Above Average Abilities but Disruptive
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My 4year 9month old son has recently taken the TONI-3 test
administered by a professional in this area and I have been
told that he is highly gifted, with a score of >145.
However, to me, although he is rather intelligent, highly
energetic and inquisitive, he is quite hard to handle. He
loves to be read to, but is lazy to decode words. He is a
fast learner but he can't sit still for long. Teachers find
him a handful. e.g. he touches the teacher's piano while
teacher is teaching on the piano, he plays a fool in class,
hits/disturbs his friends, refuses to follow instructions.
He continues doing all these despite repeated warnings.
He will deliberately do something naughty even though he
knows very well that it will annoy me/teachers.
Sometimes, he is an angel, especially if he is alone with
me. He is highly interested in a wide range of subjects -
solar system, any science topics, math, stories, IQ
activities, blocks, anything. I am honored when the teacher
confirms that he is gifted and even says he's genius
material. (She also mentions that gifted doesn't mean
guaranteed success, and most gifted kids exhibit behavioral
1. Should I believe that he is gifted?
2. How shall I control and discipline his behavior? How do
I make him more cooperative?
3. Is it true that gifted kids are usually hard to handle
(in terms of behavior)?
4. How shall I nurture his giftedness? Appreciate your
A: Based on the test score
alone, it certainly places him on the gifted range, so
perhaps you should believe that you have a special child.
This is good but for some children, their giftedness also
may cause other issues that make them appear difficult to
Your son is probably not getting sufficient stimulation and
being a bright, curious and highly energetic little boy, he
may well be bored. It also appears that he is doing
activities that may not be very meaningful to him, thus his
boredom that leads him to be disruptive.
Since he can be an angel when he is with you, probably that
is what he may be lacking - time with his parents. You may
want to spend more time with him to get to know his
interests better. He is the best person to guide you as to
what might interest and stimulate him so you really need to
observe a little more. At this age, he may also be more
emotionally capable of understanding talks, so you can try
slowly getting him to talk about his feelings when he is
being disruptive and ask him to propose options. This sounds
difficult but he may just be able to give some interesting
suggestions. If he finds that school is boring, get him to
suggest what he finds interesting and perhaps suggest that
teachers cooperate a little. He may also be a kinaesthetic
learner and may need to move; again this may appear
disruptive to teachers.
Talk to the teachers to see if they are able to compromise a
little bit. It is right to allow his to disturb his friends
but touching the piano may not be such a big deal and the
more he is stopped, he may be curious to do it even more.
Bottom-line, I think he is simply learning below his ability
level which causes much distress and frustration and being
as young as he is, the only way to vent out his frustrations
is by being disruptive (also maybe to get teachers to pay
attention to him).
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some very highly
gifted children to not fit well in too well into the regular
educational mould. As agreed by experts, gifted children in
schools can be continue to be very challenging for school
systems because it is very easy them to be bored in a
regular school meant for the average student. When they
become bored and unchallenged, it is not surprising to see
behavioral problems occurring.
So, what you need to do as a parent is to make sure that he
is well stimulated and doing activities that are meaningful
(see some suggestions in previous newsletter). Gifted
children may be a handful (due to some of their distinct
characteristics) but if adults are aware of their needs and
why they behave as they do, it may be help in handling them.
It will be a tough journey to nurture and spend a great deal
of time and effort on a gifted child but the results can be
very fruitful. Here’s wishing you all the best.