The only guide you’ll need on how to discipline a gifted child
Do you have a gifted child? Here's what you need to know.
Knowing that your little one is gifted is a source of great pride to parents. But as with raising any child, a gifted child comes with a unique set of challenges due to their “special” abilities — and this includes disciplining them. “What should I do as a parent?” you ask. Fear not! Here at theAsianparent we have a comprehensive guide on how to discipline a gifted child.
Although a child with above-average abilities in a variety of areas may seem gifted, it is difficult to objectively define what a gifted child is. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers a definitive description:
“Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10 percent or rarer) in one or more domains.
Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”
How can you tell if your child is gifted? Professionals from a variety of institutions like the US National Asociation of Gifted Children describe the following traits of a gifted child:
- Being able to read during their pre-school years
- Inquisitive by nature and prone to not sleeping
- Achieving developmental milestones earlier than their peers
- Being highly energetic
- Displaying interest in a diverse array of topics and curiosity to delve deeper into the subject matter
- Finding it difficult to socialise with normal peers, and having to play with older kids of a similar intellect
- Remembering slight details others would miss, but hates memorisation and recitations
- Are able to concentrate and focus sharply relative to peers, such as on one subject and ignoring everything else
- Providing creative solutions to issues
- Prioritising selectively what their interests are
- Having an innate ability to do things within the ability of older kids with determination and skill (such as music or the arts)
- Being highly sensitive and harbouring a strong sense of justice
There are also some observable traits that may put a child in the “gifted” category:
- Learns rapidly, easily, and efficiently
- Demonstrates unusual reasoning power
- Applies self discipline
- Likes structure, order, and consistency
- Has flexible thinking patterns and makes connections between remote ideas
- Obtains good grades in school
- Keenly interested in science or literature
- Reveals originality in oral and written expression
- Has a power of abstraction, conceptualisation and synthesis
- Having emotional security
- Tends to dominate peers or situations
- Uses a lot of common sense
- Willing to accept complexity
- Highly aware and open to his or her environment
The Ministry of Education (MOE) also recommends sending your child to a registered psychologist who is a qualified and experienced assessor. The psychologist will assess your child’s aptitude by sitting for a standardised test of intelligence alone. Normally, the Stanford-Binet (SB-5) or Wechsler Intelligence Test (WISC-IV) are the only two tests be used for this purpose.
Parents can refer to the Singapore Registry of Psychologists member directory (found under “SRP Registration”) on the Singapore Psychological Society website to find accredited professionals for such tests.
Does being aware that your child is gifted matter at all? In a past article, we discussed why there are much more significant reasons other than the possible pride that comes from being “special.”
More often than not, gifted children are suppressed from their full potential by conforming to the pace and capabilities of their normal peers. At the early phases of school, they are often misidentified, placed in unsuitable classes and taught a curriculum that fails to stimulate them. Consequently, gifted children who are self-aware of their differences mask their true abilities so as to be accepted by their peers.
In fact, gifted students do lack a few things compared to their peers. Namely, these are:
- A conducive, engaging and encouraging environment where they can be rewarded for their gifts
- Knowing how to effectively assert themselves; given a dissatisfactory school or home, some gifted children don’t know how to respond in a constructive manner to improve their situation
Parents, now that you know how and why you to identify a gifted child, you may be asking yourselves how to discipline your gifted child. However, let’s start with the most common mistakes parents make in disciplining their gifted child.
Argue with them. Yes, the worst method to discipline a gifted child is to convince them that you’re right. However, you’ll soon realise that arguing with a gifted child is extremely tiring and won’t achieve anything.
Why do we say so? Well, they might be a lot better in arguing than you think.
Gifted children often have unrelenting persistence, a wide vocabulary, and more creative ideas in their heads than the average adult. In fact, they can argue back sharply with brisk semi-logical explanations, making your arguments pale in contrast.
Frustration ensues. You get exhausted trying to get a point across to deaf ears. They win — and hop onto doing something else.
In the end, nothing changes due to unsuccessful communication. Gifted children might not even intend to to be disrespectful; perhaps they just had better ideas during the verbal fight.
Not only can gifted children be rebellious at home, they tend to be disruptive even in school. Valerie Strauss, an education writer from the Washington Post elucidates how:
“They caused one of two forms of disruptive trouble. The first was actively creating havoc in classes, such as by giving sarcastic comments in class or talking back continually to the teacher. The second was by displaying passive aggression via sullen non-participation and/or other forms of quiet defiance.”
- That gifted children become bored by routine and rules and want to change them, making it difficult to reach a concensus with the adults
- The fact that gifted children may not take criticism well. Gifted children push themselves to high standards and become perfectionistic — anything short of perfection is failure. The blow to one’s self esteem makes it difficult for an adult to reach the gifted child and help them achieve their fullest potential.
In essence, gifted children are intelligent and can make plausible arguments while being defiant and unreachable. Knowing all this, what’s the best answer to “How to discipline a gifted child?”
So remember, parents, the most important rule you must always remember when disciplining a gifted child is to NOT argue with them. Rather than acting impulsively to their arguments, exert your maturity and think ahead. Here’s how:
- Set down some ground rules they should follow and clearly outline your expectations about their behaviour. Make these demands clear to them on a regular basis while they’re calm (you can’t win battles when they’re in a persistent, competitive mood).
- Let them understand your perspective. Teach them exactly what it is you want them to understand by abiding by these rules. Ask them to help you in designing suitable punishments should they break your rules. Most of the time kids will willingly provide their input for a significant cause if given the opportunity.
- Once discussions about expectations have concluded, be ready to stand your ground should they argue back.
- If your child puts another rebuttal, do remind them that they agreed to your rules. If they become emotionally stuck or overwhelmed at this point, you will need to deal with that first. Give them some space, give them a hug, or whatever you know calms them down so you can communicate with each other.
It is only with discipline that your child can exercise self-control and gain a better understanding of how to manage their time. Your child’s gifts will not be productively utilised should they not know when to focus their life when necessary. Instilling discipline is equally important to additional enrichment kits to enhance their gifted abilities.
For example, reading instead of sleeping even with a schedule is a discipline problem. There are appropriate times and places for some activities. The lack of sleep from reading an hour into bedtime definitely outweighs the costs of additional reading.
Parents, do remember that gifted children can also land themselves in hot water too. Don’t pass on disciplining them just because they’re gifted.
We explained some steps that parents can take help develop their child’s intelligence in a previous article:
- Direct your child to tackle issues in a step-by-step fashion.
- Foster analytical thinking towards your child by grouping similar items together so he or she can compare, contrast and explain their similarities and differences.
- Educate your child to follow instructions.
- Teach your child to fill patterns.
- Improve your child’s linguistic abilities by reading to them and asking them questions.
Certain schools in the US have successfully adopted systems that allow their gifted students to thrive. Parents, perhaps you can take some notes or modify your parenting skills to understand, reach out and strengthen your gifted child better. Here are some attributes of such schools:
- A syllabus that challenges kids to think and create freely, without worrying about failure
- Providing an environment where they can meet people like them
- Teaching kids how to redirect their frustrations into potent methods of changing the world
- Providing support, but treating rules and boundaries strictly
- Being genuinely patient and compassionate towards them despite their anger or withdrawal
- Not treating them differently, because labels can cause emotional issues; instead, they provide emotional support, encourage them to work hard, and maintain a positive outlook.
Other than this guide on how to discipline a gifted child in Singapore, there are plenty of resources for parent on gifted children. The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore provides a downloadable copy of the Nurturing Learner’s Guide for parents to refer to. The MOE website also provides information on schools that can support gifted children in their education and a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on how to identify and apply for a school for your gifted child.
For children, there are education centres such as the Gifted & Talented Education Centre in Singapore. In addition, the National Library Board also houses a plethora of books about parenting gifted children that parents can peruse. You can even borrow Parenting Gifted Children online right now.
We at theAsianparent hope that this guide on how to discipline your gifted child was useful.
References: Psych Central, MOE Singapore (NEL), MOE Singapore (FAQs), MOE Singapore (Schools), Washington Post, National Library Board Singapore, Gifted & Talented Education Centre, Pscyhology Today, NAGC, Mensa, SPS, Gifted Academy
Also read: How to identify a gifted child