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Disciplining Gifted Children

Disciplining gifted children?  She really thinks she needs a whole blog post about that?  You might think discipline would be no different for a gifted child than it might be for any average child.  Wrong.  Gifted children present a few unique challenges to the average discipline plan.  If you are a frustrated parent of the gifted child, sit tight and read on.

Here is the first and perhaps most important rule when it comes to disciplining a gifted child — do not argue.  Do not argue.  Are you getting my drift?  Take arguing it off your list of parenting skills (not that it should really be at the top of your list).  You can get particularly burned by trying to argue with a gifted child.

First of all, they may be much better at it than you are.  Gifted children often have unusual amounts of persistence, high vocabulary, and lots more creative ideas going through their mind then you might at any given time.  They can whip out snappy comebacks and semi-logical explanations in rapid-fire succession.  They can make your “because I told you so” position looked pretty wimpy by comparison.

You get overwhelmed, they win.  And they may not even be trying to be horribly disrespectful to you.  They may just have better ideas at the time of the argument, and a lot more of them.  So there you are, stunned like a deer in headlights, and they have bopped off to do the next thing.  What now?

So instead of reacting and getting down quickly, you need to use your advantage as the more experienced mature adult and think ahead of them.  Make your rules and expectations crystal clear to them.  Be sure you do this on a regular basis while they are calm and not in a persistent competitive mood.  Believe me, I have put myself up against this too many times.  Be wise and pick your battles here.

In fact, you can use your creative powers against them.  Teach them exactly what you want them to learn by following these rules and then have them help you brainstorm appropriate consequences for breaking the rules.  When kids have a chance to put their input into something important, they are likely to go for it.

Once things are clear, be prepared to back up everything you do.  See rule number one – don’t argue.  No matter how much resistance or plausible arguments your child may offer, remind them that they understood these rules before doing whatever they did.  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.

You may know that your gifted child has the potential to do some amazing things in their life.  As a parent, it’s easy to get a little starstruck thinking about this.  But your child’s gifts will go to waste if they don’t learn how to discipline themselves and focus their life when they need to.  It’s just as important to teach them discipline as it is to have a full bookshelf, science kits, and advanced math computer games at their disposal.

I find myself pulling books out of my daughter’s hands at bedtime most nights.  I love that she’s reading so much, but when she chooses to read instead of following her get-ready-for-bed plan after I’ve given her direct instruction to do so, I consider that a discipline problem.  I’m constantly preaching the “time and place” lesson with her.  If I were to just let her do what she wanted and read for another hour, her sleep deprivation would cost her more than the extra reading would benefit her.

I realize that gifted children come in many different packages.  Some are more easily manageable because of their personality makeup, some are far more frustrating to deal with.  Gifted children can get in trouble too.  Don’t allow yourself skimp on the discipline because you are so proud of their potential.

I am personally dealing with the more persistent argumentative variety of gifted children.  Anyone have experiences other than this to share?

Disciplining Gifted Children

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Disciplining Gifted Children. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Dec 2009
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