Terms Relating to Behavior, Traits, and Development

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What's the best way to understand gifted children? You could look through a list of gifted traits and characteristics, and see which traits your child has. But the reality is that there is no quick and easy way. You could also look at a more complete description of the typical general characteristics of gifted children. It can help, too, to read various definitions of giftedness. But another way to understand gifted children is to first know something about the different types of giftedness you might see in children. Then you might want to look at the various personality traits that many gifted children have, behaviors that many gifted kids exhibit, and the developmental and emotional issues they experience. When you start to look at all of it together, you can begin to get an understanding of giftedness.


It really is difficult to get a handle on what giftedness is. No one has yet come up with the perfect definition. I always say that gifted kids are like poems - you know one when you see one, assuming you know what makes up a poem - or a gifted child. Giftedness has traditionally been divided into three groups: mathematically, verbally, or globally gifted. What is each one like? Sometimes people misunderstand giftedness and believe that gifted kids are just "hothouse" children, having been pushed to excel and been given enrichment activities since infancy. While some gifted kids can be "hothoused," that is not at all what giftedness is.

Personality Traits

Many gifted kids share similar personality traits. In fact, so many kids share the same traits that these traits are sometimes considered part of giftedness. While it's convenient to say that, it's not totally accurate. Not every gifted child has these traits, after all. For example, many gifted kids are introverts, but not all are. And many of them are perfectionists (which can be good or bad), but not all of them. And many of them have multipotentiality - they have multiple talents and abilities - but not all do. But again, these traits do show up quite often in gifted kids, so if you want to understand, in general, what it is to be gifted, take a look at these personality traits.


Personality traits are one thing; behavior is another. Some of the traits and abilities of gifted kids seem to lead to certain behaviors. For example, some verbally gifted kids can teach themselves to read at very young ages, long before they start school. Others use their verbal skills and reasoning power to argue about pretty much everything under the sun - they are like little lawyers. Other gifted kids are high achievers and teacher pleasers. Some, of course, are the opposite. They fall victim to underachieving or they may challenge everything the teacher says or does. But again, understanding these behaviors can help you understand some gifted children.

Developmental and Emotional Issues

Gifted kids experience some developmental and emotional issues that other children don't experience.

Asynchronous development is seen when the child's intellectual abilities have outpaced emotional, physical, or social development. This can bring with it some problems.

Existential depression can plague gifted children—even at young ages. This depression is not like depression that is a response to an external event, like the death of a pet.

Dual exceptionality is something only gifted kids can experience. Why? Because it includes giftedness, as well as a disability.

Sometimes, parents might worry that their highly verbal child is suffering from hyperlexia. But the intense interest verbally gifted children have in letters and words is not the same as hyperlexia. It's good to know the difference.

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