-Driven Activities

Unlike other children his age, by the time he enters grade school, a genius child is more likely to read and prefer factual books, rather than fictitious or fanciful stories. For example, he may prefer to read an entire book on ancient Egypt or alligators. His endless curiosity motivates his choice of activity, whether it's taking apart an old camera or constructing an intricate set of pathways around a sand castle to assess the flow of water, he wants to know why and how.

Social Behavior of a Gifted Child

Enjoys Leadership Roles

A gifted child might be ready for independence and leadership roles at an earlier age than his peers, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national nonprofit organization that supports gifted students. This is perhaps a result of frustration with his less-gifted peers when they are not performing to his standards. Perhaps his fellow preschoolers would rather play with the cards and game figures than follow the actual rules of Candy Land, upsetting the gifted child who knows how the game should be played. This knowledge and resulting frustration can lead to bossiness, if not handled properly.

Peer Relationships

A gifted child will likely have several peer groups because his own interests are so varied, according to an article at A gifted child might prefer older children who are more at his level of intelligence and abilities. Many gifted youngsters also prefer to be alone and surround themselves with imaginary friends. While an imaginary friend or two is common in childhood, a gifted child might have many imaginary friends and pets.

Empathy and Fairness

Linda K. Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center, says that gifted children are morally sensitive and might become anxious about global issues. This sensitivity comes from a deeper understanding about what the consequences of immoral actions might be. This sensitivity often affects relationships -- gifted children tend to be concerned about fairness and might be especially empathetic toward peers.


A gifted child might also be the popular kid in class -- especially if he is a boy, according to an article at This might be because a gifted child is more likely to be a strong and confident leader -- unafraid of risks and challenges, which causes others to look up to him. A gifted child's tendency toward competitiveness and his empathy for others also lead him to become involved in many activities, which allow him to develop a wider variety of friendships.

Is It Normal for Gifted Teens to Underperform in School?

Possible Reasons for Underachievement

Gifted teens underperform for a variety of reasons. By this age, many have recognized that a social stigma can be attached to displays of intelligence. By downplaying their abilities -- even to the point of underachieving -- they are able to fit in better socially. Some teens are bored by the activities in class, according to New Haven, a school for girls. They might already know the material or not see the point in completing activities they feel are a waste of time.

Struggling Academically

In high school, course work starts to get more difficult. A gifted teen might lack study skills because earlier school work always came easily. Now that he has to do practice problems or homework assignments, he's finding himself at a loss. Gifted teens aren't gifted in all areas. A teen who's mathematically gifted might struggle in a language or history class, while a talented writer might struggle with mathematical concepts. "Gifted" means that the teen has a brain that works differently from other students. It doesn't mean that he'll do everything right.

Stealth Dyslexia

Gifted teens might suffer from learning disabilities. According to an article on the website for the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, gifted children can sometimes hide learning disabilities through their higher intelligence. For example, the teen might have sailed through to this point by listening to a teacher reading or discussing a book, but now struggles because he has to read the books himself. If you suspect that this is the problem with your child, get him tested so that he can receive the educational support he needs.


In many cases, the problems of underachievement in gifted teens can be solved by differentiated education. Unfortunately, with school budgets being what they are, specialized programs don't always exist or are simply inadequate. If you're concerned about your child's performance, check with the school to see whether other resources are available. Other schools in your district might have better opportunities for her, so you might consider a transfer. Homeschooling might also be an option if you think your teen would be more motivated while studying at the right level.

How Gifted Preschoolers Handle Kindergarten

Asynchronous Development

According to the group Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted, gifted children often face asynchronous development. Your kindergartner may be 5 years old chronologically, but he might also be doing math at the fifth-grade level, yet respond emotionally at a 3-year-old level. This disparity can make it difficult to cope in the classroom, particularly when it comes to finding friends. The gifted child may have a hard time finding classmates who share interests. This phenomena is more pronounced in highly gifted children, though. If your child does not show significant asynchronous development, he may have a great time in kindergarten.

Boredom and Acting Out

Boredom in school is a common challenge for gifted children. When your child already knows how to read, for example, it's painful to sit through a phonics lesson day after day. In some cases, boredom can lead to acting out in the classroom. She might be a distraction to others in the classroom because she's looking for someone to play with, or she might pester the teacher with questions that seem off topic. If your child isn't well behaved, the teacher may question her giftedness or label her as a troublemaker, creating a spiral effect where her behavior becomes worse.


If the teacher 'gets it,' she'll be able to differentiate the curriculum in order to provide your child with the challenges he needs. For example, your child may be able to go into a different classroom for part of the day to receive instruction on his level, while still spending most of the day in the kindergarten classroom, where he can work on social or fine motor skills. Alternatively, she may be able to give him more difficult work to do while she takes care of other students. If your child has this type of differentiation available, he's likely to be successful in kindergarten.


Ultimately, the way your gifted child will deal with the kindergarten classroom depends on several factors. Though it's tempting to look for a highly academic kindergarten program, it's actually better to look for one that focuses on growth through play, according to, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She'll also probably thrive in an environment where the teacher is understanding of her unique needs and won't try to force her into inappropriate learning styles.

What Do Spatially Gifted Children Do?

Build Things and Take Them Apart

Spatially gifted children tend to gravitate toward toys that allow them to build things, according to an article in Gifted Child Today. Classic blocks, stackable blocks, connectible blocks and log-type blocks are all open-ended activities that he might enjoy playing. Often, he will be able to build complex structures without the aid of step-by-step instructions. In fact, instructions may hinder his ability to build. On the flip side, he might also enjoy taking things apart to see how they work. Fortunately, his talents usually allow him to put the object back together in the proper order when he is finished.

Think in Pictures

According to an article in The New Zealand Association for Gifted Children's "Tall Poppies" magazine, spatially gifted children tend to think in pictures rather than words. These pictures can be static, or like a movie. This can make it difficult for the child to express ideas through words, either spoken or written, as she has to "translate" the pictures in her head into words that others can understand. Likewise, it is difficult for the child to learn from a lecture, because she must translate the speaker's words into pictures.

Understand the Whole

Spatially gifted children tend to understand whole concepts more quickly than they can understand individual steps. For example, they might understand abstract mathematical concepts, yet struggle to do simple addition. They can sometimes arrive at the answer without thinking through all the steps or "showing their work," which can frustrate teachers. In many cases, once a spatially gifted child understands where information is leading them to, they can easily grasp the in-between steps. For example, if you were teaching him how to make an origami flower, it would be best to start by showing a finished example and then move on to the specific steps, although he might know how to make the flower without learning your steps.

Struggle in School

Sadly, it is common for spatially gifted children to underachieve in school, according to a study in the American Educational Research Journal. Most schools teach subject matter in a sequential way, which visual-spatial learners find hard to understand. A gifted spatial child may also have learning disabilities that she compensates for with her intelligence, making her seem just average, when she could use with both extra intellectual stimulation and support for the disability. Spatially gifted children learn better when they have visual elements to learn from and when they understand the concept as a whole.

How to Motivate a High IQ Child

Give your child choices when it comes to his education. While some high-IQ kids might thrive in specialty classrooms or require skipping a grade, others might prefer to learn among their peers. Either way, soliciting your child's opinion on education-related decisions can give him a chance to become engaged and involved in his own learning.

Help your child set long- and short-term goals concerning educational and personal achievement, suggests the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Helping your child choose goals and create an action plan can give your high-IQ child something challenging to work toward, helping to motivate his actions, whether in the classroom or on a personal scale.

Measure your child's success in a tangible way and then offer specific praise for his effort, suggests the Duke Digest of Gifted Research. You could track grades, create testing or even videotape your child doing something and then compare it to older material to show him the difference that effort can make. Then, offer praise that focuses on that effort, rather than his natural abilities. Instead of "You're so smart!" try, "I can see that you put a lot of extra effort into that science project. I'm proud of how far you've come."

Talk to your child's teacher about alternative curriculum and learning opportunities. There are often action plans created for children who aren't being challenged by the current curriculum and may include leaving class for extra courses, being moved up a grade or arranging for your child to tutor others, notes the National Association for Gifted Children. By challenging your child, you help him work harder and feel more motivated to succeed.

Provide learning opportunities for your child outside of the classroom. Taking a trip to the local museum, signing up for online courses or even utilizing learning computer software and games can give your high-IQ child something to look forward to and a way to express and explore himself intellectually.