Frustration and the Gifted Teen
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My daughter was tested for gifted in grade 5. It was a suggestion put
forth by the school.
In hindsight, all of the signs were there early speech, reading,
drawing, understanding adult wit, curiosity, being comfortable in adult
conversation etc etc. As she was my fist daughter I just thought she was
bright. Up until grade 4 I'd say she was extremely bright and easy
going. THEN, her behavior, non-conformity and questioning authority
became more prevalent to the point of not acceptable. She was like a
In Grade 5, her test scores were very close (I think 93 or 95) but not 98th.
The non-conformity, acting out , boredom has been on-going since that
time. My daughter (now 14) is in grade 9. An avid reader and highly
creative arts person, she actually "gets" Shakespeare and understands
Old English without translation. She thrives on stimulation and shuts
down with the mundane
I have requested she be tested again and was told although it's not
usually done at this stage, they will comply as they have met with the
panel/teachers and feel it is justified.
To this day, it has been frustrating for everyone and especially my
daughter. It's like she is on the cusp. Neither the norm nor gifted.
What can I expect from this test and what can I do to help my daughter
get through high school. Thank you so much!
I can understand your concern. It is not an easy task for parents to
handle gifted children and it becomes harder during their teen years. It
is not clear from your letter if she was placed in a program for
advanced learners. Did she qualify for the gifted program? If she did
not, and with the all the signs you described, it really appears as if
she is not in the right program and is slowly burning out. Hence, the
non-conformity, acting out, boredom, etc.
It is obvious that she has an interest in literature; is she getting
that at school? The reason for her to act out is so natural - she is not
getting the mental stimulation she needs! If she is on the cusp, you may
need to push for a more advanced program for her. Some gifted children
may not qualify the standard test cut off point but you can appeal for
additional testing to be done or testing her talent areas. Since the
school is willing to test her even though they may not test at this
stage, it shows that they are acceptable to special cases. You need to
speak to the school and explain her issues and get them to collaborate
It may also be a good idea to recommend a trial program for her.
Perhaps, an acceleration program in subjects she shows passion in
(e.g., literature) would help her showcase her gifts. You may also want
to expose her to more of the materials she is interested in after school
One thing I noticed is the tone of your letter; sounding a little
frustrated - which is normal for a parent. But, your girl may have
picked on your emotions, and perhaps on the sentiments of others around
her - which just make things worse as gifted individuals have heightened
sensitivity. Try communicating with her a little more, like an adult and
rationalize on things. She needs to vent out her frustrations in a more
positive manner. Help her understand her situation which will help her
rationalize - extremely important for gifted teens. Being a teenager is
hard enough, let alone a gifted teenager whose needs are not met. And it
is definitely tough for parents. Some understanding from adults would
help greatly. At 14, she would be able to explain her emotions but she
would need to trust that adults can help for her to open up.
Please read these excellent articles on gifted teens - it would help you
deal with your teen better and manage frustrations on both sides.
Wishing you all the best.