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Busting the Myths About Gifted Children

Updated on December 29, 2017

A Misunderstood Minority

Like many other minority groups, gifted children are victims of stereotypes and false assumptions. Like all other children, gifted children are individuals with various gifts, temperaments, dreams and fears. Let's first define "gifted". Then we can consider some of the common myths about gifted children and refute them with the truth.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or a gifted student, I hope this information is helpful. There is so much information available about various learning disabilities, yet not much about the learning differences of the academically/intellectually gifted population. I have shared some resources that have been most helpful to me as an individual, a parent, and a teacher.

What is Giftedness?

Defining Characteristics of Gifted Kids

Ellen Winner (1) defined three characteristics typical of gifted children. They:

  • are precocious in some area;
  • learn differently; and
  • must pursue mastery.

Dabrowski (2) identified gifted students by their "overexcitability" in one or more of five areas:

  • psychomotor
  • sensual
  • intellectual
  • imaginational
  • emotional.

The most common characteristic of gifted children is asynchronous development. This means they are developing at very different rates in different areas. For example, a child who is six years old may be reading at a fourth grade level, doing math at a second grade level, and showing advanced art skills while still having the social skills and athletic prowess of a first grader.


1. Winner, E. (1996). Gifted children: Myths and realities. New York: Basic Books.

2. Daniels,S. & Piechowski, M.(2009). Living with intensity. Scottsdale, Arizona: Great Potential Press.

My Favorite Gifted Education Resource Books

Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults

The best book for parents of highly gifted children. Finally, somebody explains why your child is so intense and how to help them.

Gifted Children: Myths And Realities
Gifted Children: Myths And Realities

This is a more academic treatment of giftedness. It is comprehensive in it's coverage of concerns of parents and teachers as well as the children themselves.


Common Myths About the Gifted

Those kids are so smart, they don't need any special treatment.

These kids need to be challenged just as much as other kids need to be helped with the basics. Without an enriched curriculum, they can become bored and become discipline problems.

Gifted children are pushed by their parents.

Actually, it is most often the child who is pulling the parents. The parents are running as fast as they can just to keep up with the child's thirst for knowledge (what Winner calls the "rage to master" a subject.)

All children are gifted.

Okay, all children are a gift and all children have some gifts. Not all children, however, are "gifted" as defined above--having unusual intellectual ability. This is not to say they are "better" than others, only different.

Telling children they are gifted will make them snobs.

News flash: children already know they are not all the same! Prideful or selfish behavior is not unique to the academically gifted; it is part of fallen human nature. Good parenting will nip such attitudes in the bud. Simply teach children that with gifts come responsibilities to use them wisely and beneficially.

Accelerating children through grade skipping will make them social misfits.

A child who is functioning several grade levels above his/her age peers is already misfit. Skipping a grade will not make this any worse and may actually help for moderately gifted children. The profoundly gifted (in the extreme right tail of the bell curve) will be misfit no matter what. There is more to life than fitting in with age peers.

Research actually strongly supports acceleration. It is the prejudice of education schools and teachers (who are taught almost nothing about giftedness) that prevents the most able students from moving ahead.

Genius v. Talent

Arthur Schopenhauer: "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."

Helpful Truths About the Gifted

The Truth Will Set You Free

Gifted children can learn to be friends to people of all ages and all abilities. They can excel in their areas of special ability while also enjoying some more typical childhood pursuits. They can learn to accept that they are different and that different is not bad. They can learn not to be intellectual snobs.

Parents and teachers can learn to channel the gifted child's innate excitability and zest for learning. They can provide appropriate challenges while keeping the environment appropriate for the child's physical and emotional maturity (which may be very different from those intellectual abilities.) They can accept that the child might need time for quiet reflection or deep immersion in some pursuit such as music or science.

In conclusion, society can learn to accept that kids are not equal in intellectual ability any more than they are equally athletic, artistic, or musical. Our duty is to make sure every child has the resources and opportunities to develop his/her own abilities, whatever they are, to the fullest extent possible.

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    • njg profile image

      Nancy Graham 

      4 years ago

      Bravo, Kimberly! As a gifted child, now gifted (high IQ) adult, I can confirm everything you have written. Thank you for taking an interest in helping such children. I wish I had had a teacher like you when I was young.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 

      5 years ago from GRENADA

      This is an important and nicely composed lens with useful education about gifted children, kschimmel! Thanks for sharing.

    • Adventuretravels profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      Gifted children have very specific and special needs. They deserve to be given time to be able to develop their area of skill and expertise. They are the shakers and movers.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 

      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Gifted children should be encouraged to be grateful for their giftedness, and to use it for the benefit of other people who are less fortunate.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love your insight here. Gifted children should also be encouraged as much as the other children. Yet some forget to teach character over gifting. So I do my best as a parent to teach this at home. God bless!

    • joseph-sottile-16 profile image


      5 years ago

      All children are gifted. It's up to parents and teachers to help children discover their talents. And I say this as a parent and teacher.

    • kimberlyschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 

      5 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      @TanoCalvenoa: I completely understand.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Some "gifted" children are bored to death in school and hate it. I speak from personal experience.

    • kimberlyschimmel profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Schimmel, MLS 

      5 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      @goldenrulecomics: Thank you. It is one of my passions to see that we don't crush the genius inside some children through one-size-fits-all schooling and "Common Core" dumbed-down curriculum.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      5 years ago from New Jersey

      I like that quote about talent vs. genius!


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