Myths and Realities of the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children

September 6, 2022

By Jane Laudeman

Myth: Gifted students can succeed without help.

Reality: One of the biggest myths about gifted children is that they are able to succeed on their own without any assistance.  This is not necessarily the case and many gifted children will not be “just fine” on their own.  Similar to many students with disabilities and other high-risk populations which have barriers and needs, gifted students face difficulties in school unless they have access to individualized services and support.  The right services can help a gifted child develop appropriately and reach for their full potential.  Research suggests that a gifted child’s emotional adjustment is directly related to the extent to which a child’s educational needs are addressed.

Myth: Gifted children do not know they are gifted or different from others.

Reality: Although gifted children may not be aware of the term gifted, they often recognize very early that they are different from other children. They may have atypical or more intense interests, or larger vocabularies that turn away other children.  Their unusual sense of humor can get them branded as “weird.” Many young gifted children feel like they are unusual because they feel very different from everyone else and that no one understands them.  Telling children they are gifted and assisting them with understanding their strengths and weaknesses can help a child better understand these differences and view them more positively.

Myth: Gifted children naturally want to be “loners.”

Reality: Most gifted children do feel different from their same-age peers and many like to spend some time alone.  Gifted children may seek to find peers who share their interests, but these friends will not necessarily be from their own age group.

Myth: Gifted children always get good grades

Reality: Gifted underachievers are real. Some gifted children are bored and disengaged from being unchallenged in the classroom, therefore they stop really trying to get good grades. Other children spend so much time on academic pursuits unrelated to school that required work goes uncompleted. These students benefit from the guidance of an adult to help break the cycle of underachievement.

Myth: Gifted students’ emotional stability is significantly atypical relative to other children.

Reality: Although the available research shows that gifted children are as well-adjusted as other groups of children, they often experience uncharacteristic social and emotional development.  The tendency toward perfectionism, the susceptibility to depression and the uneven or asynchronous development of the gifted child can create tension within the child both at home and in the classroom.  A disparity between a students’ needs and the educational services provided, or from inadequate support to deal with peer and societal pressures, also can result in adjustment difficulties in their lives.

Myth: Gifted children are more mature (or “should be” more mature) than other children their age.

Reality: Regardless of extraordinary talent or ability in academic and other areas, gifted children generally show the same level of emotional maturity as other children their same age.  Adults should not expect gifted children to demonstrate a degree of maturity beyond their years.

The Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) is dedicated to the intellectual, creative and personal growth of our nation’s gifted and high potential youth. Most gifted-centered organizations focus strictly on talent development and academic achievement but neglect the personal development of gifted children who are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed.  The Institute for Educational Advancement is uniquely focused on the development of the whole child, providing programming and services that support a child’s intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical needs.  IEA provides both challenging educational programming and a nurturing community that families can count on to meet the distinctive needs of their gifted children.

Source: The Amend Group