A gifted child may grow impatient with her slower-moving peers.

Social Behavior of a Gifted Child

by Christina Schnell

A gifted child might not always remember where she last put her socks, winter jacket or lunchbox, but she could become extremely upset at the prospect of having to wait for others to finish before continuing her work or find herself in tears when her friend isn't invited to another child's birthday party. A gifted child's prowess doesn't necessarily start and stop with early reading and advanced mathematical skills -- it affects social behavior as well. Gifted children are sensitive to complexities, whether it's the inner workings of a music box or the social confines of having to wait for, or work with, peers. Just as not all gifted children are equally advanced in every area academically, giftedness can affect every child's social behavior in different ways.

Practical Independence

A gifted child may have an advanced sense of independence. He may become indignant at the idea that anyone, including well-meaning babysitters or teachers, would try to help him cut his food or change his clothing. The desire for independence is a natural need for any child, but a gifted child may have an advanced social maturity that makes what he perceives as infantilizing treatment from another adult or older child particularly offensive. Having said this, there are many exceptionally bright children who are perfectly content to let you dress them and wash their hands while they dance around like they're on another planet.


A gifted child may resist cooperative play with other children due to her dissatisfaction with her peers' projects. For example, while other children her age are trying to build a simple tower out of blocks, she's working on a three-part castle complete with moat and drawbridge. She may also point out the construction flaws of her peers and try to direct them to do things in a more advanced way that's to her liking. Since bossiness is especially stressful for preschool friendships, she may resort to playing by herself rather than dealing with the frustration of trying to direct her peers. With proper adult guidance, bossiness can blossom into highly valued leadership skills among her peers.

Sensitivity to Equitable Treatment

A gifted child may be the first one to criticize his peers' work in collective 20-foot mural, but he's also the first to point out social injustices to himself and to others. For example, a gifted child isn't fooled when the daycare teacher tells him that the reason he can't read his favorite story today is because he read his favorite story twice last week. He'll remember that only one of those stories was his favorite and the other was the favorite of another child, but one that he, in the end, agreed to. Not only will he recount this difference in great detail to his teacher, he'll want to know why a third child got to pick three stories last week.

Sensitivity to Others

Even if she's acutely aware of a social slight against a peer, a gifted child may or may not act publicly on the injustice she witnesses. For example, she may go to great lengths to express gratitude for every single birthday gift, even if she hated it, because she has an unusual desire not to hurt others' feelings. She may become upset, publicly or with an adult in private, if she notices one child being ostracized by the other children.

Prefers Non-Peer Playmates

Because a gifted child's vocabulary and interests may be closer to those of a 6 year old instead of a 3 or 4 year old, many gifted children will form friendships with older children or create imaginary friends who share their advanced interests. For example, a study of 241 profoundly gifted children revealed that nearly 40 percent had imaginary playmates as toddlers and preschoolers, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Since his imaginary friends afford a similar-minded peer, he will often describe these imaginary friends, and the experiences he has with them, in great detail.

About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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