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Acting Out Behaviors of Gifted Kids in Class

by Jennifer Brozak

Gifted children often have obvious indications that they possess extraordinary innate abilities. For instance, they may have a highly developed vocabulary, be able to follow complex directives at an early age, easily participate in adult conversations, have a high activity level and ask a copious number of questions. When formally assessed, they typically have IQs of 130 or higher. However, the same qualities that enable gifted children to learn quickly can sometimes cause them to “act out” in the classroom, leading to behavior problems that parents must address.

Easily Frustrated

Many gifted children have high levels of self-confidence. The high IQs of gifted children can cause them to challenge rules – or information -- that other children would accept without question, according to "Psychology Today." As a result, gifted children can become easily frustrated, especially if these rules seem illogical or random and, they might become hostile or disobedient toward authority figures. Likewise, their denser neural connections cause them to think and talk fast, leading them to become frustrated when others can't understand them. Moreover, some gifted children also have ADHD, which, in turn, can affect their fine-motor skills, especially when it comes to handwriting. Their inability to write legibly or neatly can cause them to become easily frustrated.

Restlessness

To feel academically stimulated, gifted children may require assignments that are more complex and stimulating than assignments teachers have given to their peers. If the school program is not challenging the intellect of a gifted child, he might become restless or bored in class, which could lead to behavior problems. These behavior problems could include talking or moving around in class or handing in incomplete or sloppy assignments. While teachers can mislabel these behaviors as distracted or ADHD, in a gifted child, these behaviors are likely the result of an environment that lacks stimulation.

Socially Awkward

A child’s giftedness can also cause him to have difficulty working in groups or maintaining peer relationships in class. Because of their unique passions and interests, high intellect and heightened sense of self, they may become the targets of bullies, which can cause them to avoid “real” friendships or relationships with their peers. If you or your child’s teacher has expressed concerned about his lack of interaction with classmates, consider arranging opportunities for him to meet potential friends by attending events specifically for gifted children. You also can try teaching him, very plainly, about social skills such as eye contact and personal space – and, of course, you can always seek help from his teacher or guidance counselor.

Introverted

Introversion may seem like the opposite of an “acting out” behavior. However, in the classroom, gifted students who are extremely introverted can face a number of challenges that relate closely to other problem behaviors. According to SENG.org (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), gifted children often need to pull back and recharge, and this apparent introversion can cause them to refuse to cooperate with group work or make them hesitant to participate in class discussions. As a result, gifted children can appear withdrawn, uncooperative, timid or narcissistic. If your doctor or school has identified your child as gifted, his school should provide a gifted individualized education plan (GIEP) that will likely include recommendations for remedying these types of problem behaviors.

About the Author

As a mother, wife and recovering English teacher, Jennifer Brozak is passionate about all things parenting and education. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and St. Vincent College, Jennifer writes features for the IN Community magazine network and shares her daily escapades on her blog, One Committed Mama.

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