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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The challenge of gifted children in preschool settings

(This is an article I wrote for an online childcare site to help preschool teachers- but it has much in it to help you identify and cope with a gifted child too. Let me know in the comments if you'd like a copy with the footnotes and references. -Aunt Annie)

Gifted children, those who have advanced intellectual development beyond their years, generally 'draw the short straw' in our schools. There is plenty of information around about the integration of special needs children into our early childhood classrooms, but when I talk to early childhood teachers (and for that matter, to many parents) about catering for gifted and talented children, I find that most people question the need for any special program- and I am sometimes met with open hostility. Gifted children, I'm told, will be okay; they don't need help from us. They'll manage because they're clever. We should focus funding and attention on those who can't keep up.

Perhaps you agree. But gifted children have special needs of their own, and if those needs are ignored, they (and everyone associated with them) will have a hard time.



Consider these questions:

1. Is it okay to put a small child's intellectual development on hold until the rest of the class catches up?

2. Is it okay to let a small child in your care remain unstimulated until she becomes withdrawn or disruptive?

3. Is it okay to let a small child in your care remain socially isolated, without any meaningful relationship with either his peers or his teacher?

I hope your answers to these questions were, at the very least,

1. Umm, not sure, let me check my textbook...

2. Well no, but sometimes it's hard to please everybody...

3. NO!

If you didn't answer NO! to question 3, go find another job. But the answers to questions 1 and 2 are also NO!, and I'd like to explain why. Hopefully I can give you some help in recognising, understanding and assisting the gifted children in your room.


Finding the Gifted Child

Look around your classroom. Which of 'your' children do you think might become a leader of their generation, a politician or an environmentalist or a ground-breaking performing artist? Which might become an inventor of something wonderful, something that future generations think of as indispensable, like the computer or the mobile phone? Which one has the potential to become a mastermind of fraud or a corporate criminal if not gently guided towards something constructive? Those kids are out there somewhere. Are they in your room? There's probably at least one with some sort of gift or talent.

You need to know the signs, and let me tell you, the signs are not always something to celebrate- sometimes they're a darn nuisance. These kids are going to make more work for you, one way or another. Maybe they're already making your life a misery and you're at your wit's end trying to deal with them. Or maybe they're just putting up with their boredom quietly, and tuning you out.

You ignore them at your peril. My gifted 4-year-old son was bored enough on his first day of kindergarten to work out that the teacher didn't know all the children's names, so he quietly swapped all the name tags around on the desks. You have been warned. Creative naughtiness is just one possible outcome of ignoring a gifted child's needs.

If you're smart, you'll learn to work with them and for them, to let them help you while you help them, to bring out their charm and to celebrate and encourage their abilities- instead of resenting them for their difference, or just hoping they'll go away and not bother you with their weird questions.

Stories You Might Recognise

Here are some true stories of children I've identified as gifted.

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Bryce, aged nearly 3, refuses to lie on his bed and sometimes has screaming tantrums at rest time. When staff try to comfort him he pushes them away and screams louder.

He loves books about animals, constantly returns to the plastic zoo animals and can play with them by himself for the whole free play session.

In the playground he follows the older boys around, and sometimes I catch them pushing him and swearing at him.

When I make a little joke with the children, he's the first to laugh. When I ask the children simple questions about colours and numbers, he shouts out the answer before anyone else can even think. He even points out mistakes sometimes, like that the Great White Shark is grey, not white.

When he's in family grouping in the preschool room, he pesters the staff constantly to use the computer and will sit at it quietly for as long as we let him, working through the activities designed for 5-year-olds.

The staff sometimes think he'd fit in better in the preschool room, but physically he's still falling over his own feet- and anyway, he's too young according to our promotion standards.

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Bryce is showing some tell-tale signs of giftedness:

He needs less sleep than other children his age.

Gifted children often don't sleep during the daytime. They really, truly can't understand why you're trying to make them lie down and close their eyes- their brain is still going full bore, they're NOT tired, and they feel like they're wasting time when they could be doing something INTERESTING.

They won't come to harm from sleeping less than the other children, and you may be making their mum's life a misery if you actually do get them off to sleep, because they'll probably be up half the night. Hand them some interesting books (preferably about their current obsession); let them write or draw or do puzzles (the hardest ones! -or mix two or three puzzles up together and let them sort them out); put them in a quiet corner somewhat away from the sleepers, and ask them to be quiet because the other children need to sleep so their bodies stay strong and healthy and have time to grow.

Did you notice that I suggested you give a reason? Gifted children respond to logic much earlier than their peers, and they may demand reasons for absolutely everything. "Because I'm the teacher" just won't cut it with them. Some simple explanation of the functions of rest ("It helps stop your skin from looking wrinkly, so if you want to look like a princess it's a good idea to get your beauty sleep!" or "Your body grows when you're resting, so it helps to make you bigger and stronger") will sometimes encourage them to at least sit down.

He has an obsession, and an eye for detail. He doesn't care much about the company of his peers, but he seeks out older kids and he's desperate for your recognition and praise.

Gifted children often get fixated on an interest, to a point where they become little professors about it. Other children may show interest in the same thing, but not to the same extent. For example, most little boys love Thomas the Tank Engine, but my own 5-year-old went on from there and became obsessed with steam trains to the point where he wanted to talk endlessly with the other children, and with his caring adults, about the wheel configuration of different locomotives. (You can imagine how that went down with his peer group.)

These obsessions, the accompanying advanced vocabulary these children acquire, and the huge gulf between the complexity of their thought processes and those of their peers, together can create huge social problems for gifted children. They can become extremely isolated, with no allies at all in the childcare environment. They are different, and they can easily become the target for bullies- especially if they seek out older children in the hope of finding more equal verbal skills.

When I talk about bullies, I'm sad to say that I often see gifted children being bullied by staff as well as by their peers, often because their different needs are inconvenient ("go to sleep or I'll put you in the babies' room, I have to do this paperwork!" is a mild version of this).

The time spent playing alone as a result of this gulf in interests, needs and verbal ability, and the associated lack of feeling loved and cared for outside of home, often leaves them somewhat socially inept. Their intellectual skills far outstrip their ability to interact with the rest of their peer group, let alone with threatened or irritated adults.

Compounding this, they're often like only children, more used to talking to and relating to adults than to children their age. They really, really don't understand what they're doing in a room full of 'babies', and can feel persecuted by being left in care. They can become withdrawn and miserable, or they can use social referencing to become the class clown or the class thug by watching what more popular or 'outstanding' children do to get attention.

Is this what you want for them? Of course not. They need your help, just as much as the globally delayed child, the autistic child, the physically challenged child. If they're going to reach their potential and become those leaders of the next generation, they need to grow up with understanding (and without a monumental chip on their tiny shoulder).

Encourage their obsessions. Try to draw them out in group time with questions that let them express what's important to them. Make up a harder question to ask them in group time, one that makes them think.

Offer them open-ended craft activities, puzzles and books which fit in with that interest, but that allow them to go a bit further than their peers; for example, a robot-making activity using cardboard boxes, masking tape and pipe cleaners might produce very interesting results from a robot-obsessed gifted child.

Praise them when they do things well or show you what they know.

Spend some one-to-one time with them doing things above their age-appropriate level, while the other children sleep.

Talk to them at a higher level, use bigger words and more advanced concepts. Never, never, never talk down to them, and leave the fake 'talking to children' voice at home- they will pick you as patronising them (long before they know what that word means) and tune you out.

He has an advanced (and sometimes wacky) sense of humour and a great vocabulary.

Gifted children will 'get' your jokes, and will sometimes make rather advanced jokes of their own. They love the ridiculous, because they can understand when something doesn't make sense or is out of context. Some are early masters of the pun; my son at about 3 years of age drew a boat shape sitting on top of a capital C, and told me that it was 'a boat on the sea, mummy'.

Naturally, this implies that the gifted child has excellent language skills, and just talking to a child using open-ended questions will reveal giftedness very quickly. Sometimes you don't even have to talk- just listen.

A little boy who had just turned 2 came to us on his first day, and I overheard him playing on the climbing frame saying to himself "Here's the house. Up the stairs- climb the ladder." To have two words for this apparatus, 'stairs' and 'ladder', in his vocabulary at 24 months was a big hint that he was gifted. He was also creating and expressing a play fantasy in what would have been age-appropriate language for a 5-year-old.

If you can adapt your teaching vocabulary to a more adult style when you talk to a gifted child, they will start to respect you. If you can banter with gifted children and make their time fun and funny, they will adore you.

He seeks (and successfully completes) more stimulating activities than are provided for his age group, but his physical and social development just aren't at the same level as his intellectual abilities.

The biggest problem for these children is that their bodies and their interactions often don't keep pace with their brains. There's no easy solution to this.

You can advance them to a higher age group, watch that they're coping socially and give them support services for their physical and emotional development- though you may well find you can't advance them far enough in some cases, and they're still bored. Or you can keep them in their age peer group, make an effort to be there for them as an ally, and give them extension work for their intellectual development and support services for their social development.

Developmental imbalances are very common amongst these children. For example:

A two-year-old, who was bilingual and could already read, consistently screamed till he threw up when he was left in care by his father.

A five-year-old, who could hold up his end of any conversation with an adult, became 'friends' with another boy in care who had ADHD and spent all day screaming interjections, throwing toys and swearing just like him.

A three-year-old, who showed advanced understanding of abstract concepts and numbers but who had never crawled, couldn't walk in a straight line let alone run.

And a relative of mine with an IQ around 164- MENSA standard- was so badly bullied by his teachers and peers at age 5 due to his advanced vocabulary and poor social skills that he literally withdrew from socialising at all, and needed repeated treatment for depression later in life.

Of course, some very gifted children will balance their mental abilities with advanced development in other areas- but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Let's look at another anecdotal case.

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Chandra, aged 5, has a large vocabulary and is very well-spoken. She tries to write her full name on all her drawings, in a very unformed hand but using the right letters, and shows interest in the words in picture books. She often approaches the staff for conversation, and although she plays with the other little girls, there are a lot of quarrels which sometimes get physical to the point where other parents complain about their children being scratched or hit by her. Chandra seems to get very frustrated with her peers unless she's 'calling the shots'.

At rest time she regularly throws a monumental tantrum, screaming loudly and keeping the other children awake until staff alternately plead with her and threaten her- without success. She seems to have worked out a different tactic for staying awake and arguing with each individual teacher, until finally the teachers give up and let her stay awake (or until Chandra drops from sheer exhaustion).

When a new teacher comes and puts on a play, casting her in the main part, the tantrums and violence stop immediately, she hero-worships the new teacher and she works brilliantly at her part. The day after the play performance, the tantrums and quarrels start again.

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Chandra's tell-tale signs:

She has a long concentration span and is eager (to the point of ambitious) to learn about things she's interested in. Again, she has excellent language skills.

Gifted children will often stay at a task happily for a very long time compared to their peers. Find out what they're interested in, and capitalise on it.

If a gifted child shows interest in writing their letters, help them with their grip and hand relaxation (their fine motor control is not necessarily as advanced as their desire to learn) and give them some dotted letters and interesting words to trace and copy. It's a great activity for rest time if they won't sleep. I handed one 5-year-old an alphabet book, a pencil and some sheets of paper when I had to write up a report, and he'd copied every letter in the book completely independently by the end of rest time.

Gifted children can become very frustrated at school by their inability to write as fast as they think. Sometimes this leads to a refusal to complete any written work at all. Give them a head start- let them practise their writing skills early.

Pre-reading skills can also be taught to great effect using early learning computer programs, which the children can operate while you fill in your observations and evaluations.

To stimulate and encourage their interest in learning, try to ask them questions they can't answer without thinking. For example, when we were playing 'odd one out' with the coloured sorting items, I was giving the children three bunches of purple grapes and a yellow banana, or three red cars and a blue car (and some of them still couldn't do it)- but I gave one very bright 5-year-old two red cars, one purple car and a purple fire engine, reminding him that the odd one out was different from ALL the others. For once he had to think for a moment before correctly selecting the fire engine, and his big smile said it all- these children LOVE having to think.

This ability to classify using more than one criterion- shape and colour in this case- is a dead give-away of giftedness in preschool children.

Again, she doesn't want to sleep. She's excellent at manipulating both her peers and the teaching staff to get what she wants (in this case, to stay awake!), and she doesn't show any respect for the teachers just because they're teachers.

Most children will learn to press their parents' buttons sooner or later. Gifted children often learn to press all adults' buttons, and it's sooner, not later! It's important to be consistent with all children, but gifted kids will punish you the worst for inconsistency- they'll remember the time you didn't follow through and keep pressing that button till they get their way. They'll also remember anything positive you promise them, especially if you forget to do it. And they'll have no hesitation in fronting you about it and demanding justice- gifted children's respect has to be earned. They won't respect you just because you're older, or in a position of authority. They will question everything. This is one reason teachers may start to resent them.

Don't resent them- they are a walking self-evaluation tool. If the gifted kid is happy with you and behaving well, you're doing well. If the gifted kid is scowling at you, ask yourself what you just did that wasn't fair, or what emotional impact you just overlooked, or what needs more explanation.

Never, ever, ever threaten a gifted child with something you aren't intending to do. If you say you're going to call mum if they keep acting up, DO IT (though Miss Gifted may well see that as a desirable outcome, so be careful!). When they muck up, be one step ahead and work out what matters to them, then reason with them. "Can you please help me and sit quietly with your book? I'm going to get into trouble if I don't finish writing this down, so can you be kind?" is more likely to work than any threat of punishment, and "it's not fair that you're keeping everyone else awake, they need to sleep- so if you keep being noisy you'll miss your turn on the computer this afternoon" is a better persuader than most, because it's logical (being unfair to others means others will be unfair to you)- as long as you get tough and follow through.

She wants to be a leader of her peers- but because she doesn't really understand social skills, she has no real friends or allies. She seeks out staff 'friendships', but doesn't have adult emotional skills.

Gifted children often don't integrate well into their peer group and, as I've said before, there's really not a great deal you can do about this. They frequently don't have the same interests and abilities, and even if they learn how to be accepted through social referencing, it often involves having to 'dumb down' or picking up undesirable behaviours. The frustration of always having to adapt downwards can lead to repeated conflict with their peers.

Talk frankly to them (but with ethical boundaries) about the problems they are having. "I don't think Cara understands what you're trying to do. Would you like me to help instead?" will redirect them quickly and end any fisticuffs- adult company is their preference, and sometimes you need to be that adult who gives them someone to relate to without them having to think, talk and play below their own level.

Providing stimulation and being an ally doesn't mean spending hours at home preparing special work for them, or having them constantly at your side as your 'special friend'.

Let them lead in small ways; enlist their help as 'today's helper' or regular 'monitor' in charge of some small duty in an area they enjoy, like keeping the books on the shelves and tidying the writing area.

Let them count their peers to work out how many plates are needed at lunch time, and then hand them out.

Ask them for their ideas for interesting activities, and get them to help preparing the activities and setting them up.

Bring a picture book from the library or home which they haven't seen before, and ask them to work out a story to tell you (or the whole class) based on what's in the pictures.

Get them to draw a map of their bedroom, or the preschool room, or a treasure island.

Act out some of the stories the children enjoy (using props or costumes if you like), and ask the gifted one to play the main part.

Spend a few moments of your time just talking to them when you have a chance, then redirect them.

When given a challenge she enjoys, she seems to undergo a personality change- at least while the stimulation lasts. Then she regresses.

If you're in doubt about the cause of a child's bad behaviour or withdrawal, try some of the gifted-talented strategies and see if you get a different response. Talk to them like a much older child and see what happens; ask them very honest questions, like "I'm getting the feeling you don't want to be here. Is that right?" or "Are you bored with this toy?" Offer them a harder puzzle than the one they just threw all over the floor, if offering them an easier one or offering to help them complete it doesn't work.

I worked for a single day as a casual at one childcare centre, where 'Evan', aged 4, was considered a problem because of his silence and failure to interact at all with staff or his peers in a positive way, or to involve himself in any of the activities.

At group time I started to show the children some animal photos in a non-fiction book, and Evan's peers managed to identify a lion and tiger by the mane and the stripes. Because I'm in the habit of throwing in an advanced question just to see what happens, I asked what the animal with spots was. Unnoticed by me, Evan had been totally engrossed in this activity from the sidelines and spoke for the first time that day, saying very quietly "It's a cheetah."

What do you think Evan's problem might have been?

Would I have spotted this gifted child (no pun intended) if I hadn't opened the door by asking the children an advanced question to see what happened?

You don't have to rely on observations to find your gifted children. If you make regular opportunities for the gifted child to show himself, he will probably do so, with huge relief- as long as he hasn't been overlooked for so long that he's tuned out from everything you say and do.

Evan was waiting for something to stimulate his interest and to allow him to show his ability, rather as we might wait for a bus in the rain- looking bored and restless, and wondering miserably if the bus was ever going to appear at all. Similarly, Chandra was causing chaos- one might call it 'writing emotional graffiti'!- waiting for the intellectual 'bus' to arrive. When it came, in the form of a whole play to learn, she happily hopped on and loved the ride. The moment she was off that bus, she reverted to the only way of coping she knew.

But not all gifted children are as outgoing as Bryce and Chandra. Consider this child's behaviour.

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Gavin, aged 4, has just arrived at childcare for the first time. The other children are playing a very noisy game and some are running around the room, with the staff speaking severely to them. Gavin is cowering by the bookcase howling tearfully, incoherently and loudly; every so often we make out the word 'MUMMY'. When other staff try to pick him up and cuddle him he pushes them off furiously and howls louder. When they offer him toys he throws them across the floor, but not AT anyone.

I watch this body language and try a different tack. I go over to him, but not too close; the moment he pulls back from me I stop and sit down on the floor. I say, "Are you missing mummy?" He sobs "Yes".

I say, "Do you want a cuddle?" He says, "No", but his eyes are now on me with interest.

I say, "Okay. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?" He says, "No."

I ask, "Do you know when mummy is coming back?" He says, "She finishes work at four o'clock."

My 'giftedness' radar goes off, as your average 4-year-old has no clue how to answer a question like this other than relatively, eg 'at night' or 'after lunch'. I say, "Do you know how to find out the time on the clock up there?" He looks up at it and says "No."

I say, "Would you like to learn how to read it, so you know how close we are to 4 o'clock when mummy's coming back?"

He says "Yes," and lets me pick him up to look at the clock closely. He knows his numbers already and within a few minutes he has the idea, right down to the half-past concept- so we spend the day reading books, doing puzzles and checking the time every ten minutes or so!

The next day when Gavin arrives he starts to howl all over again. I remind him he can watch the clock to see if it's four o'clock like he did yesterday. He stops crying long enough to say, "But that was a VERY long time!"

He goes on sobbing, but this time it's easier to get him involved in puzzles and books. Later we go outside to play, and I discover that he is passionate about playing cricket so we have a game; he knows all the rules and is actually very good at it.

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Gavin has a totally different personality to Bryce and Chandra, but he's still got the signs of giftedness once you get through the emotional smokescreen.

He finds strange adults touching him without asking inappropriate, and responds with total aversion to regular comforting techniques and to the company of other children.

It would be very easy to 'diagnose' Gavin on the spot as a somewhat backward child with lingering separation anxiety issues; his behaviour was very like that of new children in the 1 to 2-year-olds' room, so the default position is to pick him up and cuddle him, or to distract him.

In fact, Gavin was a gifted child with a strong sense of personal space and turned out to have a sensitivity to noise. He was also an only child used to talking exclusively to adults, and he had been effectively dropped into hell.

I can't over-emphasise the importance of reading all children's body language before touching them. Many gifted children dislike physical contact with strangers, partly because they are often in their own little world and like to assess who comes in before they open the door- remember, you don't necessarily have their respect just because you're a teacher.

Nor can I over-emphasise the importance of monitoring the noise level in a room, and if things get a bit loud, monitoring the reactions of the quieter children and moving them away from the centre of the activity. Many children, including special needs and gifted children, react badly to auditory over-stimulation. There's enough going on in their heads already, thank you!

He has an advanced sense of time, and remembers what happened yesterday.

Gavin only took one day to learn that from 9am to 4pm was a 'very long time' in terms of emotional stress, and remembered this the next day.

The ability to think about time and what happened previously, or to think 'in reverse,' comes after the ability to sequence events in forward motion; most preschoolers can just about sequence morning tea, lunch and sleep time, but have little idea of how long it will be till the next change and no idea about time in reverse. A real concept of what 'yesterday' means is a good indicator of advanced thinking ability in a preschooler.

Similarly, addition and counting forward comes before subtraction and counting backwards. I picked one 4-year-old as probably gifted by asking the class "If it's Mia's birthday today and she's 4, how old was she yesterday?" There was a chorus of "FIVE!!" from the usual suspects before just one quiet child put his hand up, and said "Three." Again, he had to think (for once) before answering, and was very pleased with himself for getting the answer right. He was able to think backwards in time and number.

He responded immediately to having his space respected, being talked to in adult language and being offered a challenge to learn about something that interested him. He had an obsession, and pursuing it sometimes with a staff member became a 'positive' of coming to care.

Gavin turned out to have very advanced physical as well as intellectual development, but his emotional skills were constantly tested by what was, to him, a hostile environment- and very like my own son, his social skills were never going to be age-appropriate until he grew up, as he scorned 'dumbing down' to fit in.

While he was in care with us, Gavin never integrated with his peers or made any real friends amongst them, but he 'got by' once he was recognised as having different needs (and a special interest in cricket) by one staff member. Just one ally was enough to give him a foothold to help him cope with a completely foreign world.

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Summing up, here are some of the indicators of giftedness which you are likely to notice fairly easily if they occur in your preschool room.

1. Little need for daytime sleep.
2. Complex vocabulary correctly used, including synonyms.
3. Advanced sense of humour, including wordplay.
4. Lack of respect for elders, challenging decisions made by them.
5. No friends, no need for friends or seeks out older children.
6. Obsessions.
7. Long concentration span.
8. Logical thought, picking 'mistakes' and asking complex questions.
9. Acute sense of personal space.
10. Ability to think backwards or sort using multiple criteria.
11. Manipulative behaviour.
12. Attempts to lead peers, frustration when they don't follow.
13. Copies negative attention-seeking behaviours.
14. Withdraws.
15. Noise sensitivity.
16. Eye for detail.
17. Seeks more stimulating activities.
18. Shows frustration with toys and puzzles available.
19. Seeks adult company and conversation.
20. Shows extreme anger and/or distress, especially on arrival.

None of these indicators is foolproof by itself, but when a child shows a number of these signs, you might start to think about how you're going to meet her special needs and set her on a healthy, happy life path in education.

104 comments:

  1. Okay, so my child is showing some signs of being gifted. I home school her and really don't know just how to teach her. The article illustrates some methods but, unless one is an expert, it doesn't help much.

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  2. I agree that experience is very helpful when teaching gifted children, but that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do.

    The main thing you need to do is to find her learning readiness level. Try some activities that are suitable for a higher grade and see how she responds; if they're still too easy, step up again. You need to try to stay ahead of her.

    Do some internet research into giftedness, too- Google 'Miraca Gross' or 'GERRIC'- and join some forums for parents of gifted children. Hopefully you will be able to source some help near your home and perhaps get face-to-face advice for schooling your individual child. As you can see from this article, 'gifted children' are not some homogenous group with identical needs and personalities.

    Home schooling is a big responsibility, even more so when your child turns out to have a special need like giftedness. Knowledge will give you more confidence, and we have to be proactive in seeking that knowledge for our children.

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  3. Hi Aunt Annie,

    thank you so so much for a wonderful post. My daughter (4 in December) is showing 19 of your above indicators, she started kinder this year but we pulled her out after 2 days after realising it was just not the right thing for her (for a few of the above reasons...).
    She is very loquacious and has a rich and varied vocabulary, is currently obsessed by volcanoes (after a long foray into dinosaurs) and has started asking to be taught how to write, will ask extremely difficult "why?" and "how?" questions, is drawn to 5-6 year olds and has extended conversations with any adult that will listen, has exceptional memory (which keeps us honest...) and has a very good concept of time, she is very imaginative, she is very keen on numbers, she'll often copy her little brother's babyish "bad" behaviour etc etc. And has a very pronounced noise sensitivity, to the point that she will freeze when she hears other kids yell or certain other shrill sounds.

    Your post put it all in perspective, thank you very much. Now I have a few more ideas on how to help her (leaning towards homeschooling for a while).

    Great blog, just started following you and am already loving it :)

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  4. Amazing post. Every teacher should read this. I had a very hard time going through school as a gifted student (even though we had a gifted & talented program). My first grade teacher thought I had a learning disability, so I was tested and it was determined that I had an IQ of 164. I never succeeded in school because of it, but I am now very successful in my adult life. I am trying to make sure my son can overcome the obstacles, because I would love for him to put his abilities to use in an academic environment and really accomplish something amazing. He is showing many signs of giftedness at four years of age. I want him to embrace it, not think of himself as a social outcast like I did.

    It's inspiring to see a post written by someone who seems to genuinely understand the way gifted children work.

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  5. Roy, you're not the only gifted person to have been assumed to have a learning disability at school! I have a friend who was consistently put into remedial classes as a child; you only have to listen to him talking for five seconds to realise that he's brilliant.

    He explained to me once that he couldn't answer maths problems at school because they were often ambiguous- he saw aspects of the questions that the teachers couldn't. For example, I'm sure most people could answer a question like 'if you go to bed at 9pm and get up at 6am, how long did you sleep?'- but he was 'frozen' by the knowledge that one doesn't go to sleep as soon as one goes to bed! He was ridiculed when he tried to explain this to the teacher.

    And my gifted son was assumed to be dyslexic at preschool because he refused to colour in- they wanted to test him on the basis of this!

    Your son is very lucky to have a dad who's been there and understands, and who will be an advocate for him when others don't 'get it'.

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  6. Yes please! I would very much like a copy of this article with the footnotes and references. How lucky some of these children were that you "got them" and could help other teachers get them too.

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  7. No worries, Schedule5- post an email address either here or on my Facebook page and I'll send it through.

    How I wish it was more than luck! I would love all gifted children to have a teacher who 'got them'.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks - took me a while to get back here. I have sent you a message on Facebook with my address. I have a little "info pack" on giftedness for various people who work with my children and I intend to add this article to it :D. Yup, I'm THAT mom.
      -schedule5

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    2. THAT mum, as in the lioness who won't let her children be neglected just because they're bright? Love that mum.

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  8. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article! It's way past bedtime for me, but I could not stop reading. My experiences in kindergarten were quite similar to what you describe, and although that's over three decades ago, it still feels important to read that SOMEONE out there GETS it... because at the time, no one did.
    I remember getting beaten up by other kids in kindergarten for "bragging" when I just tried to talk with them about what I found fascinating (e.g. why a fire engine siren sounds different when it approaches than when it leaves). It took me many years to realise they didn't even notice this to begin with. And my mother told me I was kicked out of kindergarten at age four or so for "repeatedly hiding with the teachers' newspaper" instead of reading the boring picture books... (I started reading at age 2 1/2, and I simply needed more input).

    It's also good to have some good "objective" pointers which will enable us to identify if our son is gifted, too.

    Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Aunt Annie,

      Wonderful blog! Thank you, I am so relieved I found it! My daughter shows most of these signs, to the extent I have spent 4 months convincing her school to give her a trial period in KG1 (she's 4 in may) they were extremely hesitant and after 2 weeks want to move her back to pre k as some of the children in the new class don't want to interact with her. ( there is also a 6 year old in the class!) Her behaviour had deteriorated so badly in Pre-K, daily she would say she was bored and all the other children were naughty and babies, she would cry and say she didn't want to go to school. The last straw was when she spat at her teacher. ( this from a child who says pardon when she hasn't heard you!) She is much happier and motivated to go to school, she reports back on her day which she never did before. When we pry she tells us about two girls (one of whom is the 6 year old)who don't want to sit with her but she doesn't tell us about it of her own accord which makes me think she's not that bothered by it except that she wants to play with the bigger kids and they see her as little. What should I do? She sees her old classmates at playtime and plays with them, so it feels like she's getting the best of both worlds and she's definitely happier. The school is less than helpful and are trying to say research shows that children should stay in appropriate year group despite ability. I disagree and feel moving her back down because of friends is a huge mistake. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

      Many thanks
      Alison

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  9. That's a pleasure, tribblesNZ.

    What you describe sounds very like what happened to my brother, who was bullied by the TEACHERS in infants' school because they refused to believe he could read and they assumed he was just dodging the work when he brought the readers back within a minute of taking them to his desk. And my son was bullied too, for being more interested in the wheel configuration of a locomotive than in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    I was so lucky that by the time I got to the same school four years later, they'd woken up that maybe some 5-yr-olds COULD already read, and this was perhaps NOT a handicap... my teacher got relief from face-to-face by letting me read The Bobbsey Twins to the class. I loved it, they loved it and everyone was happy. What a difference enlightened (non-threatened) teaching can make.

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  10. Hello! Wow! That was very intersting and helpful for me. I must say that my son is almost a 100% of what you described and reading it was describing my son. He started Kindegraten this year and I think that because he is learning English they don't realize what he is capable of doing. He learned to read by himself and can multiplicate simple numbers. He is in an intermediate"adveanced level of Origami. I could go on and on and on on how I see my son in you article. I was thinking of having him tested so he could maybe go in a gifted program in a public school. Right now he is not bored, not because he is learning something but because he loves the teacher and appreciate seeing kids (usually he is very alone since he has very lonely activites that other kids don't seem to enjoy or understand). But, because of his English they just don't notice or care. But THANK you very much for this very appreciated post!

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  11. Oh, Caroline, a language barrier makes it even harder for the teachers to appreciate a gifted child's abilities.

    Enquire at your son's school about extension programs. It's great that your son is happy there, but as time goes on he may become restless if, say, the maths work is too easy for him. Many schools run extension programs in maths and English these days, though often they don't start till about 3rd class.

    Good luck with him!

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  12. I'm not sure my son is "gifted" (or maybe I'm just rejecting the label) but he sure is smart. At just-turned-three, he told me, out of the blue, that if he had three apples and gave me one, he'd only have two. He doesn't fit all the criteria you list (yet?), but the noise sensitivity, the verbal skills, the blurting out answers, the manipulating adults...oh yeah.

    Reading your post made me grateful, once again, for my play-based daycare/preschool program, which I chose because they have stable, loving staff, lots of space, and is quiet. The noise levels in most we looked at would have driven me crazy; I couldn't stand the idea of putting my little guy in that environment, no matter how caring the staff were. Now I realize my gut instincts were bang on. Hopefully my plan to send him to French immersion school is also right...

    One more vote for play-based learning, here; bless them, the staff at our daycare let my boy play with whatever he's interested in, as long as it's safe. And, luckily, there's a little girl there who can keep up with him verbally without being beyond him socially...and they're neighbors. Big sigh of relief from both sets of parents :)

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  13. Frances, you have one lucky little guy there, because he really needs you to understand his issues and clearly you do. You'll soon find out if the French immersion is a good or not-so-good idea, because he'll tell you one way or another and because you're paying attention, you'll pick it up.

    And yes, you are SO lucky to have a like-minded peer for him to play with. Treasure that connection.

    As for labels- I prefer to think of it as a loose and expansive 'noticing' than a label as such, because telling a child they're special or gifted or whatever can be extremely counterproductive. But one does need to be aware of and notice the signs of different individual needs. Your little fellow sounds very much like his advanced abilities need noticing.

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  14. Oh, and just to clarify- a child doesn't need to show all these indicators to be screaming 'gifted' in your ear. My own son really didn't have numbers 9, 14 and 15 to any unusual extent, but he was off the scale with all the others.

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  15. What a lovely article. We noticed a difference in my daughter when she was quite young and began making complex connections before she could speak. She has had obsessons with things as long as I can remember- her first major obsession being dinosaurs when she was just shy of 2. She could tell you any and everything about them and would play with dinosaur figures for hours and hours. One she taught herself to read, I knew I was in for an interesting journey. I decided to forgo sending her to a public school,against my husbands wishes, believing she would be bored and act out. She also has issues with sounds,smells and textures that I knew would be problematic. She is now a happy, still obsessed, still noise resistant 7 yr old who schools at home and continues to amaze me. She recently attempted joining girl scouts but the venture did not go well as the adults were unsure as to how to react to her when the other children got loud and a bit wild and she crawled under the table with her face turning red with frustration. It takes special adults to recognize a gifted child usually comes with some "quirks". For now, we are going to pass on Girl Scouts until we can find a troup with a better fit for us but that is part of the process of raising a gifted child. Cheers for your article. :)

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  16. Well, mom2riley, for what it's worth I'd be skipping the scout thing unless you can find a leader who understands giftedness in its many shapes and forms. Are there other group activities she's interested in? I'd be looking for something which has a wider age range so she can associate with older children who may have more to offer her intellectually. I used to work at a selective high school and I found that many of the gifted children gravitated to the choir, because it was open to 11- to 18-yr-olds and they had a better chance of finding appropriate company. Just a thought!

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  17. We have definately put Scouts on the back burner. We tried 3 meetings and all were stressful for my daughter. We definately will continue looking for an activity that is the right "fit" for us. She does prefer the company of older children (she calls my teenage childrens friends her friends). Thank You so much-I will be keeping an eye on your posts as I find the info to be relevant for many applications.

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  18. OH MY!!! Thank you so much for writing this. I got tingles reading this, you have written about my son! this is describing him perfectly, he fits every single suggested sign you have written. I've always had this feeling that something was 'different' but had it dismissed, I know you posted this a while ago, but is there any other resources you could lead me in the direction of? My son is 3 1/2 and will be home-schooled, he is showing real need to start things now particularly with language and writing.

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  19. Hi Jools- I would be delighted to help you on this.

    Here's a wonderful article about friendship and gifted kids:
    http://www.sengifted.org/articles_social/Gross_PlayPartnerOrSureShelter.shtml

    ANYTHING by Miraca Gross is worth reading- here's one of her best-known articles, 'Small Poppies':
    http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10124.aspx

    Some thoughts on giftedness and mainstream education:
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/fast-forward-gifted-students-keep-on-giving-with-the-right-support-20111130-1o72j.html

    Hoagies is a wonderful source of informaton:
    http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/

    And if you'd like to post something identifying yourself on my Aunt Annie Facebook page, I'd be happy to friend you so I can give you some personal help as you travel along the road with your child.

    Cheers! Enjoy your journey!

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  20. I'm a bit late to the party... but... what a wonderful article. My husband and I were those kids, and will be homeschooling in order to avoid the same situation for our kids (whether they are "gifted" or not). What I find most interesting is that so many of the traits described above are diagnostic criteria for Aspergers. I can't help but wonder if very high intelligence magnifies minor social problems by exposing kids to so many early negative experiences with kids their own age. The other thing that I think is really important is not building a childs sense of self around "giftedness" ie. not constantly praising and commenting on how clever or advanced they are, bragging to friends, telling them they're gifted, testing their IQ etc. This was very damaging to my husband in particular. This labelling puts so much pressure on kids to live up to our expectations. We both, even now, have so much trouble starting new things that we are not instantly good at because so much of our self-esteem is invested in being good at stuff. Also, gifted pre-schoolers are not necessarily going to grow up to be geniuses, other kids tend to catch up in many areas leaving the gifted kids suddenly not so special any more and feeling like a big part of their identity has been ripped away. My husbands parents still wax on about what a genius he was as a toddler as if its all been downhill since. He hates it. I suppose what I'm getting at is that parenting and teaching "gifted" children has its own special risks.

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  21. Thanks, Jess. You're so right about the fine line between 'highly gifted' and 'Aspergers Sydrome' labels. It's a very grey area with much in common, and I guess the question is how much is inbuilt and how much is environmental.

    Telling kids excitedly that they're clever, with the implication that it pleases the adult, is just like over-applying any other positive label. You end up with a performing seal, or a child who refuses to be a performing seal, rather than a child who explores his or her individual gifts. IQ is a measure of potential only, and it's limited in its relevance to real life situations, so it pays not to pay attention to the number for its own sake.

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  22. So I'm just reading this now (followed the link in one of your more recent posts). Yes. I found myself nodding along to this whole post. This is Agent E. (At least 16/20 from the list at the end are her to a T.) Many things you mention are some of the reasons I am homeschooling her (at least for now). I see a lot of Agent J here, too (at least half the list). She's my, um "challenging" one right now . . . but perhaps with good reason? Heck, I see some of Agent A here, too. I don't want to be one of those "ooh my child is brilliant! looky here at how special she is!" kind of parents, but I also want to support them where they are. Love this perspective, a great read.

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    1. 16/20 is pretty definitive!

      Not wanting to be a pushy parent is fine and good; labels are generally not helpful except to define an issue. Recognising a child's differences and special needs, though, is vital, and having read your blog I'm quite sure you will handle this swimmingly with your kids!

      Just note that second and third children can sometimes hide their light under a bushell for quite a while because Number One is making the running. I did! :D I'm told my mother was quite shocked when she discovered my IQ score, as I had always been the quiet one. You've been warned.

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  23. Like this post. My gifted one is at Uni already now. Unbelievable! I had to take him from Kindergarden after 3 months as staying home was much more stimulated for him. Glad to find a school for gifted children after first year in normal school. Sometimes he seemed to be sad and lonely as a child, but also now. But I had learnt a lot by raising him. He is very precious and i just pray he would find a wife to understand him :-)
    Natalia (Slovakia)

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    1. Hi Natalie- pleased to have you here! I understand what you're saying about finding the right partner- very important. My son, after swearing to he would never get married (he'd seen disastrous breakups all around him), found Miss Right at 19 and was married at 20. They are perfect for one another. I hope your son is so lucky.

      Mine was very, very unhappy in a mainstream school too- he went to a very selective school from 10 years of age and that saved him I think. Finally he had some friends.

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  24. I would love a referenced copy of this article if I may.
    My email is callers@bigpond.net.au

    Kind Regards
    Jo

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  25. This was my brother and I all over (my sister was the black sheep being the 'normal' kid...haha...). He was the more gifted child but suffers from ADHD so showed more extremes in his abilities than I did (just your regular garden variety academically gifted child). To this day he cannot write legibly, but his memory and verbal skills have always been amazing.

    At pre-school (age 4 back then) my mum actually ended up picking my brother up at the start of nap time instead of after it, he was so grateful. At school he was constantly in trouble. Often sent to 'The Solution Room' as they called it. Until, at the age of 10, he started giving teachers the Nazi salute and goose stepping off to it when ordered there. They soon changed the name to 'The Reflection Room'.

    I got in trouble a lot for talking and felt unchallenged in a lot of my schooling. I was always given opportunities to participate in 'gifted programs' but a lot of them were really just designed to take us out the classroom. My gifts lay with numbers and mathematics. Sitting writing poetry to express myself was hardly an appropriate activity to 'extend' me. I really didn't feel challenged at all in the area of Mathematics at school.

    My concerns at present are centred around my daughter. She is 2.75 years old and showing signs of 'being bright' (as we would say in my family). Her language skills are advanced, she is extremely sensitive to sound (always has been) and what each sound means, she is starting to recognise letters (already knows her numbers) and has the desire to write. She can read simple time (on the hour, only if the clock has clear numbers). She immerses herself in very elaborate imaginary worlds and gets frustrated when her peers don't participate in a way that contributes to that world.

    Unfortunately our schooling system has recently changed in Australia and my daughter's birthday means that she is just past the cut-off for school years so she will be one of the older children in her classes. She will be entering grade one at the age of 6.5. I was barely 5 years of age and was bored as it was. In addition to this she is not eligible for any kind of schooling until she is 4.5 and can enter Kindergarten. Traditionally the age for Kindergarten has been 3 years, but again the new cut-offs mean she will be significantly older. As the education changes are in a transition period I would assume that the syllabus will still be aimed at it's original intended audience - children up to 1.5 years younger than her. Some children who are born before the cut-off will be closer to that age, but for a child like her I think this is going to be a disaster.

    Any person I try to raise this as an issue with just looks at me like I am one of 'those' parents that raves about their little child-genius. I don't believe my daughter is gifted to the point of requiring specialist attention, testing and the like. I am just concerned that she is going to end up bored and disliking school. 14 years is a long time to feel frustrated and unchallenged.

    I just hope that we can keep her stimulated and happy outside of the school system and that she encounters teachers that show an interest in challenging all of their students no matter what level they are at. It gave me some hope to read this blog post and to have you explain how little effort it requires to reach out to gifted students. It would be wonderful if all teachers read this and took it on board.

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    1. Anna, your ten-year-old brother goose-stepping to the 'Solution Room' has me cackling. What a crack-up of a kid- love it. We would have got on, him and me- my son was like that too. When told (not by me!) to respect his elders because they were older and more experienced, he invariably cited Hitler as a counter-example at a similar age.

      The whole age thing has me infuriated. I was lucky that my son was JUST within the margin for being allowed to start school at 4 yrs 10 months... and he still ran rings around his classmates. Heaven knows what he would have got up to if he'd been held back.

      What state are you in? Can you get your daughter IQ tested as ammunition? I would definitely be appealing this decision. If you want to pop over to my Facebook page and send me a private message we can talk about this some more.

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  26. Hi Aunt Annie, firstly, what a wonderful post. I came across this through your latest post on giftedness in toddlers. My son (3.5 years) ticks at least 17 out of the 20 characteristics you describe. Sometimes I have wondered if he has aspergers. He ask the most in depth questions and has an amazing vocabulary which he uses perfectly. I had to laugh about point 17 seeking more stimulating activities, he has recently been really into blowing bubbles. He discovered himself though that after blowing the bubbles, he can catch them on the wand, turn it over and the bubbles will spin! He asks so many questions and certainly keeps us on our toes. Possibly the most relevant point to us at the moment is the sleeping thing. T. is awake very early in the morning and his little brain is switched on asking questions as soo as he is awake. He starts stressing about what time it is during the morning asking when it will be 12 o'clock because that is his rest time and then asks when it will be 5 o'clock because it's his bath time... He gets really frustrated and cranky if I try to enforce these things. He really needs a rest, I'm happy if he doesn't sleep during the day but his little body needs some down time. At the moment we are having trouble with him acting out when other children that he is playing with get upset, he has started spitting when this happens and will completely lose it. I have just started holding him and talking him through what is happening why they are upset and encouraging him to try to find out what is wrong and if he can help. I don't know if this is the right thing to do but we have to do something. I try to ignore the negative behaviours (when I can) because no matter what I do, he doesn't seem to care. To add to all of this, he is vision impaired.... Would love some further information on this topic and any advice you can offer me. My email is pmelgaard@hotmail.com
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Tom's Mum! I love the bubble thing- that is such an awesome extension for a gifted kid to work out for himself!

      Re the sleeping- this is a constant problem. Is it possible to do more physically active things in the morning rather than the afternoon, to make him more genuinely tired? Can you load him up with quiet activities instead of expecting him to sleep during the day? Can you survive without him sleeping in the day, and get him to bed earlier at night? Can he read yet- can you encourage him to have down time with books?

      It is a very, very difficult period when these gifted kids are not quite ready to drop the daytime sleep but their active minds are keeping them awake. There's no foolproof answer. I promise you, it will pass!

      As for the spitting- this is a bit like what was happening in that post of mine about gifted toddlers. Your son's intellectual and emotional ages are out of step- and I'm sure the visual impairment adds to his frustration. You are on the right track holding him and talking to him. Make sure to take control by CALMLY using those words "I won't let you spit" as you remove him from the situation. Then talk about how he feels, as you're doing, but also about what he can do instead of spitting to let his feelings out. Again, THIS WILL PASS. It's a stage.

      I will have a look through my bookmarks and send you some links and articles. You can also ask me specific questions on my Aunt Annie Facebook page through the message function- I am always happy to help if I can.

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  27. Hi Aunt Annie,
    I had almost given up on ever finding a truly good article on gifted children, when I chanced upon your blog. Needless to say, I'm hooked! I have a 2 year 8 month old who I'm increasingly suspecting to be gifted in certain areas. I'm still confused but maybe you could help me here.
    To begin with, he's a very, very verbal child with an extensive vocabulary and often is mistaken for a 4 plus year old because of that. For example, if I tell him it's time for bed, he will counter me with, " no, not so early. I'll sleep at ten o clock". He can narrate stories, has a remarkable memory and an eye for detail. He could recite slokas in Sanskrit when he was 2.2. Now he doesn't though, because he finds it too boring. And I don't insist. He cracked his first joke when he was about 18 months old. We were on our balcony looking at the sky and we saw an eagle. I pointed it out and said, " look an eagle!" He looked at me and said, "piggle" and laughed out loud. It took me a few seconds to get the joke- there's a character on a kiddie show that he used to like then, called "iggle-piggle", and he found the rhyming funny, I guess! Anyway, there are many such instances that make me think there's something else here. But then again, he barely knows colors, letters but is ok with numbers. He can recite the whole alphabet but cannot recognize any letter. He loves to be read though and loves books. His latest obsession is doing puzzles. He can comfortably do a 6 piece puzzle. Anything over that, he needs my help. The problem is , he doesn't like being taught, but loves learning. He loves taking things apart, like a cell phone or anything electronic/ electrical. He is pretty impulsive and gives off some very conflicting personality traits, which drains me sometimes. He is this gentle caring kid one minute, who will hold an ice pack to my head or give me a massage and the very next minute he's throwing his toys and laughing at the mayhem he's creating.
    I am a speech therapist by profession and I took a break from work when I got pregnant. I now run an activity center at home for about ten kids and my son is part of that. I'm having a lot of trouble keeping him bust because the other kids are younger slightly and definitely no where near his language level. He needs new stimulating activities, in the absence of which, he loves to play the class clown- he's picked on the pulse of every kid and knows just what to do to distract/irritate/ excite them. Sigh! Please help!

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    1. Hello Anonymous- pleased to meet you and your son! He definitely fits the gifted profile.

      You say there are things he doesn't know, like colours and the names of letters, but I'd warn you not to jump to conclusions about what he does and doesn't know- he may just not be interested in that right now, or maybe he doesn't like to 'perform' on demand. My girlfriend had a child who barely spoke till he was three, but he just didn't want or need to; he turned out to be extremely clever.

      The conflicting traits are very typical at this age, because as well as being gifted, HE IS TWO. Have you read my post about gifted toddlers? He will have the same emotional challenges as a two-year-old, all mixed up with his precocious abilities. That is very confusing for mum! I do urge you to read that post, which will tell you all about giving him limits appropriate for a two-year-old in language suited to his intellectual level. You still have to pull rank and be the mum- he NEEDS you to do that.

      So if he's throwing things, you act calmly but immediately- drop what you're doing and take charge. Pick up what he threw and put it out of his reach, take hold of his hands so he can't run away or throw anything else, and say calmly but firmly "I won't let you throw your toys. If you want to throw things, please go outside and throw a ball." (Or whatever other appropriate frustration-busting activity you can think of- eg he could also punch a pillow.)

      The disruptive behaviour when you're dealing with the other toddlers is a slightly more complex problem. Have you talked to him about it when you're not in the activity centre? You could say something like "I saw that when we were with the other children today, you were (describe behaviour). It made (name of child) stop looking at me and start (doing the wrong thing). Do you remember that?" and see what he says. Open the lines of communication and see if you can get him to talk about what he's feeling. It's hard for him to have to share you with all those other children, and he's responding like a two-year-old- a clever two-year-old, mind, but it's just a gifted version of a tantrum. Talking about it openly is half the battle.

      From there, you could ask him what he would like to do when you are with the other children. Would he like to help you teach the other children? (He might help you, for example, by operating one puppet for you when you put on a little puppet show, or by helping you tell a story that he knows by heart.) Is there some other 'favourite activity' that he'd like to do? Explain that you have to do this work so you can buy his food etc., so the other children not coming is not a choice, but he can choose what he wants to do while you work.

      I am very hesitant to suggest screen time for children, but I have to say that for some highly gifted children (and for many children with Asperger's syndrome), educational programs on the computer can be a godsend when mum runs out of ideas for stimulation. Children can teach themselves to recognise letters, read, name colours and shapes etc while poor mum actually gets something done! That could be an answer here, but leave it for last resort as that time at the computer can become a fixation if not handled with care.

      Hope this helps- keep me posted!

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    2. Dear Aunt Annie,
      Thank you so much for replying so promptly. I've been keeping this info to myself all this while and shared it with my husband only a couple of days ago. He was guarded in his response ( he knows I've got some experience with working with children with ASD And have mentioned giftedness) but didn't seem too convinced. However, I just had to get some expert opinion on this because lately the tantrums have been exhausting me. I feel at my wit's end on how to deal with him. Yelling, though effective in helping me vent, does very little. I'm dead against physical punishment so won't even think on those lines( but yes, I have smacked him occasionally only to feel miserable later). I will definitely try your suggestions about talking to him. He responds very well to reasoning and this had been my biggest challenge- somehow most people think you are over-indulging a child by responding seriously to all his queries. And though I knew I was doing the right thing, sometimes i would wonder where I was headed with this. Now I know that most kids don't even ask for so much of information. So yes, there it is. I just needed it for myself ( I am hoping I never have to disclose it to people- ever)
      I'll surely keep you posted. Thanks a ton, again!

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    3. Yep, yelling won't help resolve the problem. It makes him feel too powerful. You need to regain the upper hand here by being the one to keep your cool, hard though that is! Other people will think you're crazy for reasoning with a two-year-old, but sometimes that's the best thing to do; NOT while he's mid-tantrum, though. Mid-tantrum, you can say "You sound like you're angry/sad. I won't let you (do whatever he's doing). If you feel angry you can (do something else) instead." Leave the reasoning for later- he WILL remember, but while 2-yr-old emotions have the upper hand he will just keep pressing your buttons if you try to reason with him. The "I won't let you" is the short term solution; reasoning and discussion is the long-term solution.

      Keep in touch!

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    4. Hi Aunt Annie,
      Just a quick update- today was SO much better at the activity center! Talking to him at his intellectual level really made a difference. I even managed to diffuse a certainly-gonna-end-in-tantrum situation this evening by just talking to him honestly about how he made me feel and why I did what I did (yell).
      I couldn't thank you enough!

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    5. That's wonderful! I am so pleased! Kids like your son desperately need their intellect to be acknowledged- but they also need their emotions acknowledged, and never the twain shall meet- they are so out of sync. You must have done a GREAT job to get such a quick result. Well done!

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  28. Aunt Annie,
    Funnily enough, in retrospect, hewas always one to respond well to a logical explanation. We would find it amusing that when almost in the middle of a tantrum if we talked to him like an adult, he'd immediately respond to us. For instance, if he wanted a chocolate at dinner time and I'd counter it with just a ,"no, it's time for dinner" he might've fussed. But if I said something like," remember what happened the last time you ate too many chocolates in a day?" he responds with, "my bum got itchy" and then hell run to his dad and tell him, " pa, I don't want chocolates now cos if I eat them my bum's gonna itch" :)

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    1. Hah- that's great! Whatever works for you is good!

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  29. Hey Aunt Annie, Really enjoyed this article. Going through my 2nd, possibly 3rd gifted pre schooler currently. My first boy. Have to say I am so glad we are home educating now as going through my first gifted child 'on the system' was damaging for all of us!

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    1. Yes- sometimes homeschooling can be the right choice. The hard part is keeping ahead of them as they get older- good luck!! And I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

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  30. Hi Aunt Annie,
    I'm back with some more questions. Before that, I'd like you give you a little update. My son is doing great, the tantrums have reduced in intensity (not so much the frequency). And oh, he now loves to match colors in his environment! He still seems bored (puzzled?) when I label colors and he isn't too keen on them, so I'm not pushing.
    My trouble now is with him constantly throwing questions at me and it does get exasperating at times. I've caught myself snapping at him over that and I just don't know how, when I'm totally in the middle of something and I keep getting, "why?", "but why." thrown at me. And mind you, I try and answer as many as I can. What gets me snappy is something like this- he's tugging at my shirt and I say,"please don't do that." he goes, "why?" I say," because I don't like it." he says, "why?" And frankly I have no answer for it. So I tell him it ruins the shirt and so I don't like it. By which time I'm already at the end of my rope. Another prompt "why?" and then I am ready to burst into tears sometimes. The thing is, when I do answer his questions I can see that he is processing it in his head and trying to fit all the information together. So to that end, I know it isn't just some, "oh, the 'why' phase".
    The other thing that I need help with is, how do I manage situations where he is very excited to help me but I know it's not something I can let him help me with. Tis usually happens with any gadget that needs some fixing. He is obsessed with anything electrical or electronic and sometimes it's hard to keep him away. The other day, his dad bought a cordless phone to replace the one we had and that got my son very excited. He stood by patiently asking, "can I help you please?" and I could see how much self control he had to bring forth to do that. Sadly, that's not something we could have let him help us with and we had to say no. He asked,"why can't I help?" for which I had no convincing answer. Needless to say, it resulted in a meltdown. Now, if he is content with helping by handing the tools or holding a wire, we are okay. But no, he wants to actually do the work, the assembling, the connecting etc. and that's really not something we can let him do. At such times, I'm truly at my wit's end in resolving his crisis. Please help!

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    1. Oh dear... the WHY? stage is so much more stressful with gifted kids. I got to the point where I answered 'Z!!' As in, X, WHY, Z! It became a standing joke.

      Have you tried answering the question with a question? "Do you like it when someone pulls at your clothes when you're trying to think? I don't!!" This has the effect of sending him off into another sphere of thought.

      And the other alternative is a clear boundary where you give the reason and an 'end' point: "STOP. I don't like that. I don't like how it feels and I want you to STOP." Why? "I already told you. It feels nasty and I don't like it. That's all."

      The gadget thing is suggesting to me that he has a bit of that Aspie-type fascination with how things work. Can you get some old, broken machinery and some screwdrivers and let him loose on them? Old phones, old CD players- show him how to work at the screws and let him explore them. (So maybe the old phone can become a plaything which he can try to disassemble?)

      Explain to him that with electricity, if you get it wrong you get burned very badly- that is WHY- you are the mum and your job is to keep him safe, so you won't let him help till he understands how not to get burned. Be very factual, very matter-of-fact, and offer an alternative like exploring the old equipment. The truth is the answer with these children.

      Hope this helps!

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    2. OH and the other thing I meant to say is when he melts down, remember that this is normal for his social age. Acknowledge the emotion- "You are upset because I wouldn't let you help. I'm sorry you're sad but I can't let you help this time. It's too dangerous."

      Then try not to let his tantrum upset you- he NEEDS you to be calm! He is just expressing his feelings. You can't let him play with live electronics, and your job as a mum is to keep him safe- but you CAN let him know that you hear he's unhappy.

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  31. Thanks Aunt Annie. You are a life saver! We have been mulling over providing him with his own "exploration tool kit" and I guess it's about time we got down to doing it. I have tried the question him back thing, and he usually answers back correctly and patiently and that makes it even worse for me sometimes because I cannot hope to have that kind of patience every single time. He however, does. Sigh. I will try to remember to acknowledge his feelings but for me the bigger challenge will be to stay absolutely calm. And oh, the old phone? He asked me for it yesterday and then a couple of minutes later he came running to me to tell me that he had something to show me. When I followed him into our bedroom, I saw that he'd figured out we had more than one points to plug in the phone and he'd used the extra one to plug in the old thing :)

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    1. Sometimes the very hardest thing is to get used to the idea that they're WAY ahead of you in some spheres. And then remember that in others, they're 2. Or 3. Or 5. Or whatever.

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  32. You have such an amazing perspective on these things. Hats off...

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  33. Hi Aunt Annie, I'm back for more advice from you. To give you a quick update- the daily challenges with my son continue. Sme days are a breeze (well almost) while others feel like they are never gonna end! His need for constant attention and praise and my approval is a bit tiring and gets on my nerves sometimes. If I get upset, he will not let me be, till I can convince him that I am not upset anymore. He will hold my face in his hands and grin at me inquiringly(God oly kows how he manages that, but he does!) and will go on and on with," are you ok now?" and an "okay" from me is met with, " why don't you say 'okay' nicely?" are you still upset?" sigh! I know it's adorable. It is. But dealing with real emotions 24/7, mine and his, isn't gonna be helped by something cute and adorable only. I'm rambling. But I hope you get the idea. Having a toddler constantly following you (a bit of separation anxiety seems to have surfaced again) watching your every move AND questioning them ( what are you doing on the potty? Why are you saying 'upset' on the phone? Why did you purse your lips?) can drive even the most sane person up the wall, right? I just don't know how to deal with it. Help!
    The other thing is with respect to his approach to learning things. Off late, I have noticed that he can match any color, accurately. But the minute I label it, he loses interest, the same with letters or numbers. He loves to count, loves being read to- but the minute I try to identify those letters or numbers with their labels, I've lost him. When he's playing on his own, I've noticed him use those labels (a, b, c, 1,2,etc) but it's all over the place. Any ideas? I've noticed this with anything too strict in terms of concept- numbers, letters, shapes, colors etc.
    The final one is about his schooling. We are looking at beginning formal schooling next academic year, but are very confused as to the kind of school- very academic is a no-no for us. Any help with this is welcome!
    Thanks in advance!

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    1. Okay, let's start with when you get upset. He keeps asking questions about if you're still upset, which makes you more upset, but you're telling him you're not upset any more because that's the only way to stop him? HOLD IT! Tell him the truth! "I am still upset because your words are crowding into my head and I have no room for my own thoughts. I really need you to stop asking questions for a minute so I can empty the sad thoughts out of my head and stop feeling upset. Can you do that for me? It would really help."

      Did you see what happened there? The short answer is not enough, and anything but the truth is not enough. If you concentrate on answering with some detail, and then ask him to participate in what happens next- something that will help you- he will feel more included and more safe.

      Now, the labeling and learning. Listen to what he's telling you and STOP LABELING. He's not interested! Let him teach himself through play- to him, the labels are obviously not the point right now. By all means ask him to bring you the pink cup or the red ball, but don't make it a lesson! There's no rush. When he does decide he's interested there'll be no stopping him.

      Schooling- frankly, for gifted kids I usually recommend a school that supports self-directed learning. Steiner, Montessori etc are on the right track; schools that promote streaming so he can be with equally gifted peers will also be better for him than the mainstream.

      Hope this helps!

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  34. Thanks Aunt Annie! Yes, it helped put things into perspective. I've been feeling really drained these past couple of weeks and I've been yelling at him a LOT. The constant demand to explain every action and expression of mine is probably what's challenging me the most.
    He's also been hitting his dad a LOT. It gets both me and my husband very upset because frankly we don't know where its come from and why. When we talk to him about it later, he understands that it hurts and upsets his dad (among others-the hitting isn't entirely restricted to my husband) and tells us that he'll never do it again. I know that is a statement he's borrowed from us- and i consciously make the effort to tell him that we want him to TRY not to hit again or tell us he is angry using words and not hands. I've also been at the receiving end at times and trust me, its tough not to hit back in reflex. He slaps you right in the face when you are least expecting it- like, when I'm giving him a massage or playing with him...it could be anything! With my husband he gets more violent-hitting, kicking etc- maybe because he is milder and will not say no till its really unbearable. I keep telling him to be more firm, but I guess that's just his nature. My fear is, I don't want him to learn that he can get away with bullying or being plain nasty.
    The only thing that affects him is if I tell him I'm too upset to talk to him. We have tried everything we could think of, but nothing seems to be working. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

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    1. That sounds awfully like a 2-yr-old looking for a boundary. You have to give it to him- this is totally NOT okay.

      Can I suggest that the next time he hits you, you just walk away without a word- into another room if necessary? It's much better to do that than to hit him back, and believe me, if this keeps up you'll do it one day. If he asks you where you're going, you calmly tell the truth. "I am angry and hurting because you hit me and so I am having some time to myself now. I want to go out of your reach where you can't hit me any more."

      He will probably cry. Let him cry. While he cries, you can hug him and say kindly "I hear that you're sad now because you made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes sometimes, but we have talked about hitting. You need to remember not to hit people. f you feel angry you can hit this pillow."

      I would also suggest strongly that you ask your husband to help you with this by presenting a united front with you and refusing to allow hitting, kicking or other behaviour that you wouldn't want him to exhibit to other people. Different boundaries from different parents can be very confusing for a small child, and he will probably continue to test you both till he understands what is okay- he hasn't had a clear answer to his question 'can I hit?'. A gifted child is going to have enough trouble with social situations without clear signposts about what's not acceptable.

      I think you've really answered your own question- "The only thing that affects him is if I tell him I'm too upset to talk to him." That's because you're telling the truth and he knows it. Keep telling him the truth!

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  35. Aunt Annie, thanks so much! We have been trying this all of today. In fact, my husband was working from home today as he was sick and my son just walked into the room and whacked him. We told him it was NOT okay and then I also said that I was too upset to talk or play with him. He wanted to know why and I told him. I also asked him why he hit his father. He said, "because I like to". That stumped me. Anyway, I recovered quickly and asked him if he liked being on the receiving end and he said no. So we talked about how there are other ways to show affection/excitement/anger (he does hit when he is excited or feeling very affectionate) and he finally walked up to his dad and apologized and kissed him and made up. I was happy because he took the initiative to do that versus me having to tell him to do that. That was a HUGE step forward.
    I could just go on and on about the everyday little issues with my little guy- advice from you is addictive! But I'll hold that for now.
    Thank you so much for taking the time and being so prompt with your replies. I'm becoming a big fan!

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    1. Oh, that little unprompted apology touched my heart. What a big win. You obviously did a GREAT job with the way you explained how you felt and why. And give your partner a big high five from me for supporting you on this one.

      I don't mind how many issues you bring up here. Remember, out there in Internet Land there are many other parents reading this, sharing and learning from your experiences. Many will be in similar space to you. You are not alone!

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  36. :) Mine too! And I cannot thank you enough for helping it happen.

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    1. Anon, for some reason Blogger has hidden your last comment so I am copying it here:

      "Hi Aunt Annie,
      I just finished putting my son to bed (after some tears and a lot of discussion) and I had to scurry for help from you to preserve my sanity. The hitting was at an all time peak today- throughout the day. He first targeted one of the kids in our playgroup in the morning and later in the day, it was his dad. When I tried to talk to him in the afternoon about how the other kids felt and what upset me etc, he just went, "I'll hit him again tomorrow. I like to hit him." When I ask why, he gives vague reasons ("because he played with toys", "because I was sleepy") so I know there is something that he's trying to tell but cannot (or maybe not. I just don't know what to think).
      Anyway, so what brought on the tears during bed time was my withdrawing a privilege- no story/book before sleeping because he came up to me while I was brushing my teeth and happily announced, "ma I hit daddy again and said sorry." He now thinks its okay to hit/kick/throw/damage things if you can say sorry. And I want him to know its NOT. So I took away the privilege and yes there were tears, but I do think I got my point across more meaningfully- I used your advice and hugged him while he cried and asked him if he was feeling sad. He said yes (between sobs) and I told him that's exactly how others feel when he hits/kicks or hurts them in any way and I took away his story time so he could understand the pain he causes. He kept telling me, "Can I please have a story if I say sorry?" and I had to repeat my logic a few times when he finally got it, I think. So he made his peace and told me he'd try to be more gentle tomorrow and dozed off. And here I am, feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost and trying hard to keep my head above the water with this whole situation.
      What do you think about it? These days there is a lot of, "what happens if I jump from here?", "what happens if I throw this phone?", "I will hit daddy.", "Can I write on the wall?"....the list is endless. And sometimes I don't know how to react to it. I know he's testing me and also testing his boundaries but sometimes it gets really tough to keep responding to these kind of queries calmly.
      And oh, the other thing with his interest in ever adult conversation. Every time I have a conversation with another adult (in his presence) he wants to know what we talked about. His questions range from, "Ma, why did so-and-so say, '...busy so i'm upset'? to, "what did she tell you and why did you speak to her loudly?" I find it a bit unhealthy and I sometimes tell him that if the information was meant for him I will definitely tell him, but otherwise he does not have to know. Is that okay? "

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    2. Okay, now to the answers!

      First, here is a big HUG ((( ))) because this time is being very hard on you. Please look after your own wellbeing by taking some time out, either alone or with your partner. Can you book a massage, or go to the park with a book, or give yourself a short break somehow? You are probably becoming emotionally exhausted by the constant demands.

      Now, your son. He's gone from experimenting with the hitting to experimenting with the boundary of the word 'sorry'. What does sorry do? Does it undo what I did? Is it magic? Does it mean I can do whatever I want if I say sorry after?

      So this is the conundrum you have to help him with now, and withdrawing his story was a fair attempt at showing him cause and effect. It will be much more effective, however, if you use natural consequences and make sure you explain the logic of your consequence.

      First, because he has advanced verbal skills, I would try explaining 'sorry' to him. Something like this:

      "Sorry is not a magic word. Sorry means that you understand you did something wrong and you really want to stop. If you say sorry and then do the same thing again, you make 'sorry' into a lie. If you say sorry and then keep hitting, we know that it's not a real sorry. It's just a sorry to get you out of trouble."

      Then I would make that more real for him by using puppets or soft toys or dolls. Get two of them, act out having them play together with one of his toys, then make one hit the other and then say 'sorry'. Make them cuddle and make up.

      And then make the first soft toy hit again and say sorry. This time, the second soft toy says "I don't believe you. You said sorry last time but you're not really sorry, because you keep doing it. I don't want to play with you any more. I am sad and angry."

      And then you say, "That is what happens if you keep hitting after you said sorry. We will think maybe you are not telling the truth when you say sorry. We will be sad and angry, and 'sorry' won't help then. When you say 'sorry' you have to STOP doing it."

      If he still keeps hitting and saying sorry, then make your soft toy scenario come true. "You said sorry last time but you didn't mean it, because you did it again. If you are really sorry, you show it by STOPPING. I am sad and angry now." And let him cry, and comfort him, but hold firm. "When I'm sad and angry I don't feel like reading stories." Now you have made the consequence logical. You MUST explain the reasoning behind consequences, remember!

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    3. Now, all the questions: he is TWO. Your average 2-yr-old would not verbalise these questions, but he would still do the actions! That's why they call them the terrible twos. And because a gifted child is often a little behind on the social skills, it's lasting longer for you. Poor you!

      (My answer was too long so I am splitting it up- Blogger couldn't cope! LOL)

      At least you are getting a heads-up on what he's thinking. I KNOW how hard it is- it used to drive me CRAZY too- but it's normal 2-yr-old behaviour, with gifted verbal skills attached to confuse you. It will pass.

      As for the questions about your conversations- it's time to talk about the word 'private'. Steer the conversation around these markers: there are parts of your body that are private, which you don't show other people. There are conversations that are private, that you don't tell other people. For example, you are talking to me now about his hitting, but you don't talk to the parents of the children about how sad and angry you get with him when he hits- would he like it or not like it if everyone heard about that? No, that is just between him, his parents and one other person who can help. (Use another example if you're not comfortable with that one.) It is PRIVATE. Sometimes when you're talking to other adults it's private too, and so you won't tell him what you said or why.

      It was so great that you reassured him that you would tell him if it concerned him. Perfect! Well done! Now introduce that magic word 'private' and USE it as a dead-end. He is trying to find the boundaries between him and you- where he is included and where he is separate. Being separate from your conversations will make him anxious, but it's something he has to learn. He's expressing a sort of mental separation anxiety, if that makes sense.

      I do recommend acting out scenarios with toys when you have one of these problems. It makes it real. Children can't stand back and look at their own behaviour, but if they see it acted out using very similar words and situations something often clicks.

      Good luck, and remember to give yourself a break!

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    4. Anon, I've been continuing to think about this and it occurs to me that your son is actually expressing a need for the physicality of hitting. Does he get much strenuous outdoor play? I would up the ante on that.

      I'm thinking it could also be a good move to buy him something like a Totem Tennis set, where he can try to hit the ball as hard as he can- or if his co-ordination is not up to that yet you could get one of those punching-bag toys where you fill the bottom with sand or water, blow them up and then they bounce up again when he knocks them down.

      That might seem like condoning violence, but I think of it as channeling physical impulses that the child is having trouble controlling into a non-damaging activity. I found the punching bag very useful for example, with a child whose parents were in the process of breaking up- the child's feelings were way too big to be contained and he LOVED that punching bag. If you had something like that, you could permit the desired activity- hitting- within a boundary. "You may NOT hit people. You may hit this punching bag or you may hit a pillow if your feelings are too big."

      Just a thought!

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  37. Hi Aunt Annie,
    I just finished putting my son to bed (after some tears and a lot of discussion) and I had to scurry for help from you to preserve my sanity. The hitting was at an all time peak today- throughout the day. He first targeted one of the kids in our playgroup in the morning and later in the day, it was his dad. When I tried to talk to him in the afternoon about how the other kids felt and what upset me etc, he just went, "I'll hit him again tomorrow. I like to hit him." When I ask why, he gives vague reasons ("because he played with toys", "because I was sleepy") so I know there is something that he's trying to tell but cannot (or maybe not. I just don't know what to think).
    Anyway, so what brought on the tears during bed time was my withdrawing a privilege- no story/book before sleeping because he came up to me while I was brushing my teeth and happily announced, "ma I hit daddy again and said sorry." He now thinks its okay to hit/kick/throw/damage things if you can say sorry. And I want him to know its NOT. So I took away the privilege and yes there were tears, but I do think I got my point across more meaningfully- I used your advice and hugged him while he cried and asked him if he was feeling sad. He said yes (between sobs) and I told him that's exactly how others feel when he hits/kicks or hurts them in any way and I took away his story time so he could understand the pain he causes. He kept telling me, "Can I please have a story if I say sorry?" and I had to repeat my logic a few times when he finally got it, I think. So he made his peace and told me he'd try to be more gentle tomorrow and dozed off. And here I am, feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost and trying hard to keep my head above the water with this whole situation.
    What do you think about it? These days there is a lot of, "what happens if I jump from here?", "what happens if I throw this phone?", "I will hit daddy.", "Can I write on the wall?"....the list is endless. And sometimes I don't know how to react to it. I know he's testing me and also testing his boundaries but sometimes it gets really tough to keep responding to these kind of queries calmly.
    And oh, the other thing with his interest in ever adult conversation. Every time I have a conversation with another adult (in his presence) he wants to know what we talked about. His questions range from, "Ma, why did so-and-so say, '...busy so i'm upset'? to, "what did she tell you and why did you speak to her loudly?" I find it a bit unhealthy and I sometimes tell him that if the information was meant for him I will definitely tell him, but otherwise he does not have to know. Is that okay?

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  38. Aunt Annie,

    First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to really think this through and sending me such a thoughtful, insightful and helpful feedback. I'm humbled by your kindness. Thank you! And a big hug right back!
    I'm going to get him one of those punch-and-bounce-back toy thing today. He used to have one and now I do recall that it worked well. The thing with him is that he is aggressive both with affection and anger. It breaks my heart to tell him to back off with his hugs and attention to a particular kid (no one can take his constant hugging and fussing over, after a while)but I have to do it. I do tell him that he could hug me instead but its like telling A who is in love with B, that he/she can marry C instead! :) Or that's the kind of look he gives me before saying a matter-of-fact "no, I want to hug ____" And eventually if the other kid is the stronger sorts who can push this guy off himself then he gets subjected to hitting and pushing and general, "I don't like ____" or "I will hit ____"
    I like that word "private", but I'm a little nervous introducing it to my son who's obsessed with new words and will go on and on using it. (I can already hear him go, "Ma is this private?" multiplied by 300!)
    I sometimes wonder if I'm an over-analytical person/mother who just cannot let her child be. I've got that vibe from some other mums, like did she just land from Mars, what is she talking about?
    On a more cheerful note, the hitting was just once today and when I reminded him that if he did that again, I'd be too upset to read/tell him a story, it worked like magic!
    And on another totally different note, I'd love some tips on introducing art and craft to 2-3 year olds. I'm against hand-over-hand "teaching" of art. However, I don't know if its too extreme to just present materials and leave it at that. What do you think? Right now I've only been doing that most of the times. Again, what I do notice is that children feel ownership over art only when they have done it ALL by themselves. So, instinct says go with that, but I'd like to back that up with some expert advice.

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    1. Ah... like I said, his feelings are too big for him! LOTS of physical exercise, and your guiding words... and patience, patience. It will pass. Yes, he will get hurt by others' reactions. We can't fix that; we can only be there to explain and comfort.

      Have to laugh about your fear of hearing 'private' 300 times! Been there, done that, gritted my teeth!

      It is better to be over analytical and ask for help and advice to moderate that, than to have little interest in reflecting on how you care for your child. Don't be too hard on yourself. Ignore the comments from others; they are experts on their child. You are the expert on yours. And yours is above-average TRICKY.

      Glad that the anti-hitting campaign is showing results. Keep it up!

      Your instinct about art is absolutely 100% backed up by research and expert opinion. With young children, it is about the process, not the product- about exploration of materials, not production of a set outcome. Keep it completely open-ended. At this early age in particular, to lead him is to crush his own creativity. Later on you can ask leading questions, like looking at someone else's work of art and asking him "I wonder how the artist did that? What do you think?" But not at nearly-3.

      For now, the best you can do is to present him with attractive resources. Different types of paper, different media, different combinations of media. Less is more! Start with just a few items, then rotate with a few different items, then maybe combine the two (for example, black texta, bright water colours and a mix of fine and thick brushes, plus butcher's paper; or a cardboard box, paper that fits into it, paint, a golf ball; crayons, plus glue and torn up tissue paper...)

      But don't lead. Don't give examples. Don't give him anything to copy. Let him play!

      Trust yourself. You're on the right track. :)

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  39. Thanks for all those ideas with the art, Aunt Annie! And thanks for the support..I so need it!

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  40. Aunt Annie,
    I'm back AGAIN:) My son is nearing his third birthday and looks like he really wants to see off the "terrible twos" with a bang. The tantrums and meltdowns are so intense and frequent (relatively speaking) that they are beginning to drain me. I am having a hard time talking to him, empathizing and watching him cry with renewed energy at my efforts to communicate, being confused and feeling lost about where we are headed with it. I try to keep my face neutral and not shut him out (it's hard not to, when he shrieks and cries so angrily).
    Some clues: he's the oldest in my play group and being gifted, looks terribly bored and then he comes up with innovative (I have to give credit where it's due!) ways of disrupting the other kids' at play. I have a rule in my group where the toys stay in the rooms and cannot be taken out to the bigger hall. So today he takes a toy walks to the door when I remind him about the rule. He thinks for a second and then stretches out his arms so that the toy is just within the door, while he's standing outside and says," look, it's inside." Of course, smug grin in place.
    Now what follows is usually some other kids picking up on it and I soon have 3 to 4 others holding various toys and imitating him. Today however, no one followed suit, but a couple of them were very keenly observing the interaction. And I have no doubt that it will get stored away in their heads. Problem was, I had no ideas on how to handle it. Fortunately the situation resolved itself as he immediately lost interest and picked up something else but well, you get the idea.
    I know I'm not helping him any by keeping him in this group, but in our current situation we have no choice. Middle of next year, he will be going to another place (we found a great one!) but till then I need ideas on how best to manage this. I don't want him to form some poor habits just because I have a commitment to the other kids till next year.
    Please help!

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    1. I really feel for you! If I hadn't heard anything else about your child, his bending of your 'no toys in the hall' rule would have convinced me that he's gifted- that is SO typical, and exactly the sort of thing my son would have done. Others have been here before and survived the stage- and you will too- but it's terrible while it's happening. DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE.

      My best suggestion at this stage is to find something that engages your child which is ONLY for your child. He sounds to me like he is reluctant to share you (understandable) and is cripplingly bored too (understandable).

      As you have no choice about him having to share you, you must attack this issue of engaging him. Does he have a special passion or interest? Is there something new you could introduce to the room which he loves to play with, which could be for him alone? Have you thought of making him a 'special' area for his own toys and books and games, with a barrier (like a playpen wall) to mark it off from the other children?

      Intellectually, your child shouldn't be forced to backtrack in his development just to fit in with your care clients' children- that's not fair, and he's making you pay. He needs to be challenged. He needs his ability to be recognised. Without knowing more I can't suggest exactly what might work, but it's possible that this may be a case for using (perish the thought!) some very carefully chosen screen time with educational programs (NOT ordinary games) on a computer, which will challenge his intellect.

      I very rarely suggest this for children this age, but I make an exception for gifted children and children with Aspergers. It's something that mustn't be over-used- absolutely NO more than 2 hours' total screen time in a day, including TV. But it might get you out of trouble at those difficult times when you really have to work with the other children. Alphabet and numerical games, jigsaws, read-along books etc can be wonderful for these children and would allow him to do his 'playwork' while you do yours. Remember to look for programs suitable for an older child- say 4 or 5 to start with.

      I'll say it again- you must limit his time!! And if he takes to this, he may act out when his time is up, so be prepared. Try not to use it as a reward or punishment, but make the boundaries clear around it- eg "you may do your playwork at nap time and at one other time. Look at the clock- you can have one hour each time. It's one o'clock now, so when the big hand gets to the 2 it will be time to turn the computer off."

      I hope this will help!

      Delete
  41. Thanks Aunt Annie! After I wrote to you yesterday, Iread your latest post and it was almost like someone was describing my son (barring a few details). I could relate to the child and I suddenly felt, this is what I need to do- get into his head and see what exactly is he trying to express by his disruptive behavior.
    I have tried giving him a few activities of his own, that he enjoys but then he gets very territorial (which I totally get) while it gets hard to keep the other kids from it. In retrospect, maybe if I persist and set clear boundaries for the other kids too, they will soon lose interest (they struggle with the activities I set out for him) and move on to activities that actually interest them. Hmm.
    Thanks for the leg up whenever I need it :)
    A BIG hug!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Dear Aunt Annie,
    I had to share this incident with you. Your guidance and advice made this possible ( in a large part):

    there has been a lot of whining in the last one month and I have been bottling it all up I guess. This afternoon, as I gave my son a bath and got him to the bedroom to get him dressed, the protests began. Whining his way through wearing the pants, he got really annoying when I asked him to put on his shirt. That was it. I started to tell him that his whining was tiring me out when I burst into tears. Before I knew it, I was sobbing uncontrollably and weeping. One part of me was feeling guilty about crying such unabashed tears in the presence of my son, but the tears refused to stop. Soon I was aware of a tiny finger, gently wiping away a tear as a sweet voice kept saying' "Ma, I won't do that again. I won't do it again". There was no fear or panic but an amazing calmness in his demeanor. He was so comfortable letting me get my steam off. A while later, I calmed myself and tried to sit up when I felt a gentle hand press my head back to the pillow. When I looked up, the expression on his face was one of pure, unconditional love. That floored me. I felt so free. I told him that I wanted to cry some more and could he get me a tissue. He ran and came back with one, handed it to me, held my hand and lay down next to me.
    Five minutes later, I felt so much lighter, the child in me having finished her meltdown, I told him, " thank you s. I'm feeling much better." To which he said, " Ma........" "Yeah sweetie?"
    " Why does the washing machine have its wire right at the back and...?"
    We were back in business.
    Thank you for this!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Oh wow. That made me cry!

    When we can let go and actually TRUST our children to cope with the real 'us'... magic happens. Being authentic is everything. Being honest about our feelings clears away all the confusion for children, and especially for gifted children. They just want to be treated like real people.

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

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    Replies
    1. Can your child be gifted if at 4 they are turned off by letters and numbers. They have always been physically very advanced and tick all the other boxes. Worried they will find school hard because they are stuck in their own world.

      Delete
    2. Gifted kids usually find school hard in one way or another. If he/she is gifted, they may resent being 'taught' letters and numbers. Once everyone stops trying to teach your child, they may do the learning under their own steam. No gifted child will grow up illiterate, believe me- take the pressure off and see what happens. Physically advanced doesn't have a lot of relevance except in that they may be exploring other capabilities by preference.

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
  44. Hi Aunt Annie,
    I probably am beating all records for blog comments here- I am back for like the tenth time? Lol!
    Anyway, my son is now 4 and well, a big brother (cringe!). I gave birth to my second boy, late in September and we have had a tough one year, you could say. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started preparing my son for the huge change. He has taken it pretty well- loves the LO, gets upset when we set boundaries on excessive touching and kissing the baby, but that's about it. Occasionally, he comes up with imaginary scenarios where he says the baby is hurt. Much as it disturbs me, I know it's on par for the course and play along with the story. I know he is testing waters to see if we will accept his negative feelings for the baby, and frankly I am almost welcoming it. I know he needs to get it out without being judged and hopefully I can be that rock for him now.
    My trouble now is with handling differences in parenting styles- with my mum. She has obliged us by coming over for an extended stay to help me out and now I am going to go on over to hers for a couple of months. Hubby and I came to the conclusion that this is the best arrange,ent for the next two months. Anyway, my mum is pretty 'old school' in her ideas and beliefs and what's more, insists that I am parenting him all wrongly ( in not so many words, of course). She has been using a lot of distractions, threats, praise, censure with him. Initially he stood his ground, but now I see a lot of that affecting him negatively. He LOVES being with her- she entertains him ( double cringe!) and believes there is nothing wrong in drawing for him, making him color inside lines, teaching him letters & numbers...I could go on and on. While he initially resisted this, now he is slowly getting used to her being an entertainer and I can see that he finds me boring, so to speak. I keep putting the ball right back in his court, during play and I know that it can feel boring once you discover the 'joys' of being entertained by an adult. It's exciting, hilarious, fun...and oh...hugely over stimulating. So by early evening, he is SO wound up and stressed out that the rest of the day becomes nightmarish sometimes. Couple that with the fact that he wants to keep going back for more entertainment...argh!
    I am at my wits end on how to manage this at my parents' home. I have also been unschooling him and all that has gone right out the window, with my mum deciding that he needs to be taught.
    Tonight, he asked me what is wrong with calling someone 'bad boy' or 'good boy'. I tried to explain but it sounded so....thin to me, I don't think it made any impression on him. My mum also tells him that she likes the 'good S' and not the 'bad S'. So now he has developed this alter ego almost and keeps blaming the bad him for all his slip ups and mistakes.
    I feel he is getting all mixed messages and I am worried it may do permanent damage.
    Any thoughts?
    Desperately in need of some help and perspective!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, this is tough. I don't know the circumstances around you deciding you need to be at your mother's house, but I have to say that I see that this is increasing the stress on you rather than decreasing it. Is it really necessary? Is it possible for your son to visit his grandmother for a few days each week rather than you all living there? Is it possible to live at your house and visit Grandma during the day? I can't think of anything more stressful for you than having to be in this environment 24 hours a day. YOU need some respite from trying to juggle this additional demand on your resources. Does your partner need to make some compromises and pull his weight as a dad?

      Anyway, as I say, I don't know the circumstances, so let's say you're stuck with this situation. I feel like this comment box isn't big enough, so I might have to devote a blog post to your question if that's okay with you. But for now, I want to remind you that children are resilient, so you son will survive this okay- you are still his primary influence! And also, try to remember that your mother is working within her own perspective, and until you put yourself in her shoes you will be at loggerheads with her over this and you won't get anywhere. Did she bring you up like this? If so, your opposition will be seen as a judgment on her and she will resist. Did she bring you up completely differently to this? Then perhaps she is somehow trying to make amends for some perceived flaw in herself, and she won't be hearing you. It's her house; she holds sway. Unless you can sit down with your mum and UNEMOTIONALLY discuss the difficulties you are having (eg the overstimulation at bedtime) and come to some compromises, you will remain 'stuck'.

      Remember, this isn't a scientific experiment where you have to keep the conditions of bringing up your son completely constant! :D Children bounce. Children HAVE to learn how to cope with different people, different personalities, different rules. This may actually be a really good learning experience for him. The phrase 'those are Granny's rules, not our rules' may be very useful, and you may need to develop a thicker skin when he replies that he likes Granny's rules better and simply reply 'That's okay, but they are still Granny's rules not ours'.

      I shall try to find some time to address this at more length in the next few days- I hope this has given you something to work with. And HUG. You need a HUG.

      Delete
    2. Hug accepted very gratefully :)
      Thank you AA for the insight. Yes, I do think I may have been a bit over zealous in trying to 'protect' my son from being exposed to a different style of interaction. This has also led to some really tense times for me at family gatherings or when meeting friends. Hmmm...there's a lot of food for thought for me. I probably need to back off and let my mum form her own special bond with him. Funnily, though our parenting styles are so different, I don't think I could have asked for a better mum. And I need to stop letting this become an issue and ruin our relationship, in the process. My son loves her and maybe I should let him form his own opinions ( to my credit, I have consciously stayed away from putting my opinions into his head).
      Sigh! Parenting is tough...thanks for your help again AA. I love the balanced perspective that you give and your approach to childcare is truly the most practical and doable I have found. Love you for that!

      Delete
    3. Poornima, I am so glad that you found that advice helpful. You sound like such a great mum- open-minded and willing to reflect on yourself as well as on the people around you. People like you are easy to help! :)

      Delete
  45. Wow! Oh man, you described my 2yo! I'm having such a hard time parenting her because I truly think she's smarter than me! Her ability to use logic and eloquently describe her conclusions astounds me. I have trouble keeping her out of creative mischeif. The other day I was out back taking the dog out before she got up and she woke up and made a pot of coffee all by herself! Correctly! She knew all her shapes, colors, and body parts by 18 months. By 2 she could count from 10 backwards and forward up to 14, she also knows most of the animals, where they live and what they eat. She has amazing fine motor skills, she can color in the lines, draw shapes and tries to write her name in cursive. Sheis also very witty. My problem is I can't keep her out of creative mischeif! I never thought to tell her the coffee pot was off limits, so she didn't think she was doing anything wrong. However, even with tasks that I tell her are only for adults, she challenges me. She is also highly reactive and painfully shy. She doesn't like kids her own age, but will play well with children who are 5-7. Also, she is so shy that she pratically shuts down infront of new people or in public. I started taking her to daycare and she pretty much completely withdrew into herself, even once we got her home. She stopped talking completely, constantly threw fits, and was trying to hurt us and herself. I lost count how many timesshe tried to up end the kitchen table. Withen a month of taking her out of daycare she was back to her norma lself. How do I teach her that it is ok to be herself around others and interact with children? Her bad reaction to daycare has me considering homeschool, but I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with her.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Joelle. What you're describing sounds like a profoundly gifted child. Looks like you are in for some fun! :D

      Re her 'being herself' around other kids: she IS being herself. She's sitting there wondering why she's been put in a room full of babies. She can't communicate with them. She doesn't have the same interests as them. And the teacher is probably completely unnerved by her and has no idea how to treat her.

      Given her extreme reaction and excellent communication skills, it's time to talk to her about what happened when she was at daycare. Have that conversation! You can start with "You seemed very angry when we were leaving you at daycare. Can you tell me about that?" and just let her talk. Who knows? The staff may even have been bullying her- it's not unknown. It may be the wrong daycare. OR it may be that you need to educate that daycare teacher about your child's special needs. She may be happier in the preschool room if they'll allow it. However my best suggestion if you're not happy with daycare or home schooling is to put her into a care situation where they have mixed age groups, such as family day care (that's in Australia- don't know where you are).

      If you do that, it's super-important that you make sure your daughter is comfortable with the adult in charge, as it will be full-time contact with that one adult. You might need to shop around a bit. And again, educate that adult about your daughter's needs!

      Re 'shutting down' in front of new people and in public- remember that gifted children have asynchronous development. In other words, socially she is still a 2-yr-old, and a little shyness is completely normal at her age- it will pass. Another possibility is that she's a natural introvert and needs to know people and feel comfortable with them before she comes out of her shell- that is okay! Not every child has to be a socialite! :D She may just be observing quietly and drawing her own conclusions before dipping her toe in the water- very normal for gifted kids. So in a word, STOP WORRYING about this one and model confidence in your own interactions. (Also please don't ask her to 'perform' using her extravagant advanced skills in front of others- she won't be wanting to feel like a performing seal! :D )

      I am not much in favour of home schooling in your situation, for exactly the reasons you describe. Also, you will need a break and she will need more stimulation than you can possibly provide. Look for a good school for her which either has a gifted program in place or is selective on academic ability. Make yourself aware of any scholarship situations to selective schools well in advance so she can apply when the time comes. Be prepared, like a good scout!

      Good luck with her- would love to hear more about her ad how you're going.

      Delete
  46. Ok so I had a very long response typed up and it all got deleted. Let's try this again:
    You were spot on about her being bullied by a teacher. This is something Ari (my daughter) still brings up on her own, almost 9months after the fact. The teacher would call her a baby for missing me and scream at her to "calm down on the crying!" Sadly since we live in a rural area that is the only liscensed daycare close by. Also, in our location, the school system is terrible! I have looked into Montessori programs, which seem ideal. Ari would be with a mixed age group and also be able to learn at her own pace. I will need to look into scholarships, because currently tuition is double our mortgage and out of our price range.
    I do get flummoxed by Ari's shyness, mostly because I am a social butterfly. I do think that while some of it is her age, most is her personality. I'm trying to work on me, and coping with it. What I mentioned before is any large crowd of people especially in a store. She whispers "there's my friend" when she sees a child, but if someone talks to, or even looks at her she freezes. I couldn't get her to show off if I tried!
    Do you think she is too young for formal music lessons? She loves music (Bob Marley is her favorite). For Christmas we bought her a ukelele and I. Tried to show her how to play "last kiss" by Pearl Jam. She doesn't have all the chords down, but sure is great watching her sing her own version. "Where oh where can my mooommy bee? There she is!" And then she points at me and grins. Do you have any other advice on other activities I can do with her that she'll be interested in for more than a day? Once she feels she has mastered a toy or actvity she won't come back to it.
    Also, I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, but... just before Christmas ari got a toy baby doll and promptly named her named her Felicia. Well her and Felicia were inseperable until Christmas day. I didn't know until after the fact, but her cousin shot Felicia and several other toys. When we were leaving I asked Ari to go get Felicia, she replied "Felicia is dead, they're all dead." Grandma took Felicia took the dr aand had him bring Felicia back to life, but she still won't play with her. I'm wondering if someone dies that we are close to, if Ari won't understand when the dr can't bring them back. I'm sure I'm over analyzing the subject, but these thoughts keep me up at night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Montessori sounds perfect if you can find a way to manage it.

      If you can find a good early childhood music class OR a Suzuki method teacher in your area, she isn't too young for music lessons. But her hands will be a bit small to manage most instruments, so it depends a little on where her interest lies. Is there a choir she can join so she can sing?

      Don't worry about her sampling things and moving on. When she finds the thing that REALLY interests her, you'll be complaining about her obsessions! And also don't be afraid of allowing her to get bored. You don't have to keep finding new toys. Let her use her imagination. And use household items as toys. Give her a large cardboard box, for example, and see what she does with it!

      I think you're overthinking the death thing, but maybe you can bring up the subject if a local pet dies, for example. Once she meets death in reality she will work it out- you can't protect her from that.

      Delete
    2. We just joined a Waldorf homeschool coop. I'm hoping that this will help Ari and keep her mind occupied, and give me ideas that will engage her.

      I have started telling her "I won't let you..." when she is doing something destructive or dangerous. The problem is she is turning it against me. For example: she'll kick me and I'll say " I won't let you kick me, it hurts, if you need to kick, you cankick a pilllow." I say it calmly and hold her legs when I say it. Ari responds, "I won't let you stop me from kicking you!" That is just one example. I hear "I won't let you..." from her more times than I say it myself! It could be about anything from giving her a bath to asking her to help pick up her puzzles to bringing her insidee when it starts to rain.

      As for buying her new toys, we don't do that often. We look for activities we can do with what we already have on hand. She does have toys, but she doesn't show them much interes. The toys we do buy are building blocks, train sets, nesting toys, tea sets. I limit the electonic toys, as I have always felt that they entertain the child and hamper creative thinking. I was just wondering if you had advice on things we could do with her that would engage her.

      I think I cann call yesterday a success! In the morning a got out some giant moving boxes and we built a rocket ship. Together. When she lost interest in that (after about 4hrs) I taped old toilet paper rolls to the wall in patterns and she dropped small objects in them. Depending on the roll she chose the object could fall straight to the ground or go thru several tubes before hitting the ground. Ari loved I! Not only did it occupy her but it kept her mind off going outside. She even asked for a nap!

      Delete
    3. Suggestion, use your feelings to guide her. Instead of "I won't let you" try, it hurts me when you kick me. Shed a little tear. Tell her you don't kick her because you don't want to hurt her. Ask her to remember a time she got hurt and if she wants mommy to feel that way?

      Delete
  47. Alright, I guess I hadn't explored your blog enough before writing that last response! I want Ari to be able to play independently. I long for it some days! Usually when I try to encourage her coming up with ways to entertain herself is when she gets into her mischief. She is entertaining herself when she makes coffee or flushes all our wash clothes down the toilet (clogging our septic tank) or paints herself green on old nail polish. That's when the trouble comes in. I know out sounds like I'm neglectful. I promise I'm not. She knows how to open every child lock we have and routinely cliffs over the baby gates. I've tried to make our house as child friendly as possible and am with her Soooo much that she'll actually push me out of her room and shut the door in my face! I'm walking a fine line with her!

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    Replies
    1. Ari is sounding like a little scientist to me. Can you get her a more sophisticated, open-ended building kit? Something like the old meccano sets which can be used to build all sorts of things with moving parts? In Australia we have Australian Geographic shops where you can buy all sorts of interesting scientific things to build which actually work when you're done, such as little solar cell-run items with moving parts. Go more advanced and see how far you have to go before she gets interested.

      As for the 'I won't let you' coming back in your face- I had to confess I smiled a little because my son was EXACTLY like that. Very typical of the gifted child! What worked for me was this little chat:

      "This is my job as your mum. I have to make sure you grow up to be a happy adult. You will not be a happy adult if you kick other people, because nobody will want to be around you and you will get terribly sad and lonely. So I won't let you kick me or anyone else." And hold her legs firmly until she has the tantrum which will no doubt come!

      Explain why you're saying 'I won't let you' every single time, in terms of your job as her mum. Always relate it to her own happiness. It's not a magic wand but it does help; it will make you feel better because it confirms your motivation in your own mind, and it will eventually make sense to her, especially if you wait for calm happy moments and say "What do you think would happen if somebody came and kicked you right now? Would you want to play with them or would you be angry and go away from them?" She is too young for you to expect her to have grasped theory of mind (that's putting herself in someone else's shoes) BUT gifted kids usually get the hang of that sooner than the non-gifted, so stay ahead of her and start talking about it already.

      Keep me posted! :)

      Delete
    2. Annie, I disagree with telling a child "You won't be happy if you kick other people" They might watching TV and seeing martial arts where people kick in a contest. I think parents do better when they tell their own stories, not spelling disaster for the future of the child. Say things like, "I only kick when I have the other persons permission. like in kick boxing" Tell the child it hurts when you get kicked and show the hurt rather than getting upset at something with which every child experiments.

      Delete
  48. This is the first time I have encountered someone else (besides me) saying that giftedness is a special need. Thank you so much! When I say this to friends, they shun me. Everyone (who doesn't have a kid like this) thinks 'the smarter, the better' and I get so frustrated. Any kid who doesn't fit the 'average', has special needs. The gifted ones just need it in the other direction. Giftedness is not all rainbows and lollipops, there are real challenges and I get so tired of people telling me to stop bragging, or that I 'push' her, etc...yet in the next sentence they will say how great their kid is at some sport. If you ask me, gifted kids get the short end of the stick, but I love every second of raising my daughter. It is a learning experience for me, but it's also a lot of fun, most of the time. :)

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  49. My daughter Mia has just turned 3. I don't know whether or not she is "gifted", and to be honest I'm not looking for any such title. She does seem to be of above average intelligence for her age (by 18months could count backwards from 10 and recognise many numbers and letters, by 2 and a half could explain how a steam engine works and obsessed by all things mechanical, now into the human body and can follow the digestive tract from mouth to food pipa to stomach to intestines etc...

    What I'd like to know is whether it is possible that she faces a lot of the challenges that gifted children do. We have been told that her social development is lacking because she fails to join in with her peers or initiate play. She will choose to play herself with cars and trains in a group setting rather than joining in. I do notice her interacting better with older children and adults, and can have lengthy chats with grown ups about things she finds interesting.

    Her tantrums are significant, however I have found that patience and detailed explanations help her understand WHY "no" is "no", and often help prevent tantrums in the first place.

    She hates bright light and strong smells to the extent that she will ask to be removed from an area where it's smelly, or vomit if she smells vomit. She loves strong tastes and continues to put inedible things in her mouth. She also very very active, to the extent where it can be hard to keep her near us in crowded places.

    We are going through a rough time at the moment as her minder has just advised us that she will no longer care for her as she takes too much attention away from the other children, and creates public scenes which give her (the minder) a bad reputation. We have had several labels mentioned including autistic spectrum, Aspergers, sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia and ADHD, and had little in the way of positive feedback over the last few months. She has been seen by a paediatrician who does not think she's on the autistic spectrum, however we await a full developmental assessment which is unlikely to happen for a few months.

    Is there any support you can offer in the meantime? We struggle to know what the best setting for her would be, and have just a month to find new care. It has been suggested that she might do better with one to one attention like a nanny to nurture her social development. (But should we just be accepting that she does not necessarily enjoy the company of children her age?). I was tempted to try a nursery which might offer more of a routine. Feeling very confused right now.

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  50. All children are gifted in some way, whether it be cognitive, physical, emotional, social, spiritual, numerically, etc. I think it's a teachers responsibility to find and nurture those gifts while developing the areas that lag, which all kids have too.

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  51. Your story sounds very familiar to our son's and we went through absolute hell at pre-school. The teachers did their best but were convinced he had ADHD or ODD or the like. They were not psychologists or trained to identify giftedness and we wish we hadn't wasted our time second guessing ourselves for so long. I still harbour alot of anger at how we were treated. In the end, our son had sleep apnoea and following surgery his behaviour has settled significantly (allow 6 months to resolve). Plus, he is highly gifted and we have a report from Gifted Minds in Sydney outlining how this affects his behaviour and social skills. Since starting school he has been undergoing social skills training with a speech therapist (which he loves) and has done a few one off social skills days at a psychologist office (he also loved this). We took him to a Gifted and Talented Kids day camp and I can confidently say that when he was engaging with other like minded souls he was amazing all day. Never ever listen to pre-school teachers - they have limited training. You know your child best.

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  58. This is a fantastic post. I stumbled upon it looking for information to help me with my very active 3 year old. My daughter is 3.7 and has never been tested for gifted and talented but it seems that she may have the traits and I am having difficulty figuring out how to place her in a school. I am an educator but don't feel confident teaching her any longer. I keep feeling like there is so much more she can do but I am so exhausted all the time from being her mother, being patient and redirecting her energy to a positive space when she gets frustrated. Just a little background information. T is what I will call her. At 3 months she began reaching for my food, and at 4 months saying Daddy whenever her father walked in or out of a room. She sat up and fed herself with a mesh teether and shook her hand at books on a shelf until I red them to her. She would make grunting noises that mimmicked conversation when I held her in my arms while talking to a friend and then mimick our expressions. It was uncanny and people always thought she was quite a few months older. At 6 months, T. went with me to a babyfingers class and in three weeks she could sign on command more than ten words. Fast forward, She read the word "powerful" on while we were sitting on the train one day and shouted it out loud. She spoke in complete sentences at 18 months and memorized second grade level picture books. She now has extreme difficulty playing with children her own age and often becomes very angry and at what she feels is an injustice. Her temper is crazy! But around adults she is very happy and extremely expressive. She told me this morning, " I like being boisterous mommy, so you have to have stealth. Just be calm and don't say anything while I do things." She is very crafty with words and puns and loves math and I would love to send her to a preschool where she will have fun, but that seems costly. I am exhausted all the time and don't even know if I am really helping her to grow as much as she can. She is a real charm and I love her more than anything, so I need help deciding if preschool or daycare are a good choice for her personality.

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  59. I think my son is gifted. Obviously all parents should think their child is a prodigy but my son is 4 in May. Before he started Nursery he knew all his shapes, colours, numbers up to 40, alphabet, He could read letters, he loved puzzles...he even knew shapes such as hexagon, pentagon, octagon and even knew that a diamond was also a rhombus! He's incredibly bright for his age and loves learning. At home I'd been practicing writing with him to the point he could write the Alphabet and legibly too! Doesn't need naps, sleeps all night without a hassle - 8pm to 7am. And he's a very well behaved child, says his please and thank you's. Yet...he's being treated differently at Nursery. His writing has gotten worse. He does all his homework himself and has great memory, telling me what he did. At first I thought I was just being picky but when we went in to watch him with Santa...he was isolated from the nursery. They put spots on the floor for the kids to sit and all the kids were on one side of the room whereas his one was placed on the other side alone. And when he asked the teacher politely if he could come see me, with a please might I add, the teacher told him to stay there very abruptly. Whereas other children, who didn't even ask, were allowed to go to their parents. He was so quiet and withdrawn it was honestly a flip from how he normally is. And it upsets me greatly...the thought of my son being ignored is heartbreaking as he's a friendly enough boy. He helps clean around the house and enjoys playing with other kids - it says in his nursery notes he's helping other boys and girls learn their alphabet! But it was so blatant that he was being ignored - so much so my partner noticed! We're the youngest parents in the nursery - myself bei 23 and my partner 24...and my concerns are being ignored. And I don't know what to do. Half an hour every day I've started practicing in little education books with stickers for his writing, reading etc. And he loves it. But am I just perhaps being too pushy in his learning? Am I in the wrong? If not, what am I supposed to do?

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  60. Thank you for writing this, especially this bit: "They won't come to harm from sleeping less than the other children." My 3.5 year old is gifted and I'm going mad because he seems to think 9 hours a night is a reasonable amount of sleep. I put him to bed at 7.30pm and then we just battle a not-tired child until 9.30pm until he finally falls asleep! It's awful! I think I'll give up and just put him to bed later. He gets up at 6am no matter what time he goes to bed.

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  62. Im a gifted adolescent (with 154 iq) but i wonder if the child that you referenced has Asperger's disorder ?

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  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  64. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who was conducting a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your internet site.
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  65. Thank you for this article! I know it was written years ago but I have been in search of info to help my 2.5 year old. She shows many of these signs and will be starting preschool in the fall. I'm nervous about her being bored/acting out. I currently watch her run circles (intellectually and verbally, not so much physically!) around kids her age. We have the option to send her to a Montessori school, and I'm wondering if that would be better than traditional preschool (I am going back to work so it will be 5days/wk, 6 hours/day.) it's a stretch financially so I am torn. The traditional preschool does emphasize outdoor play/exploration, which I love. But when I toured I observed the 4yr old class learning letters with activities that my daughter has already mastered. Montessori is more individual-based and this one also integrates 3 and 4 year olds. Thoughts? Thank you again for the great article! ~Elaine

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