Gifted kids don't like to come in second.

Aggressive Behavior in a Gifted Child

by Amy Morin

When your child's got another child in a headlock, it can be hard to convince the other mothers at the playground that he's actually gifted. Aggressive and gifted don't seem like they should be adjectives used to describe the same child. After all, if he's really smart, shouldn't he be able to figure out ways to solve problems without resorting to aggression? Despite this common notion, there are several facts that can contribute to gifted children behaving aggressively.

1. Perfectionist Tendencies

Tell your gifted child that he's made a spelling error and you may feel like you're watching a volcano that's about to erupt. Gifted kids tend to be perfectionists and they don't usually handle mistakes well. They often have a lot of anxiety about failure and they place a lot of pressure on themselves to be the best. When your gifted child makes a mistake or feels criticized, he may lash out aggressively out of frustration and anxiety. Tell him, "Making mistakes is part of learning and as long as you are still making mistakes, I know you are trying to learn more."

2. Competitive Nature

A game of Go Fish can quickly come to blows if your gifted child isn't winning. Gifted kids are competitive in everything they do and they don't handle losing well. They want others to see that they are the best and when they aren't able to master something, they don't tend to lose gracefully. They focus on what is fair and may even accuse others of cheating. You can help your gifted child by praising his efforts rather than focusing on whether or not he's the best. When he's playing a game, say, "I like that you keep trying really hard without giving up."

3. Peer Rejection

When a 4-year-old can read at a 9-year-old level, he's not likely going to fit in very well with the other kids at preschool. He may have completely different interests from his friends and he may prefer to spend time with adults rather than same-age peers. As a result, he may lack social skills. Gifted kids sometimes feel rejected by their peers and this rejection can cause them to respond aggressively. Teach social skills by role playing. Sit him down and practice how to invite another peer to play with him. Teach him to introduce himself and ask, "Do you want to play with me?" Once he's mastered this, practice role playing more social skills.

4. Not Gifted in All Areas

Just because a child is gifted in one area, it doesn't mean he's gifted in all areas. He may be the best reader at preschool but he may also be the clumsiest kid on the playground. Or he may be immature when it comes to social and emotional development. He may need help learning the basics about feelings and problem-solving. Provide him with extra support in areas he doesn't excel at, such as emotional intelligence. Teach him empathy by asking him how he thinks other kids feel when they can't read as well as he can or when they don't win at games and it can reduce his aggressive behavior.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.

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