Children who are considered exceptionally intellectual fall under the umbrella term “gifted”. Giftedness refers to creative and intellectual aptitudes. Talent refers to areas of ability, such as music or math. Gifted children can be highly talented in one area of life while having deficiencies in other areas, having a high IQ does not mean there will not be struggles. Parents of gifted children have a unique opportunity to support their intellectual child, so they can meet their potential.
Focusing on the IQ of children, a typical highly able child is one who achieves at a greater degree than their peers. Because they surpass peers in cognitive ability, they often become bored in the education environment, which can come across as underachievement or perfectionism (Assouline et al., 2015).
The younger the child is, the more behavioural issues may be challenging to parents. Just because a child is exceptionally smart, does not mean they have advanced maturity to deal with frustrations coming from being set apart from peers (Assouline et al., 2015). For example, in a very young child playing games, an intellectually advanced child may understand structures and rules more than their playmates, which can create a sense of impatience that cannot yet be understood nor articulated (Assouline et al., 2015). Thus, the frustration may be expressed as disruption or hostile behaviour.
As a parent, you may be looking for evidence that your child is intellectually advanced. Does he/she demonstrate high levels of abstract thinking, grasps verbal and numerical reasoning quickly and with ease? Do they have clear understanding of spatial relations, with good memory and language fluency?
Answering yes to these does not necessarily mean your child is exceptional, however throw in being highly adaptable to change, tendency to display a high level of interest, curiosity, and self-directed involvement, with a keen capacity for resilience, determination, and dedication for tasks – combined with a drive to perform with self-confidence, having creative fluency, flexibility and originality! and your child may have an exceptional IQ (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
One thing a parent can consider doing to help your high IQ child avoid boredom and frustration is to accelerate them in school, there are opportunities to skip a grade, or take advanced curriculum within their normal grade (Assouline et al., 2015). Gifted children can be given differentiated and extension activities if they are finishing work before peers (Assouline et al., 2015). To prevent boredom, the focus should be on enriching learning. Providing supplemental activities keeps that bright mind engaged so they are less likely to act out (Cross, 2005). Plus, enrichment broadens their horizons and critical thinking (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
Some other tips for encouraging gift children to stay on track with their peers is to give them more difficult texts that covers the same content as standard curriculum and provide them with a wider range of source materials (Assouline et al., 2015). Socially, highly intellectual kids are just like others, they might need more quiet time to be introspective, or need more stimulation to entertain all their ideas (Cross, 2005). This is more temperament and personality driven than it is related to having a high IQ. The common social issue for exceptional children is being singled out as different (Cross, 2005). They may in fact believe themselves to stand out from the crowd because they are given extra work to keep them busy during class, or because they finish the test well ahead of classmates (Cross, 2005). A primary need of most kids is to “fit in” so helping them maintain friendships is a priority for their adjustment (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
All children need to belong and feel safe. This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a child who seems very independent because of his/her intelligence (Cross, 2005). Do not assume they do not need guidance and security. Allow them some freedom of choice, of course, but do not assume they are going to be able to make hard decisions or do not need support from you, the parent (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
Keeping your exceptional child busy is not the same as stimulating their intellect (Inman and Kirchner, 2016). Don’t over-schedule them with activities, this is just exhausting their energy and placing too much demand on your own time. Exposure them to different skills to uncover their interests, then allow them the freedom to make their choice of extracurricular activities (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
Two major myths that parents of children with high IQ should be aware of –
Gifted students are high achievers. This is not true. They need help learning prioritize just like everyone else. They may have many interests, but this does not mean they should be expected to achieve highly in every area of their life (Inman and Kirchner, 2016).
Using gifted students as mentors and tutors is a good service for them. This is not true. They are more able to use cognition and talents than the average person, this does not mean they have the skills or motivation to be tutors or role models (Inman and Kirchner, 2016). All children should be encouraged to help their peer’s achievement in whatever methods they are comfortable with.
Assouline, S., Colangelo, n., VanTassel-Baska, J., and Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2015). A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students. Retrieved from www.accelerationinstitute.org/
Inman, T. & Kirchner, J. (2016). Parenting Gifted Children 101: An Introduction to Gifted Kids and Their Needs. Prufrock Press.
Cross, T. (2005). The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Kids: Understanding and Guiding Their Development. Prufrock Press Inc.