Comments on
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. 

13 thoughts on “Disciplining Gifted Children

  • December 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I began teaching my gifted son to make choices from the very young age of 2 and live with the consequences/results of those choices. It’s been very effective. He also got to participate in structuring his discipline. That worked well.
    When he began the process of dealing with elementary school, it helped that I was a former teacher and understood the politics of the educational system. I taught him respect for the teachers as people and for their knowledge. He did have some difficulty reading, which was a difficulty I also had (I am gifted as well). His reading difficulty did hinder him in some areas but he was generally an A and B student. This may sound odd, as he is indeed a gifted child. But I was pushed by my parents to excell and I feel it damaged me emotionally so I was determined not to do that to my son. One day in the 5th grade, he was shocked to bring home a C on his report card. It devastated him. I asked him how he felt about it. He thought long and hard about it. Then his response was, “I am not a C student.” From that day on, he was totally committed *emotionally* to his schoolwork and today (10th grade) is in all advanced placement classes with honors grades and is looking forward to a full scholarship to his choice university. He is totally self motivated.

  • December 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Wow – that’s great to see how your son has owned his future like that. He really took his gifts and has applied them because he pushed himself, not so much because you did. That’s great to see you so observant of the process to know what would help him.

    Thanks for your comments.

  • December 14, 2009 at 5:31 am

    My son is 13, a gifted allrounder who LOVES to argue/debate/question. As you say he can come back with more answers and more logical ones at that than I can, however, we have over the years set boundaries so that he can feel secure in knowing that we care about what happens to him. We sent him to a Montessori school for pre-school where he grew up knowing that he was responsible for what he did and how he did it. He has been involved in decision-making when it has been appropriate. When he has behaved badly and we have asked him what did he think was an appropriate punishment he would come up with things far in excess of what either his dad or I would have ever imagined. I think the hardest thing is that powerful perfectionist streak that makes gifted kids set very high standards for themselves and to be exceptionally hard on themselves and unforgiving of their own mistakes. Learning to accept that he is not perfect and that his work will not always be perfect or up to adult standards is something we’ve worked on for some years.

    He is about to go to Senior School in the new year and has initiated a number of conversations about potential careers, what he needs to achieve at school to get into courses he may want to do, the pros and cons of a gap year – he looks far into the future and is working out his goals and what he needs to do to achieve them. The role of sport in school and the ethos of the school he has chosen with our help. My husband and I have both said that he thinks about things we didn’t until we were in our twenties.

    At the same time, my experience with him has made me look back on my own childhood and teens and realise that I manifested many of the same things that I see in him. The voracious reading your daughter is doing is just what I did – I used to read under the blanket with a torch when I was completely immersed in a book and wanted to finish it.

    The other thing that we’ve found is that it is absolutely necessary to explain why you have made a decision, especially a disciplinary decision. Once he understands the thinking behind it he will do it but he is very impatient of arbitrary decisions that seem senseless – especially if they are made by teachers at school. He will do them but we will have scathing comments made when he gets home. He also has an incredibly highly developed sense of fairness and finds unfair or unjust decisions, punishments and so on really hard to take, whether they affect himself or one of the other kids at school.

    So yes, gifted kids are challenging but they are also a great gift to the family that has them.

  • February 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I ran across your article while searching for some answers to help my daughter with her disrespectful behavior. My biggest hurdle with this topic is that she is only 5. Her kindergarten teacher does try to handle the problems, but has not really had any experience with gifted children. So far, we haven’t found a solution.

    This goes beyond the normal questioning and correcting, although I think that frustrates the teachers and adds to the problem. She is now at the point where she will say things like ” I told you that was a table, not a desk. Get it right next time”

    While I understand that in a kindergartners mind this may actually be acceptable, it really really isn’t. I am having a hard time finding a way to get her to stop this behavior. Since this article was quite some time ago, I was wondering…

    Have you found any tips and tricks yet?

    • February 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm


      I found this article, which focuses mostly on kids who are argumentative about discipline. However, I think you could take some of the suggestions and apply them here.

      Another thing I found talked about having a specific rule about being disrespectful to adults (teachers, parents, whoever). She may not think she’s being desrespectful – she might believe she has every right to correct someone because she knows what’s correct. She (and many of her classmates) will be learning the finer points of social boundaries and polite behavior.

      Tell her you now have a specific rule about being respectful to all adults. Help define what you mean by respectful – words she would use, tone of voice, her physical actions, things she would say and wouldn’t say. —Why would it be disrespectful to correct someone with a comment like “get it right next time”? Because it sounds mean. Everybody makes mistakes, and you would be really sad if others said mean things when you made a mistake.

      Then have something very specific as a consequence for breaking this rule (either from school or right in front of you). She’ll know ahead of time what that is, you’ll have made sure she understands how certain comments or behaviors are disrespectful, and you can read that article to help you stay firm on it. Make sure the consequence REALLY matters to her. The bigger the behavior problem, the more powerful the consequence must be. You need to get her attention because she thinks she doesn’t need to give to you. Give her a darned good reason and she’ll be more willing to bend her will towards you.

      If you are consistent with the discipline on this, she will eventually tire of being trouble. She may still feel annoyed when she is right and others are wrong, but perhaps she won’t be so quick to act on that impulse because she really doesn’t want to have the consequence. She’ll know you’ll deliver and she won’t want to take the risk.

      Hope this helps!

      P.S. Just went through something difficult with my oldest tonight – threw a pencil at her sister, didn’t take me seriously. We’ve dropped the hammer and I think we have her attention now. Hang in there!

  • November 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I am having a difficult time with my 3-year-old, possibly gifted, son. He has always been an intense child, even as a newborn. I know he is ahead academically of the other children in his preschool class, and his preschool director wants to move him up to the 4-year-old class. He is not a violent child, but has recently started hitting/pushing/kicking other children in his class and gets in constant trouble for not listening/talking too much. He knows his alphabet, can read and spell small words, does 50 piece puzzles upside down (white side up – no picture)and plays with 100 pc puzzles. “Reads” to himself, can write and say his full name, phonetically sounds out some words, knows all of his colors and shapes, and can count to 30 and recognize the numbers (maybe higher). Developmentally he has been ahead his entire life.

    My issue is that when he misbehaves, no punishment seems to work on him. I can take away all of his toys and books, but he doesn’t care. He can sit in time out and still find ways to amuse himself. I reinforce to the good behavior, but it never seems to stick for very long. I’m at a complete loss on how to discipline him. Spankings get a brief reaction, but nothing else seems to phase him. He loses trips, desserts, etc and will come up with similar punishments, but nothing seems to really modify his behavior. I don’t want to break his spirit, but it would be nice if his teachers and I could find a way to help guide him better.

    • September 11, 2017 at 11:13 pm

      Read, “How to Talk to Little Kids” book. I borrowed it from the library, and it has really helped. I finally found triggers for my son, and am helping him deal with those. One of his triggers is another preschooler hitting him. My son over-analyzed the situation and decided no kids like him so he became mean becaus he was scared. I had to relearn how to communicate in a way that acknowledges my son’s feelings and that he is not feeling good inside. No punishment worked before this.

  • February 28, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    My fourteen-year-old gifted son is in 8th grade. He gets bullied at school, because he annoys the other kids. He has no social skills it seems. It is very depressing and frustrating because he is argumentative and has a very cocky attitude. He has never really grasped the idea that we are the parents and he is the child. He is very disruptive and pics on his younger siblings also. He is also very emotionally extreme and currently he is on a antidepressant. His doctor wants to have him tested for ADHD. We are not sure what to do regarding the medication dilemma. All I know is that four years in and out of counseling did not help at all. He is currently in public school. we have tried other options in the past and public school seems to be working the best, except for the bullying. Definitly DO NOT ARGUE w gifted kids, they argue like a slick lawyer. Feeling frazzled in illinois.

    • March 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      We have had somewhat of the same problem with our 14 year old son period he is extremely intelligent has maintained Straight A’s all through school. He is very loving and kind-hearted, but he has a tendency to speak out of turn and get loud at times as well as be argumentative. He doesn’t have many friends that he hangs out with and he seems to get in a lot of trouble on the school bus. It’s so hard for me because I am doing everything I can to try to get him to do the right things and teach him social skills, but it is virtually impossible to teach a child social skills. People think it’s so awesome because he’s so smart and such an academic leader. I am so proud of him for his academic achievements. I just don’t know what to do with him socially. I don’t even know how to discipline him at this point. The biggest thing is he just doesn’t know when to stop. When in certain situations. He will continue arguing until everything escalates into a disaster. I totally empathize with you.

  • September 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    THIS! “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…”

    This is what I forget when my nearly-7 year old argues, questions, debates, comes up with his own multiple choice option instead of choosing one I provide… It’s so hard.

    And it’s so wonderful to read articles like this so I can remember that it is not my terrible parenting skills, or that I “made him this way” by always providing explanations (you would know that they require explanations, and life is much easier to go with this!)…

    Thank you for the encouragement and validation. A breath of fresh air from the looks I get, and my child gets, and the reactions we receive for him simply being who he is and me simply trying my best.

  • September 12, 2017 at 4:29 am

    It is often said that gifted kids do not respond to reward chart. However it has worked wonders ders for us since my daughter was 18months old. It wasn’t a reward chart as the norm, it was more a way to visualize positive behavior expected and a mystery reward followed. She responded very well to this. But we hit a slum about 2months ago where nothing worked. She was going through an emotional growth spurt putting her development at around 9yrs of age in a 6yr old body. I was completely unprepared for the change. So I sat her down and explained that it doesn’t matter how smart she is, how fast her brain works. Manners still matter and I will strip her of every privilege she has because she has privileges way beyond what a 6yr old usually has. It was exhausting. I literally stripped her room to the bare minimum. We evaluated each day at the end of the day and if her behavior was not acceptable she would loose a privilege. What hit the hardest was when I removed her computer, and she was left with her bed and her books. To her the internet access is a lifeline and the fastest way she can assimilate knowledge (my little Borg). I fetched her from school and she said she doesn’t like what is happening at home, so I asked her to come up with a solution. She said “it’s time I go look at myself in the mirror and change my attitude”. She has slowly over the past few weeks earned back her privileges. The internet access was the last. It was awful but I don’t she has learnt that maturity comes with responsibility. And how you manage yourself is what earns respect.

    • September 16, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Reward system works great for us too. I have a twice exceptional 6 year old, Aspergers and high intelligence. He’ll move his rear, pay attention and do what he’s told if he knows his computer or tablet can easily go “goodbye” and he’ll have to earn it back. It’s worked well for 4.5 years now. If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it. Reward system for us until it no longer works.

  • March 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I came across your post in my search for a better way to deal with my gifted, almost 7 year old. He is argumentative as the day is long. I often find myself caught up in “arguing” or “justifying” my statements or requests to him before I even know it is happening! I am trying to be extremely mindful about my responses to him, and “catching” an argumentative response from him right as it’s happening, so I don’t get sucked in! IT’s so frustrating, because he argues about so many things! Me: “Son, please roll up your window.” His response: “Why?” Him: “Mom, what do you come up with if you have 1 group of 5 children, and then have another group of 5 children, and you add them, one by one, to the other group?” ME: “You get one group of 10 children”. Him: “No Mom! That’s not right!” (I go on to explain why…he tells me I’m wrong and I don’t understand his question, I ask him to explain again…he eventually adds it himself and decides the answer is 10 but won’t admit that I was right.) Just a sampling of my day! This child has the best heart and so wants to please me, but is incredibly impulsive and emotional as well, and finds himself in trouble quite a bit. We also have a 9 and a half year old who is gifted and has ADD and Asperger’s so our family dynamic is interesting. I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can for my youngest son, not just for my oldest!


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