Acting Up and the Gifted Pre-schooler
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Is my 3.5 year old daughter average, bright or gifted and could
her acting up be due to not being challenged enough?
Several family members, teachers, and friends
have commented on how bright our daughter is. She has an
advanced vocabulary, was quite physically agile and active at
an early age, learned the entire alphabet by age 2 and their
sounds by age 3, can count to at least 30 or more (counts to 20
in Spanish), reads three and four letter words and short
sentences without us reading any words to her but seems to get
bored easily reading her BOBS BOOKS FIRST series that we bought
for her four days ago, is bilingual, knew all of her colors
shortly after turning 2, knows the concept of death and time
(does not know how to tell it yet but understands that the long
hand/short hand basics and when "quiet time" is over
by watching the hands move around one hour), initiates
socializes with adults, children old and young-goes up to
anyone, introduces herself, asks their name and begins a
conversation, then leads the person(s) in activities and play.
She is showing a sense of humor and giggles at comments she
makes or laughs at something funny I do or say. She observes
something being taught and learns it virtually instantly (e.g.
watched the Leap Frog letter Factory once and missed two letter
sounds when tested randomly on all letters-got every one the
second time around and hasn't missed any since).
Her father has never been tested but read the
newspaper at age 4, created and lock code pad during his
pre-teen years, for the door to his room, and was awarded an
honorable science prize from an engineering firm at age 15 for
inventing a robot that danced to Mozart. He also worked for
British Aerospace while earning a dual Masters in Physics and
Electronic Engineering of which he got perfect scores. I, on
the other hand, have been tested and was labeled learning
disabled in the mid 80's but specifically remember the
psychiatrist's astonishment when I repeated a series of numbers
during a certain part of the test-he said that in the 20 years
testing hundreds of individuals he had never had anyone come
close to what I had achieved. I scored high and average in some
areas and below average in other such as reading comprehension
and short term memory, go figure.
Our daughter used to be a very cheerful,
animated-more than one teacher described her as "highly
spirited", and self-motivated child and when an infant
began to initiate potty training at 18 months. I have had 2
children since then and she & I clashed at times so we
placed her in preschool two half days a week at 2.5 years.
Since then, she has become rebellious (deliberately does
something immediately when asked not to) and a bit aggressive
in facial expression and growls in frustration. Her potty
training regresses more some days than others (she goes to the
same spot to urinate or makes it a point to tell us that she
has relieved herself-she holds her stool in). I know the
teachers were patient with her and she only had a few accidents
at school (for holding in her stool-I used to do this when in
school too. She was little miss popularity in class according
to the teachers.
I read two to three books to her each day at
bedtime and we play educational games online daily together (Starfall.com,
Sesame Street, Scholastic, etc.) but I am so worn and sometimes
grumpy each day from taking care of my 14 month old, 2.5,3.5
yr. old, and husband that I'm afraid my daughter is acting up.
I also want to know if she may be gifted to be
able to find the appropriate school to nurture her abilities
and skills - I'm leery about sending her to public school here
in Florida and I'm not thrilled to dish out a few hundred
dollars for testing yet. I called the local public school for
the gifted in Sarasota, Florida but you have to live in
Sarasota County to be able to attend(4 miles from our county
line). I called the School Board for information but they said
that they only test for disabilities. I asked a counselor about
my daughter's behavior and she gave me general info on toddler
behavior. Can you give me some insight PLEASE? Thank you.
A gifted child who is acting up may be unchallenged, among many
other factors. From what you had described, your daughter has
certainly shown early signs of giftedness. It is also true that
genes play a part in the level of intelligence of a child;
hence with what you have mentioned about yourself and your
husband, it is not surprising that your daughter is highly able.
A change in behavior is very common for young
children, gifted or not, so there is no reason to be alarmed.
If this change in her behavior is gradual, it can well be due
to her growing years and would wear off gradually as well. If
the change is sudden, then you may want to look back and see
what may have caused the change. Perhaps, reduced attention may
be the root of the problem.
Being the first child, she must have had a lot
of attention for a whole year until the second one came along,
and especially when the third sibling arrived, obviously you
had to divide the attention among the three. Gifted children
are usually more sensitive to such changes and this may be the
case with your girl. She may not be able to understand why the
attention on her has reduced and this is quite normal among
gifted children with younger siblings.
The fact that you have
to care for them all including your husband may have taken a
toll on your health, making you tired and not surprisingly
grumpy and frustrated when one child acts up. You may not
realize it but you may have been so frustrated with your girl
that it shows by the manner you speak with her, the tone of
your voice and your facial expressions. We may not realize it
but a gifted child is very quick to pick on our moods. I would
not rule this out in your case. You have a lot on your plate
and it is certainly not easy to cope. However, losing patience
on a gifted child will not help either. Perhaps, you may want
to extend her days at school or plan other activities such as
frequent outings or activities that can involve the other kids
So far, you have been doing a great job in
terms of educating her. However, a gifted child will only
demand more and more due to the intensity of their curious
minds and need to know more. I suggest your husband takes part
in her activities (if he has not already done so) to get some
load off you. You may also want to get other family members
involved (relatives or friends who are good with kids).
Children sometimes get bored with the same person and need
changes, more so the gifted child. Parenting a highly able
child is a very demanding job and takes a lot of effort and
patience – but will certainly pay off!
If you can spare some time, you may want to
read Dr Christopher Green's book "Toddler Taming"
(check it up on the internet or your local bookstore) which
explains that demanding behavior is perfectly normal of many
toddlers, regardless of whether the toddler is gifted and can
be very frustrating for parents. Sometimes, it helps (even
maybe just a little) knowing that you are not alone, and that
this behavior is not even necessarily due to giftedness –
although, unfortunately giftedness can make it more formidable.
You may want to talk to other parents with
gifted children to see how and what you can do to plan for her
educational program. I have indicated in the previous
newsletter the following resources in Florida that may be of
help: Florida Association for the
Gifted and Florida
Gifted Network. Alternatively, you can try
American Association for Gifted Children.