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Unusual Behaviors of Gifted Students

By Mayflor Markusic

People have high expectations from gifted and talented students. They are intellectually superior and exceptionally creative. When these gifted children display behavioral problems, many are surprised. How do you discipline gifted children? The first step is to understand their behavior.

Behavioral Problems or Signs of Giftedness?

Some observed behaviors of children may seem socially unacceptable, but these may be signs of their giftedness. For example, when inside a classroom, the gifted students who are not called often in class will display impatience, perhaps shouting out answers and/or questions even when not recognized by the teacher. This impatience is due to their relentless curiosity. Instead of viewing this particular behavior as discourtesy or insolence, teachers might consider ways of redirecting the curiosity of gifted and talented students towards the more complex aspects of the lesson.

Sometimes, when the gifted children are not asking questions and participating in class discussions, they sit back and look bored. They finish their work too quickly (often sloppily) and disturb other students who are at work. This is usually observed when the tasks are repetitive and not intellectually stimulating. Such tasks could lead to more school-related problems. Special education teachers must realize that gifted students learn and memorize information easily and rapidly. This is why many of them are academically successful. But this giftedness makes many school tasks less interesting. It might be helpful to have additional and more complex (not monotonous) tasks ready for these special students.

Other Unexpected Behaviors

The inability to stay on repetitive tasks is just one of the classroom problems that gifted and talented children will display. There are other undesirable behaviors that make disciplining gifted children difficult. For example, gifted children find it burdensome to work in groups. They might be self-motivated to learn lessons but they don't find it easy to interact with classmates who have different opinions. Sometimes, they have the tendency to be domineering over their group mates, compelling others to agree to their own creative and original ideas.

The ability to think independently is also the reason why many gifted students tend to challenge teachers and other figures of authority. A gifted child who questions the teacher's idea can be annoying, but it is not a personal attack. The teacher's idea is simply different or opposed to the idea that the gifted student has formed. It is up to the teacher to introduce the fact that different ideas are not necessarily antagonistic against each other. It is also important to instill the value of cooperation and social responsibility as early as possible.

Gifted and talented students relish challenges and they need only the slightest encouragement to try out new activities. Teachers usually appreciate the enthusiasm of these gifted students. Unfortunately, the students' need for challenges will also make them leave unfinished projects, especially when the most difficult part is already done. Thus, the teachers should emphasize the need for completing projects, assignments, and other activities.

Dealing and disciplining gifted students is, in itself, a challenge. But many special education teachers have successfully dealt with these unusual and often unacceptable behaviors when they consider the giftedness of the students. The behaviors are part of their special needs and should be handled accordingly.