5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Gifted Kids


Parenting a gifted child can be a total joy. There are so many wonderful things you can talk about with him or her. Still, there are some things that people– parents, teachers, friends, etc.– should try to avoid saying to gifted kids.



5 Things You Shouldn't Say to Gifted Kids (1)


“Oh, c’mon… really? You’re too smart to {insert poor decision here}!!!”


This is sort of “you should know better” kicked up a notch and aimed specifically at the gifted kid. And it’s not fair. While, indeed, all children are taught certain rules and expectations and should “know better”, gifted kids should not be held to a superior standard of behavior just because they have high IQs.


All children will occasionally make poor decisions or drop the ball, no matter how intelligent they are. Expecting gifted children to never, well, do something stupid, is both unrealistic and unfair.


“Are you the highest-reader/best-math-student in the class?”


Quite likely, he or she is. Still, it’s not something that needs to be brought up. By all means, feel free to compliment a child’s strong reading skills or quick mathematical abilities– this goes for any child and any talent, really. It’s nice to call attention to strengths.


Gifted children are used to being set apart for their intellect. Calling attention to that or asking them to verbalize how far ahead of their peers they are isn’t helpful. Instead, be respectful of everyone’s talents and help the gifted child also appreciate the vast array of talents and strengths that exist among us.


“That book is way too easy for you.”


So, let’s say you have a gifted eight-year-old. (Not that I would know anything about that one, *cough, cough*) Said eight-year-old is a very strong reader and, for class reading, is tackling The War of the Worlds, a book you yourself read in eighth grade (when most people do.) At home, your eight-year-old reads everything from C. S. Lewis to popular third grade series.


Isn’t that third grade series, well, TOO EASY?


Not really. The third grade series is serving a different purpose. While Orson Wells and C. S. Lewis challenge the gifted child’s intellect, the popular series provides grade-level-appropriate entertainment. The nuances of humor found in more difficult works may still go right over the gifted eight-year-old’s head. Underpants jokes, however, are spot-on appropriate.


Beyond that, reading the popular series within a child’s actual grade gives him or her more to talk about with peers. Face it– no one else in the class will be able to discuss The War of the Worlds. But plenty of them can share jokes about the My Weird School series.


“So, are you going to graduate from college when you’re like 16?”


This is just an immature question, really. There’s no way for a young gifted child to know this and, really, most of the long-term planning is done by the parents and administrators, not the child.


Further, putting this suggestion in the minds of some gifted kids can make them feel like it should be a goal. All of a sudden, the student becomes preoccupied with the idea of getting further and further ahead. This is unnecessary and unhealthy and may go very much against the parents’ wishes (<waves hand enthusiastically>.)


“What do the other kids think?”


Quite simply, this is a question the gifted child can’t really answer. How is he or she to know what the other kids think, really? Not one of us is a mind-reader.


Added to that, the gifted child might be very concerned about what the other kids are thinking. It can be very isolating to be doing work well-beyond grade level. There are challenges that go with that and one of them is feeling very “different.” Making the child fret about classmates’ thoughts isn’t particularly supportive.


Finally, many gifted children are not really the greatest at reading social cues. So, while he might truly WANT to know what peers are thinking, it’s not that easy for him to decode the signs and signals. Rather than force him to try to hypothesize on other children’s thoughts, it’s better to help him feel more comfortable in social situations.



Really, if in doubt, just talk to gifted kids like any other kids. Yes, they can often discuss some more complicated subjects. At the end of the day, though, they are children and do just fine with questions like, “So what’s your favorite subject? What’s that book about? Do you think chickens ever wore underwear?”


You know… kid stuff.

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16 comments to 5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Gifted Kids

  • Krista

    This was very helpful! Thank you too for the advice at the end on what to say.

  • Celine

    What a great post. Really like the great points especially about reading books. I don’t know of any adult that doesn’t enjoy reading a good book that may not necessarily challenge them but does allow them to enjoy the written word. Why would a child be any different.

    It is wonderful to see all the ways that you are trying to meet the needs of your child both as a “Prodigy” and as the child that he is physically and emotionally. It is such a hard balance to find when dealing with such extremes.

    • I actually edited out a sentence (just because the post got LONG), Celine, that said pretty much what you said– adults enjoy reading just for joy and entertainment all the time! I was a Literature major and you better believe I don’t spend all my days and nights reading the classics… sometimes a light fiction novel is JUST what I need. :)

  • Susan

    Has your son read the Captain Underpants series? Super easy read but full of 3rd grade potty humor for boys. Great books to get from the library because he will go through them very quickly.

    • You know, I am definitely familiar with the series, Susan, but I don’t actually think A. has read any of them. I’ll be sure to ask him because, you’re right, that humor totally appeals to boys that age. :)

  • Carol

    Great post! It is something that people don’t really talk about (at least, I’ve never heard anyone mention it) but obviously it is important.

    And I second Susan’s recommendation and add some of my own: The Wimpy Kid series. Working at a book store, I see lots of kids and their parents looking for books. That one is a HUGE seller and my own nephews love it (ages 7 & 6). They also loved the 39 Clues series. Charlotte’s Web was one of my all time favorite books and should be good about his age.

    My younger nephew reads at a higher level than the older one, so they just read the same books, which works out all around. The oldest doesn’t like to read much. (He didn’t get that from his mom or aunt! LOL! I realized I had a “problem” when I found a “stash” of books I’d forgotten about. Needless to say, I like books. :P) But the younger is a boy after my own heart; he always wants me to read to him when I am with him.

    And two that are “above” third grade level that I LOVED as a kid are The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (read that last one first, Mom. It deals with a friend that dies. You’ll have to see if you think he’s prepared for that kind of thing.)

    • Thank you so much for all the great suggestions, Carol! I truly appreciate it. My mom works in an elementary school library and she’s a great resource for me. I also pick the brain of the head children’s librarian at the public library. I am totally not above asking for advice! :) Thanks for offering it!

  • Great post! We have a gifted child and it has been a challenge. He is 9 and his IQ is 126! The other kids have struggled with this because he scores so well on everything. We have had many talks on keeping him humble and the others on not be jealous. We try and focus on how everyone has strengths and praise them when they do good in those areas. God blesses everyone differently and that is ok. We still treat each other with love and respect and not put anyone on a “higher level” because of any of their strengths.

  • Laraba

    Re the last comment…I’ve told our children more than once about a class I took in high school where I had to build a mousetrap car. I got A’s in everything, and almost everything came easily. But that MOUSETRAP car. I agonized and struggled and worked and finally got one that did what it needed to after hours and hours of work. Then one of the kids who usually struggled academically threw together a MUCH better mousetrap car in less than an hour! It was such a good lesson to me. We all have strengths and weaknesses and everyone should be valued regardless of what he or she can do or not do. No one is better than someone else based on accomplishment.

  • Josh

    Appreciate your post — I was a “gifted” child who struggled a lot from middle school onward and ultimately underachieved (and also struggled with depression a lot, although I turned out ok in the end), and now I’m the father of a “gifted” 18-month-old trying to figure out what to do differently from my parents. One thing I would add, although this is really really hard to do in practice, is try not to tell them how “smart” they are all the time — while we all love the idea of “building self-esteem,” the chances are your gifted child already hears how smart s/he is all the time and doesn’t need it. Instead focus on effort, hard work. Have the child participate in some activities that don’t come naturally. Do projects that are outside the child’s natural talents (like the “mousetrap car” story above — I could not agree more with the lesson of that story).

    I was always unathletic and uncoordinated, and I suffered for this. When I was around eleven or so, my father decided to spend more time practicing baseball with me, taking me to the batting cages, etc., and I did start to get better — I wasn’t about to be scouted by the Yankees, but I developed into a competent little league player who could play first base and even hit an occasional home run. One day I stole a base for the first time ever — I was a naturally slow runner — and my great coach had this little “baserunning award” certificate made up for me. THAT was a self-esteem booster, even though it was just a meaningless certificate, because it was a recognition of something I had struggled with and had to work hard for. Getting called “smart” on the other hand just made me unhappy after a while.

    Another thing — resist the temptation to show off your child’s abilities to friends, as your child (and maybe your friends too) will come to resent it. Kids don’t like to feel like trained circus animals.

    • Excellent points, Josh. Thank you. (I never say anything about A’s abilities to other people, to be totally honest– I usually wait until someone comes and asks me. I find that works best for all of us.)

  • Mary

    Parenting a gifted child can be very difficult. My son was a gifted kindergartener and getting his educational needs met were often a challenge. Lower level Special Ed kids were entitled to their programs but law but gifted programs often get the short end of the funding. As a result he often became frustrated in the classroom. He had his ups and downs socially as a result and till he graduated high school at age 16. Finally at university at age 17 he came into his own. I never bragged about him or his abilities. At age 23 he became an Asian Studies PhD student at Princeton University. After all my blood, sweat and tears I now feel I am able to brag. :)

  • Elizabeth c

    Oh, I SOOOO hated the ,” that book is too easy for you,” ! I got that one from my mom growing up. I read all kinds of books as a child, from easy reader, to grow up books. And now, as an adult, I still read kids books ( hey, I can use the excuse that I’m a second grade teacher, and I’m trying to see if it’s appropriate for my students, right) ;)

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