Gifted children are both a delight and a challenge

How to Discipline a Gifted 5 Year Old

by Shellie Braeuner

Every parent wants to have a creative, gifted child -- until the preschooler’s very gifted art has been rendered with permanent marker on the living room wall. Gifted children don’t mean to be more difficult than their average counterparts, but ideas often occur to the gifted child before Mom and Dad expect it. The key to preventing major problems is discipline. The good news is, just like the potential for mayhem is advanced in the gifted child, so is his ability to communicate and understand.

Communicate expectations before an activity. For example, when you give your child crayons, tell him you expect him to draw on the paper.

Praise your child when she does a good job. Use words and gestures to reinforce the praise. Be specific about your praise. Say, “I like those bright red apples on the tree,” rather than “Good job drawing.”

Redirect the child before there is a problem. If the child accidentally goes off the paper while drawing, catch it early and remind him to keep the crayons on the paper. This may sound picky, but gifted children are naturally curious. It’s not much of a leap when he realizes it feels different to color directly on the table to wonder what it feels like to color on other surfaces.

Respond with consequences immediately. Keeping the misbehavior and the consequences close together helps the child associate one with the other in her mind.

Use natural consequences to reinforce your rules. If the child writes on the table either accidentally or on purpose, ask her to help you clean the crayon off the table.

Put the child in time out for serious offenses or safety issues. Choose one area and designate that the “time out” zone. Tell the child what behaviors could land him in time out. Limit the time out to five minutes -- one minute for each year of his age -- and set a timer so that neither of you forget when time is up.

Create a behavior chart for long-term behavioral changes. Create a simple grid and hang it somewhere the child can reach. Allow the child to place a sticker in a square every day that she follows the rules. Set rewards for specific goals. For example, if your child earns four stickers, she may earn an hour at the park. When she earns 10, she may earn a special “Mommy and Me” afternoon, where she gets your undivided attention for several hours.


  • Bored and gifted is trouble waiting to happen. Creative minds will find something to do. It's important to limit boredom by giving your gifted child appropriate ways to explore his ever-widening world. Keep a supply of crayons, books and puzzles on hand. Take the time to explore with him. The more you understand about how your child sees the world, the better you will be able to guide him.


  • Use gifts and rewards sparingly. At no time should any child expect a gift for simply following the rules.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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