Characteristics of Gifted
Dominating - Peers and Situations
Advanced Sense of Humor
Perfectionism is a combination of:
the desire to be perfect
the fear of not being perfect
the sense that personal acceptance hinges on perfection
Healthy perfectionism is a healthy characteristic
that drives hard work and accomplishment. Healthy
perfectionists find pleasure in their effort and
Unhealthy perfectionism is a problem. Such self-
analytic, self-judging and compulsive students cannot
appreciate their own competency nor the adequacy of
Signs of Unhealthy
When a student earns an A- and not an A, he/she might feel:
– inadequate, self-critical, weak, ashamed, and doubtful of own ability
Turn in assignments late so that they will be “perfect”
Doesn‟t turn in assignments at all; would rather fail by not trying
rather than fail doing their best
Intolerance of mistakes
Argumentative with instructors
Become sick or resort to cheating in order to have perfect
Fast heart rate and sweaty palms on test day
Constantly feel that more can be done
High achievement yields self-worth while mistakes yield shame
Many Faces of Perfectionism
Freeing our Families from Perfectionism
Behaviors, Thoughts, and Feelings
Super sensitivity to criticism
Compulsive attention to detail
Has difficulties making choices
“I‟m never good enough”
“I‟m only acceptable if I‟m perfect”
“If I make a mistake, there‟s
something wrong with me.”
“If I can‟t do it perfectly, what‟s the
Shame or embarrassment
Perfectionist vs. Healthy Striver
Perfectionist Healthy Striver
Sets standards beyond reach Sets high standards, but just
and reason beyond reach
Is never satisfied by anything Enjoys process as well as
less than perfection outcome
Becomes dysfunctionally Bounces back from failure and
depressed when experiences disappointment quickly and with
failure and disappointment energy
Is preoccupied with fear of Keeps normal anxiety and fear
failure and disapproval --- this of failure and disapproval within
can deplete energy levels bounds --- uses them to create
Sees mistakes as evidence of energy
unworthiness Sees mistakes as opportunities
Becomes overly defensive when for growth and learning
criticized Reacts positively to helpful
learn to ask themselves the following:
1. Is it good enough?
2. What‟s the worst thing that can happen?
3. Will it matter in the long run?
Costs of Perfectionism
Recommendations for Teachers
Learn to recognize perfectionism
Educate yourself regarding how
perfectionism affects gifted students
socially and emotionally
Discuss with students how high
standards motivate excellent work, but
compulsive perfectionism is unhealthy
Use humor to lighten the classroom
atmosphere and reduce any perceived
threat to perfectionistic students
understand that no one is superior
Accept mistakes and reduce their
feelings of failure
Develop a good attitude toward
learning and school
Learn to help others and receive
help from them
Teach students it is about the journey,
not the destination; emphasize the
process not the outcome
Dominating - Peers and Situations
A gifted child processes new information far more quickly than
most children. This means the child may become impatient/bored
waiting for his classmates to master information and skills.
Can you guess what happens when this student gets
impatient/bored? What are some likely behaviors?
Young gifted children have talents beyond their years, but patience
and tact aren‟t necessarily among them. Preferring to chat with you
about new ideas or information with little regard for your other
obligations, a gifted child may seem (and become) demanding.
Has this happened to you?
Frustrated, some gifted children react by becoming:
• class clowns
• challenging authority
• quiet and withdrawn
Dominating – Peers and Situations
Gifted individuals may tend to dominate peers and situations; they are
on cognitive overdrive constantly. They are not afraid to confront
untruths that are disguised as “authority,” they will correct their
teachers, their parents and their friends.
Has this happened to you?
What can you do to encourage this ambitious love of learning, but also,
let him or her know there is a time and a place for everything?
Encourage this ambitious love of learning, but also, let him or her know
there are appropriate and inappropriate times for everything:
• It is better to go to a teacher after class and correct her syntax
privately, rather than to do it in front of 25 other seventh graders.
• The bus ride home is probably not the best time to inform your
classmates about the distinction between a Russian and a Prussian.
• Correcting Dad‟s grammar at the dinner table when he is retelling
his favorite story about growing up in Appalachia may not be
• Hollingworth‟s notion of suffering fools gladly.
How Others See Them
Bossy - because of their
advanced language and
conceptual skills, some gifted
children are highly directive in
their play with others, which is
not always well received by their
Rude/Demanding - their
frustration can lead to anger
and impatience with others.
Argumentative – while their
intensions are not to pick a
fight, gifted children have
insatiable need to know the how
and the why.
Exhausting – their passion for
learning is never ending and
therefore neither are their
Try to see things from the
Give reasons, but don‟t
Give your student some
choices - freedom within
Treat the student with
Don‟t think you have to have
all the answers
Advanced Sense of Humor
Situations full of tension can be handled with humor.
Most gifted children are able to develop a sense of
humor quite early, and are able to focus on
absurdities in situations.
In interpersonal situations, gifted children find
humor to be useful. As one child said, “Where being
smart is handy is when others try to put you down.
You can turn it around and make it a joke.”
I‟ve asked the receptionist to give you this as soon as you get back
from your meeting, so you‟ll know where I am. Mike‟s mom is taking me
home with her. She was the only person available to take me to the
emergency room. My arm isn‟t moving very well because of the
bandages, so I hope you can read this okay. The fireman said the wiring
was very old. You‟ll be glad to know I saved the family album. Fluffy
should be okay, but it doesn‟t look so good for Tigger. Also, my algebra
teacher wants you to give her a call.
P.S. Just kidding! I‟m fine, the house is fine, and Fluffy and Tigger are
fine. I am getting a D- in algebra though. What a relief, huh?
At age 5, a gifted student was trying to assemble a
solar system mobile. The planets and their strings
were not cooperating. Frustrated, the boy rolled his
eyes and sighed, “Now I know how God felt!”
A young child spilled a drink at a restaurant, the
family sponged her off and she laughed, “Guess that‟s
what they mean when they say „The Drink‟s on Me!‟ ”
A 3-year-old asks his mother, "What's a dirty X?"
Not realizing it was a riddle, she said “I don't know.”
He says, "A clean X with snot all over it!"
Gifted Children and Humor
Humor is a valuable tool for handling stress.
Humor is a clear signal that the child is able to
maintain a sense of perspective, and that the
stressful situation really is not “that bad”.
Be cautious about cynical laughter, which covers
anger and disappointment. Though it may seem to
reduce stress, such humor implies nothing can be
done to change a bad situation.
Humor with gifted children must be handled
carefully, particularly at first, as they may think you
are ridiculing or laughing at them.
Model – demonstrate healthy ways of laughing at
Asynchrony and Giftedness
Gifted children experience
discrepancies between their cognitive,
social, emotional, and physical
development. This asynchrony increases
with higher intellectual capacity.
How Adults See Them
Adults, expecting social maturity to match high level
intellectual development, may label a highly articulate,
logical child as a behavior problem when he or she
exhibits an age-appropriate tantrum.
• Gifted children sometimes talk and have interests like adults.
• They also may behave like an adult one moment and be very
childlike the next.
How Age Peers See Them
The following interaction is between a 6-year-old
gifted child and his 7-year-old neighbor, a girl of only
above average ability. He began telling her some
riddles - his current obsession.
– HE: What is Wild Bill Hiccup‟s favorite color?
– SHE: I don‟t know.
– HE: Burple (laughs)
– SHE: (Stares at him, not laughing)
– HE: What did one candle say to the other candle?
– SHE: What?
– HE: Are you going out tonight?
– SHE: (Just looks at him) She also tries to tell him some puns.
He does not find them to be funny at all.
Gifted children may be many years
above chronological age in intellectual
functioning, but depending on the
situation and participants,
social/emotional maturity may vary.
Knowledge vs. wisdom or life experience:
having ability to reason is not the same
as having ability to make a good decision
Asynchrony In Summary . . .
A gifted person is likely to mature
faster in some ways, and slower in
others. In the area of their gifts, they
may be years ahead of their peers,
while simultaneously lagging years
behind in other areas.
. . . extremes of emotions both negative and positive
Ways it can be expressed:
Somatic (bodily) expression: tense stomach, sinking
heart, blushing, flushing
Inhibition: timidity, shyness
Strong affective memory
Fears and anxieties, guilt
Concerns with death, depressive
Strong emotional ties, empathy: attachment to
animals, concern for others
Feelings toward self: self-evaluation and self-
Gifted children can become aware of heavy concerns
– Meaning of life/Meaningless
Existential depression – a depression that arises when
one confronts certain basic issues of existence
Isolation from age peers - peers do not understand
the gifted child‟s point of view and vice versa; this
can lead to anger, which if not dealt with
appropriately can often become depression.
High Levels of Ethical and Moral
Have a rigid concept of right and wrong - this can
be a particular problem for gifted children who
Expect adults to be examples of virtue and
practice what they preach.
When Rorey was 6, he befriended Carl, age 12, who was developmentally
disabled. Other children teased and tormented Carl, especially Todd. Rorey
stood up to these tormentors, though Todd was twice his age and size. This so
surprised Todd that he stopped teasing Carl. When asked why he had helped
Carl, Rorey stated he knew that Carl needed a friend, and it was the right thing
to do to be his friend and defend him. He felt teasing others was wrong. He
never engaged in such behavior himself, even later in the elementary years when
teasing is a game most boys play.
On a shopping expedition, 3-year-old Crissy told her mother that she did not
need any new clothes. She also would not allow her mother to buy her toys even
though her mother had planned several purchases with money Crissy had
recently received from relatives. The only purchase Crissy would allow that day
was a pair of shoes since she had outgrown her old ones. Instead, she wanted the
money to be given to the poor.
At 2 ½, one of Mike‟s classmates was a girl who spent her entire life in a hospital
environment battling cancer. Until that time, she had little contact with children
because of her illness. She was bald from chemotherapy. She was unaware of
social graces and on the very first day, she picked up a marker and began
coloring the front of Mike‟s shirt. The teacher recalled that rather than
reacting in a typical 2-year-old way, Mike gently took her hand and asked, “Do I
look like a piece of paper to you?” He guided her to the table, sat down beside
her and carefully explained, “We draw on paper, not on each other.”
What do these children
have in common?
– High degree of sensitivity to moral
– Empathy for others.
– Moral logic.
High Levels of Ethical and Moral
The pursuit of truth, the drive to know what truth
is, and the need to understand justice/fairness can
supersede awareness of others' needs
The main goal: to do what is “right”
It can be helpful for these children to learn when
truth is important and when feelings count more
Gifted children should learn that direct action is
not always possible – there will be times when one
cannot speak up or prevent an injustice
How You Can Help
Don't minimize their emotions – stay away from
phrases such as "you're too sensitive" or "snap out
of it" or "it'll be OK".
Reassure and validate their feelings - help them
find ways of expressing their intense emotions.
Help students realize that sensitivity does not
Give them responsibility that is age appropriate -
do not shield them from the consequence of their
Teach students how to give back. Find a cause and
use service learning in the classroom.
Strong Beliefs and Opinions
Strong-willed - one whose view of how things should
be is very clear; has a deeply felt need for self-
When working with strong-willed children recognize
both the positives and negatives:
– stubborn and rebellious vs. the potential to make
commitments, and be assertive
For example, Langston Hughes, the black poet,
refused to drop out of high school to support his
family as was expected of him. He did so, not from
selfishness, but from knowledge that he could do
more if he had an education (Meltzer, 1968).
The Big Picture
Three 8-year-olds are sitting side-by-side, watching a production of “Fiddler on
the Roof.” None is fidgeting. All are engaged in the show. The first child enjoys
the music and the dancing, and understands the basic story line. The second
child is deeply aware of the stage lighting and set design choices, is impressed
with how the choreography compliments the score, and laughs out loud when a
character, who is not important to the scene, reaches his finger through his
(empty) glasses rim to scratch his eye. The third child is riveted to the story
throughout, and moved to tears when Tevya announces that his daughter is
“dead” to him, due to her choosing to marry outside of her faith. After the show,
child one is happy, and ready to go out with the group for ice cream. Child two is
willing to go for ice cream, as long as the adults are willing to engage in a
conversation about the stagecraft. Child three feels overwhelmed. This child is
not ready to go out, nor to socialize. Child three is filled with thoughts and
emotions regarding the possibility that choices people make could earn them
ostracism from their family, and, as if that weren‟t enough is also wondering
about how families deal with changing times, and how times will change in this
One‟s intellectual and emotional age is
often not the same as one‟s physical age.
What differences did you notice in the
1. First child
Possible Problems That May be Associated with
Characteristic Strengths of Gifted Children
Strengths Possible Problems
1. Impatient with slowness of
1. Acquires and retains others; dislikes repetition;
information quickly may resist mastering
foundation skills; may make
2. Inquisitive attitude, concepts overly complex
2. Asks embarrassing questions;
intrinsic motivation; strong-willed; resists
searches for significance direction; seems excessive in
interests; expects same of
3. Ability to conceptualize, others
abstract, synthesize; enjoys
3. Rejects or omits details;
problem-solving and resists practice/drill;
intellectual activity questions teaching procedures
4. Enjoys organizing things and 4. Constructs complicated rules
people into structure or systems; may be seen as
bossy, rude, or dominating
5. Thinks critically; has high 5. Critical or intolerant toward
expectations; is self-critical others; may become
and evaluates others discouraged or depressed;
What can schools do?
Understand that a child‟s social and emotional development is an
integral part of his or her educational experience. Much of the
growth in healthy self-concept is tied to an appropriately
challenging curriculum: a good fit in pace, depth, concept, and
with a group of mental peers with whom the child can work.
Build a positive partnership between parents and educators –
communication is essential for the mutual sharing of information.
Help parents and teachers model appropriate communication:
– Basic social skills
– Take perspective
– Defuse anger
– Stress management
– Setting priorities and realistic goals