Behavior. We all have behaviors. Even animals have behaviors. We all exhibit positive and negative behaviors during our lives. Perhaps in your youth you behaved in ways you are proud of or would rather forget; we all can remember times like this.
When children and youth exhibit positive behaviors, we should acknowledge them. When they exhibit troublesome behaviors, our job is to try to determine the cause of the behavior and help them change their behavior, so they exhibit appropriate behaviors across settings and over time. For students who are gifted, behavior can often be misunderstood.
Students who are gifted often display a wide spectrum of behaviors, from appropriate to inappropriate depending upon the situation and their frame of mind at the time. Some students who are gifted may deliberately manipulate their behavior so the adult response is what the student wants to see, often either a positive or negative response. They are masters at reading clues and weighing the consequences. Other times, students who are gifted become so frustrated with barriers to their intense desire for learning that they act out in inappropriate or challenging ways.
A few parents were talking about their students’ behavior and how challenging it is to interpret. Sometimes their students fall in line with common expectations of school or societal behavior, and sometimes they challenge the rules. In school, sometimes their students may choose to be apart from others and not seek out friends, while other students refuse to do anything without their friends. Still other students who are gifted challenge their teachers about a fact or viewpoint. Are these typical student behaviors? To some degree, yes, but often the intensity of the behavior is what is different. The parents were trying to understand the broad range of behaviors their gifted students exhibited, and trying to choose a response.
One of the parents said that while their gifted child exhibited challenging behaviors some of the time, the parent simply tried to model appropriate behaviors, including how to point out errors and how to disagree with someone while not attacking the other person. The parent also said that he just tries to love his child unconditionally, even on the hard days. All the parents agreed that they would try harder to do that. They agreed to stay in contact to support each other in parenting their gifted child.
Students and parents need a place to be loved unconditionally, a place where they can truly be themselves, especially with all the stress that school and the world can create. Hopefully, that safe place is home. As a Navy wife, we always said, “home is where we are” because we moved so much. For gifted students and their families, home is where they are with people who care about them - their behaviors, their goals and dreams, and joys and challenges. My challenge to you is to continue to make your home a haven for you and your children.
Behaviour, Emotions, Social Development: Gifted and Talented Children
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
Ask the Doctor