by Hanna Vock

At the onset of this article we have posted quotes, representing the many interesting and insightful utterances by alumni of our IHVO Certificate Courses (see: IHVO-Certificate Courses).

Asked at the end of the course once more, “What are gifted children like?”, Monika Milinski answered:

They are an enrichment for everybody who appreciates their giftedness.
I experience gifted children as inquisitive, craving for knowledge, determined, creative, demanding in their own way, courageous, with a refreshing sense of humour, sensitive, and sometimes versatile.
However, they can also be single-minded and stubborn, sometimes challenging and moody. Gifted children with all their characteristics … are always a challenge. That is what makes them and their talents so intriguing.”

The second quote is a statement by Kirsten Holzmeier, who finished the course when her kindergarten was already certified as “Integrative Focus Kindergarten for the Advancement of Gifted Children (IHVO)”:

“The children often come to our kindergarten already burdened. By this I mean behaviours which the gifted children have acquired in the interaction with their environment and which impede their further development.
They may have had numerous experiences resulting in anxiety, insecurity, distrust and anger.
This means for us that we need to try and exchange these feelings by experiences that may be helpful in their further development.”

Gifted children are fascinating, yet they are highly susceptible to negative experiences.


… in a nutshell …

This article deals with those experiences in kindergarten that often contribute to the transformation of a once active, mostly cheerful, curious-minded gifted child into a solitary or reluctant or angry pre-school child.

Undoubtedly some kindergartens hold in stock more negative experiences for a gifted child that do others. This may be evaluated by any kindergarten team itself, for example by the use of our list of Quality Criteria

Certainly, it is important how the parents and the social environment deal with the child and its talents. Yet, kindergarten has a substantial impact and this is what this article focuses on.

In the following, problems are described that a gifted child may have in kindergarten.
Some of these descriptions can be transferred to other areas of the child’s life.

Approaches to the solution or prevention of such problems can be found in the articles referred to by links.



1st Problem:
Being permanently underchallenged intellectually and being frequently bored

Boredom may quite possibly lead to creative games and things. Resting, relaxing, dreaming, pondering, even making plans – all that needs to be given room for in a child’s life and may look like boredom from outside.
Yet, “I am often bored!” can also mean: The games, the conversations, the activities, the riddles, the tales, the picture books, the group activities, the excursions, the toys – all that doesn’t challenge me intellectually, I’ve long known all this. Or it is just simply too easy and therefore boring.

The reason:
Gifted children learn many things early on and quickly, often they want/need no repetitions. They want to encounter new things and dispose of great potential to process new data. In many respects they are intellectually ahead of their peers and therefore more demanding than those peers in age are.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Talk to the parents immediately upon admission to the kindergarten: what does the child play at home? What are its current interests?

* Seek the exchange with the child about its current intellectual pursuits.

* Respond to these interests and tie in with them when conceptualising group activities, so that a continuous intellectual exchange between the child and the kindergarten teacher gets under way.

See: Parent’s Questionnaire on Children Who Have Recently Entered Kindergarten and Questionnaire on Children of Ages 4 – 6 Years

See: Examples of Evocative Observations
See also: miscellaneous examples of activities and projects in the chapters 4.2 to 4.8.

2nd Problem:
Insufficient stimulation in the child’s domain of giftedness

Too little stimulation in everyday life at kindergarten is one thing. Another thing is: the child may be mathematically talented or even gifted. In this case there are probably no adequate materials at all in kindergarten. If then the parents do not provide any adequate materials either (which stimulate activities, learning processes and reasoning), the child goes hungry. The same goes for all other domains of giftedness.
See: Domains of Giftedness.

The reason:
Gifted children are highly motivated in their domain of giftedness (see: Giftedness – A Definition) and dispose of a great craving for knowledge. Intrinsically motivated, they want to engage intensely and for extended periods of time in their domain, otherwise their general contentedness suffers. Whatever kindergarten cannot provide in this respect, the parents should try to facilitate. The kindergarten team can support the parents in recognising and appreciating the child’s longing.

Approaches to solving the problem:
See: miscellaneous examples of activities and projects in the chapters 4.2 to 4.8.

3rd Problem:
The child finds the games other children play “stupid” or “childish”

Often this does not display arrogance, but the difficult attempt to grow aware of one’s own needs, which is initially achieved by internally establishing interpersonal boundaries.
A child of under 3 years who has put together 60-piece jigsaw puzzles at home will be confounded by the popular peg puzzles .
A child who plays UNO at home cannot find QUIPS thrilling.
A child who disposes of differentiated role models and wants to play accordingly will not find the stereotypical and ever repeating role playing games of the other children interesting.

The reason:
Children learn through playing. If the games are too simple, they cannot learn anything. For a while and in specific situations the gifted child can adapt, because it wants to be part of the group and share the fun everybody is having. Yet, feelings of resignation often occur along the way. As a permanent strategy this assimilation is not appropriate, but rather detrimental.

Approaches to solving the problem:

* Have an adequate activity ready and make it accessible to the children. Especially strategy games will last them longer. Their concept doesn’t run out so quickly, the possibilities rise with playing experience. Checkers and Chess are such games. This will, of course, only work if adequate playing partners can be found and instructed.
The same goes for sophisticated construction toys.
See: Chess
See: Chess Club
See: Example by Heike Brandt in: Examples of: Perceptual Speed

* When it comes to role playing games the decisive aspect is not in the materials/toys themselves, but in exact observation: which ideas do the games allow the children to realise? Stereotypical ideas will not tickle the gifted child’s mind, yet, if the game provides for more differentiation, the child can contribute ever new ideas. Also to be observed: how well is the given game accepted by the other children?
See: Children’s Questionnaire on Communication

4th Problem:
Insufficient affiliation with older children. No playing mates who share the interests of the gifted child.

It is a difficult situation, if there are no older children around or if the gifted child is – for whatever reasons – not allowed to join in.
The child takes interest in topics and issues which initially seem to be beyond the child. But even if the child manages to affiliate with older children, their interests often do not match those of the gifted child, their ways of thinking and speaking may differ substantially, which in return will be frustrating for the gifted child. It just can’t find adequate playing mates.

The reason:
Every gifted child – more or less consciously – longs to meet other gifted children. Since giftedness occurs quite rarely (2 – 3 persons in every 100 people) disappointment is the rule. However, bright children can be found in every kindergarten. (We call any child whose IQ is in the range of 115 – 129 “bright” – statistically about one out of seven children is “bright”.

See also: Gaussian Distribution of Intelligence.)

Approaches to solving the problem:
* The child should be supported in finding these children and in building a network of playing mates. This can be facilitated in kindergarten through activities offered across several groups.

* Creating integrative focus kindergartens tackles the problem at its roots.

See: Playfellows and Friends of Gifted Children

See: Integrative Focus Kindergartens
See: A Vision

5th Problem:
Want of friends

Gifted children often distinguish – emotionally or even explicitly – between playing mates and “true” friends.
Sven, just turned 5 years, put it this way:

„A true friend is one with whom I can speak about the things that really move me.”
(For more about this see: Example of: Complex Thinking.)

Once such a friend has been found this friendship will most probably be carefully cultivated and often lasts a long time.

The reason:
The desire to have “true” friends occurs early on, since the exchange of complex thoughts can be considered a basic need of gifted people. They frequently experience themselves as isolated with their ideas, as unable to share their interests with others.

This longing often remains diffuse and they are hardly aware of it until the positive experience of “true friendship” actually is made. Then the child experiences that it is possible and the desire rises to awareness: I want to keep this friend / I want to find a friend like this one again / I would like to have more friends like this one.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* See Problem Nr. 4

* Parents should be encouraged to take up the search for gifted friends for their child. The children usually “discover” each other rather soon, take interest in each other – naturally though, they do not necessarily like each other just and only because they are both gifted.
Oftentimes important friendships are brought about by adults facilitating such contacts.

6th Problem:
Restraint is required.

Time and again the gifted child has to restrain itself strongly in kindergarten. It can’t give accounts as much and as deeply as it wants to. Neither can it inquire in depth when it wants to understand better and more deeply.
The child may even realise that in kindergarten there often is not enough time for extensive conversations (or, as the mother of a 4-year-old put it: for its cascades of questions).
Sometimes the gifted child understands surprisingly well the system at kindergarten and the many demands on the staff and therefore realises that it must stand back. In such cases the needs of the child will cease to show altogether and become invisible.
Other gifted children may be “a nuisance” because they have not yet learned to control their urge to inquire or to talk about their thoughts. Their social environment reacts in a way that shows them that they are “getting on everybody’s nerves”. That doesn’t exactly make them happy.

The reason:
The child needs an addressee for its ideas and questions. It has a desire for exchange about its issues. The want of such a person is painful. Almost equally painful is having identified and tried out the kindergarten teacher as a possible addressee but realising that this person hardly ever has enough time.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* It is – regardless of workload – important to show the gifted child that its questions and ideas are being acknowledged and that its inquisitiveness is appreciated.

* The kindergarten teacher should explain calmly and thoroughly that because of his/her workload he/she is unable to deal with all those exciting questions, that he/she regrets this and will not cease to try and find the time.
See: I Have a Question
See: Communication in Kindergarten

7th Problem:
High Demands on Their Activities and Results

With regard to gifted children there is frequent talk of perfectionism, which invokes rather negative feelings.
A closer look reveals that the gifted child sets higher goals for itself than do its peers in age. This may be true in many situations, be it when playing in a theatre play, drawing pictures or creating a book.

Sometimes the child wants to achieve these ambitious goals all by itself, sometimes it will need a playing mate with similarly high aspirations, and quite often the support by an adult is needed. This is the case if the child has clearly defined ideas and wants to realise them, yet is unable to do so without help. The subsequent request for help is no attempt for an easy way out (you do it for me, because I can’t), but an appeal for guidance in the endeavour to learn and perform on its own.

See a striking example for this in: Drawing Course with Linda.

Later in school, the oftentimes early realisation that others are content with less will reoccur when, for instance, a presentation is to be prepared in a collective effort with classmates. Everybody in the group thinks the presentation is complete and elaborate enough, while the gifted student is just about to get started, to do some serious research and develop the topic …, once more standing there with egg on his face (possibly regarded a “nerd”).

Little surprise that many a gifted pre-school child comes to the conclusion that it best pursue its goals on its own and that it makes no sense to team up with anybody.

The reason:
It is tough to try again and again to convey one’s aims and ideas just to encounter everybody else’s complete lack of comprehension or even their disapproval. Some children will soon come to consider this a waste of time and effort.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Show interest in the goal the child has set for itself. Is it simply an unrealistically high objective or does it represent a wish to learn?

* Practise recognising a wish to learn, and offer guidance and support.

* Bring the child together with children who pursue comparably high goals or at least are willing and able to keep up.

See: Questionnaire on Child’s Interests
See: High Demand on Results
See: Drawing Course with Linda

8th Problem:
Insecurity for Awareness of Obstacles

Some gifted children seem to have rather little confidence in their own ability. They enter new situations reluctantly and resort to observing, they find it hard to get started on a task or just simply join in. They sense that they are at a disadvantage compared to confident, uninhibited children, yet, they cannot seem to overcome themselves and be daredevils like the other children. This is easily misinterpreted as a deficit.

The reason:
A child who has high demands on the results of its actions, who reflects on how its own abilities relate to its self-imposed expectations and abilities, will no longer go about a task with childlike inhibition. It habitually evaluates a situation before acting.

The same goes for a child who, for instance, at the age of three already thinks forward into the future more critically than do its peers in age. It conceptualises processes and results ahead of time and tries to assess possible risks.
If this assessment comes out uncertain or negative, it may appear to be ducking out of certain tasks.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Allow the child to take the time it needs to get used to a new situation and to get involved.

* Talk to the child and find out – if the relationship is trusting enough – which problems it sees and which questions a given situation arouses.
For this see the article: Timidity and Apprehension in Gifted Children.

9th Problem:
Refusal to settle conflicts physically

At pre-school age conflicts between children are frequently carried out more or less violently. There is pushing and shoving, things are torn away from one another, there is punching, kicking, pinching, and pulling the other one by the hair. Threatening gestures are exchanged.

One 3 years old boy, who had changed to our kindergarten only two days earlier, answered my question, “Has anybody here punched you so far?”, with great insistence: “Here, in my new kindergarten, I haven’t been hurt by anybody at all yet.”

One major aim of our educational efforts is to break the children’s habit of using force and provide them with non-violent strategies of conflict resolution. That is somewhat of an effort with some of the children – and not all children complete this learning process before school enrolment. Surely, the success in this endeavour also depends on what the child experiences in the family.

We also engage to see to it, that none of the children are “mean” to each other, that they do not exclude or laugh at anybody nor that they cheat or take anybody in.
To achieve this, too, takes a long and differentiated learning process – even for gifted children.

But, what if the gifted child is at a developmental point where it has already achieved all this? Then, entering kindergarten, the child will experience a bewildering world, which it has to adapt to, and without assistance it is in a pitiful position.

The reason:
Oftentimes, gifted pre-school children object to the use of violence as a means of enforcing their will at an early age, they have already internalised nonviolence as a moral category.
They have already developed good command of language, they reflect conflicts, evaluate them and want to negotiate. If they realise that in many situations they do not achieve anything with this, but rather find themselves defeated with their approach most of the time, they are likely to either avoid conflicts or adapt and learn to make use of force (possibly even more efficiently than the other children). Neither is satisfactory.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Read more here: Problematic Social Conduct.

10th Problem:
Rejected by mates and adults

The gifted child often does not feel understood and hardly ever experiences wholehearted acceptance. It keeps experiencing rejection, even segregation. Example: In a role playing game the gifted child permanently wants to contribute new ideas; the other children in the game find that tiring and feel disturbed. Sometimes the gifted child has to listen to things like: “She always wants to have the say, we don’t want that.” Even the kindergarten teacher thinks the many “suggestions” and the comprehensive elucidations, for instance during the morning circle, are a bit too much – with regard to every other child’s right to speak. Even if the gifted child understands this, it still learns that a wide awake mind does not necessarily make a person popular.

The reason:
The child learns: the mediocre are popular. Do not talk too much, not too little either. Don’t know too much, not too little either. Yet, the child does not dispose of a dial by which to dim its mind. It keeps having ideas and questions coming up. That this is not appreciated must be experienced as rejection.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Be aware, that extraordinary intellectual excitability is an integral part of the gifted child’s nature.

* Remember, that children, if perceived as being different, are prone to rejection. Realise, that this may apply to gifted children, too.

* Protect the child from rejection. Do occasionally bring the issue up in a group discussion and point out that all children have their own pace and capacity and that this is normal.

11th Problem:
Realising that one is different – and having no clue

Gifted children soon notice their being different in some respects. They notice that they like different games, that they understand many things immediately, which other children do not necessarily do; they realise that they know more, spend more time thinking and have certain talents; they behave differently in some situations.
This becomes difficult if they do not have an overall explanation for these notions.

The reason:
At the age of 2 – 4 years, earlier than others, gifted children begin to compare themselves to others and to reflect their own abilities. Their self-concept and self-esteem begin to develop. They want to understand why they are so competent on the one hand, yet do not get on within the kindergarten group so well on the other.
At this age they are not able to find a satisfactory explanation by themselves.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* Just like disabled children, the gifted need definitive information about their being different. Simple statements can be very helpful: “You’re pretty sharp/ you’ve got a curious mind, you want to learn a lot, not everybody does. It’s quite OK that people are so very different. They all just have to be very patient with each other.”

* The children who are not gifted need to be encouraged, too, so that they learn to accept the peculiarities of the gifted children. They, too, need explanations.

12th Problem:
Extraordinary sensitive reactions to human interactions

We keep receiving reports, that is from parents as well as from kindergarten teachers, about gifted children who closely observe the interactions in the kindergarten group and seem to reflect them thoroughly.
Whenever seeing conflicts that, according to their assessment, have not been resolved satisfactorily, they suffer from the observed injustice or meanness, and the burdening emotions may linger for quite a while. And it does not make any difference whether they were personally involved or had just witnessed the respective incident.

The reason:
Many gifted children are also highly sensitive. They perceive tensions and conflicts more clearly than children who are not so sensitive, and their emotional reactions are stronger. Tensions and conflicts burden them extremely.

Approaches to solving the problem:
* It helps the gifted child if it isn’t left alone and stuck with the unsettling experience. The child should be encouraged to witness the further course of the affair just as closely as it did at the onset of the crisis. It will feel relieved when realising that soon after the involved children are playing together again. Conclusion: they are not taking it as seriously as you thought.

* Show interest in the perceptions and the assessments of the child; it may notice a lot of things that should be taken seriously and would otherwise go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle.

If one or several of these problems occur in a child and linger for a longer period, the danger of permanent frustration arises with all its negative consequences.

See: Permanent Frustration.


The translation of this article was made possible by
Heike Miethig, Alsdorf, Germany.


Date of publication in German: September 2011
Copyright © Hanna Vock 2011, see Imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

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