“Early testing and identification can be a controversial subject, but many advocates of gifted children believe that they should be identified as soon as possible so that their unique needs and talents can be acknowledged and nurtured right from the start..” – David Palmer, Ph.D., “Is Your Child Gifted? What to Look for and Why You Should Know…”
What is giftedness?
Thomas Edison, perhaps history’s most brilliant inventor, was once told he was too stupid to learn. Albert Einstein, history’s greatest physicist, said many people told him he’d amount to nothing.
Being gifted in a society that doesn’t understand it is hard. Elon Musk, arguably today’s most successful polymath, was bullied and neglected throughout his childhood. Musk’s story is not uncommon for children of exceptional intellect.
Recognizing, appreciating and nourishing a young person’s gifts is important. Perhaps more so is encouraging a child to develop their innate intelligence. In this article, we’ll focus on the former. (There’s a strong possibility we will write on the latter group in a future article.)
Giftedness is defined by the National Association for Gifted Children as:
“When (a child’s) ability is significantly above the norm for their age. (Giftedness) may manifest in one or more domains such as; intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or in a specific academic field such as language arts, mathematics or science.”
Here we’ll discuss 10 traits of a gifted child:
1. They question how everything works
The curiosity of a gifted child can be likened to a house pet that is constantly examining and re-examining their environment. It’s quite common for brilliant children to inquire about everything. Parents’ patience is routinely tested as they try to deal with the constant stream of questions.
2. They prefer the company of adults
Brilliant kids quickly grasp topics discussed in school, especially at an early age. As a result, they’ll get bored trying to converse with their peers. When it becomes evident that their teacher must focus on the entire classroom, the kid will seek out other adults to engage in conversation.
3. They love reading
It’s no surprise that most super successful people, e.g., Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and countless others, were child prodigies. They also loved to read as children. This insatiable reading only grows, as smart children are able to read quicker and earlier than their peers.
4. They are insightful
A child who provides original thoughts and ideas on topics is probably exceptional. Most young kids will “parrot” geography facts to the teacher, for example, while a gifted kid is more likely to add to what’s taught. They may discuss how the world map looked 500 years ago; who knows?
5. They’re determined and focused
Sunny Verma, founder and CEO of Tutorbright says, “Gifted children typically have an amazing sense of focus. When given a task, they tend to work on it without distractions until completion. TV, video games, and social media do not divert their attention, allowing them to finish with efficiency.”
6. They aren’t perfect
Mr. Verma’s above quote, while anecdotally true, is certainly not absolute. Kids are, after all, kids – prodigy or otherwise. “Gifted students benefit from advanced cognitive competencies, but may still struggle in areas related to frustration, carelessness, lack of executive functioning skills (e.g., emotional regulation), or poor concentration skills,” says Dr. Mallory Kojkowsky, a director of admissions and outreach at a gifted school in Miami, Florida.
7. They assume leadership
Not all bright kids take the lead, but it’s certainly not unheard of. Even an introverted, gifted child will – at times – come out of their shell to guide their peers. This frequently occurs during group projects; when the child – because of their ability to look at, rethink, and solve a problem – will give their peers a sense of direction.
8. They exceed expectations
Naturally, when a child is young, we don’t expect too many things. This time is usually when the magic that is intellectual giftedness will really shine. Instead of a child picking up and reading at six years old, they may start reading at age three. They may form complex words at a young age. Maybe they’ll start taking apart and reassembling things (hopefully nothing too important!)
9. They recognize patterns
Gifted children have an exceptional ability to notice patterns; not just in games and activities, but also in human actions and behaviors. Niranjan Reddy, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist says, “Gifted children notice everything, from which bus passes the house after breakfast time to how many bricks can fit inside the toy trunk. They are very good at observing and remembering key information.”
10. They possess a breadth of knowledge
Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and Solar City, was a child prodigy. When he ran out of books to read, he started devouring encyclopedias. Because of their hunger for knowledge, exceptional kids accumulate and store information of all sorts. It isn’t uncommon for the parent of a gifted child to ponder a question, only for the youngster to spout the answer – probably while reading or taking something apart.