Misconceptions About Intellectually Gifted Kids

Modern Misnomers and Fallacies About Gifted Children

For good reason, many parents of truly gifted children, as defined by traditional standards, are very reluctant to have the “gifted” label attached to their child.

Because intellectual giftedness is commonly misunderstood by parents, educators, and the general public, certain myths, and fallacies need to be addressed for the benefit of these children. Here are some potentially harmful misnomers attributable to this population.

Exceptions to the Rule for the Gifted

Every child needs to be held to certain standards of behavior and common courtesy. Allowing gifted children to surpass these boundaries in the interest of stimulating their intellect is contrary to their need for social development. For example, a child who is allowed to converse in adult conversation to the exclusion of other children sends a harmful message. The message that he is somehow better than another child, or that his interactions are intrinsically more valuable, could make him develop a false sense of superiority.

The Gifted Need Heavy Handed Discipline

A gifted child is no more or less responsible for his aberrant behavior than other children. He does not have a higher sense of morality or goodness than any normal child. Therefore, punishments, feedback, and other behavioral corrections should be the same for him as for others in the family.

The Need for Constant Stimulation

While it is important to help the child achieve his potential by exposing him to new and different stimuli on a regular basis, bombarding him with activities is not an appropriate reaction. The gifted child needs challenges but also rest from stimulation, just as other children do. Every child has his own timetable for experiencing the world. Some gifted children are more shy and withdrawn than others and may be turned off by too much attention. This is the opposite of what a nurturing parent wants to accomplish with the gifted child.

To Each His Own Speed

Though it is often true that gifted children excel in other areas, in part because of their intense curiosity, they will not necessarily mature at an advanced level on other developmental scales. He may be slower to walk than his brother, possibly because he is more cautious about hurting himself. He may be emotionally introverted, and signs of his giftedness may go unheeded to the less careful observer.

The Gifted Have Personality Quirks

It is a common misconception that gifted kids are quirky or tend to be nerds. Most children with high intellectual prowess are as well adjusted and normal from a personality standpoint as other children.

Misnomers tend to multiply because people are often too quick to categorize and label others. Each child is a unique gift in his own way and has individualized traits and problems. Understanding his uniqueness and catering to his individual needs is paramount to eventually realizing his full potential as an adult.


Yahnke Walker, Sally, The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 2002.