Word bubble with blog title


Here are seven things you may hear gifted children say — and why!

1. “Actually…”

Sometimes, it seems like gifted children are all born with law degrees, and are more than anything bent on using them. We have previously described how gifted children can be overly focused on facts, a black-and-white worldview that can become more attuned to gradations between extremes when intentional instructional attention is paid to cultivating empathy and seeing shades of grey. This binary perspective, combined with the copious amount of information they can have consumed and a young child’s lack of “filter,” can result in a lot of corrections. After all, you just can’t let someone go around thinking that rabbits and capybaras are both rodents — not when the former has four incisors in the upper jaw, and the latter only two.

These comments may be offered in an effort to share interesting tidbits rather than oneupmanship, but both peers and adults alike can find them irritating (and, frankly, sometimes they are efforts at oneupmanship). Teachers and families can guide gifted children to understand that people tend to hear such remarks as “no, you’re wrong” when what the child actually needs to convey is a more generous “yes, and” contribution along the lines of the rule-of-thumb in improvisational theatre. (If nothing else, you can convince them that their comments will be more appreciated if offered in that way.)

2. “Technically…”

This is a slight twist on “actually” in that it is generally a precision-related correction, the sort of thing one would say in response to someone using 3 for pi instead of 3.14… or if someone used 3.1415, given that the next digit of pi is a 9, so “technically…” it’s rounded to 3.1416. (The shortening of pi to 3.1415 is a particular peeve of many mathematics-passionate gifted children, as you might imagine; you are highly likely to get a recitation of twenty or more digits in response.)

Depending on the context, this particular word may also signal to an adult that a gifted child may be trying to leverage what they see as a loophole. For example, “Technically, you said I had to ‘get everything off the floor of my room,’ not that I had to put everything away,” from a child whose bed is heaped with items that belong elsewhere. Therefore, negotiations with gifted children must be conducted carefully, with an eye to loopholes, to avoid having a “technicality” result in unintended consequences.

3. “I don’t understand.”

Though we often think of gifted children as understanding things at a young age, that generalization may not reflect the whole story. Generally, they do rapidly collect facts and information — sometimes very advanced information, in fact — but that is knowledge, not necessarily wisdom, especially regarding human behavior. They have big, pressing questions as a result: why adults have let the world’s climate change go unaddressed, or why all the dogs in the world have not been adopted into loving homes — or why the school they go to will not give them more advanced work. These are the kinds of situations that may seem to a gifted child’s mind like obvious problems with very clear answers, leading to this frustrated, blunt exclamation of incomprehension.

4. “That’s not fair!”

An insistence on justice and fairness is an often-cited characteristic of gifted children. While all children chafe at adult authority from time to time, gifted children are likely to not only object at unfair treatment of themselves, but also to protest what they consider to be unfair treatment of someone else — whether that is a storybook character, another child at school, or a figure from history. “Someone else” may also include animals: there are countless stories of gifted children becoming vegetarian or vegan — and convincing their families to join them with varying degrees of success — because of a sense of alarm upon learning either about the impact of commercial agribusiness’s meat production on the climate or on the animals, themselves.

5. “When will I ever need to know this?”

Young gifted children may ask this question of a parent or a teacher far earlier than we might expect, given its distinctly teenager-flavored tone. Gifted children often need a sense of personal meaning connected to the work they undertake; when they feel that the effort is meaningful or related to something that they think is important, they can apply themselves feverishly to a task, doggedly developing expertise in a specific discipline or domain in pursuit of a goal.

The other side of that coin, though, is that they may be unwilling to engage in schoolwork they see as “box-checking,” reflecting an intense sense of personal integrity that makes it difficult to “go through the motions” if they feel the rule or requirement is irrational or does not apply to them. While they may love learning for learning’s sake, they simply abhor rote learning, especially if they can see no reason for it. Being unable to engage with material if they see no applicability to their lives or the future they envision for themselves can result in varying degrees of disengagement, demotivation, and underachievement. (Siegle, 2015)

6. “Why do I have to do this?”

A slightly different flavor of “when will I ever need to know this?”, this phrase may reflect a gifted child frustrated by schoolwork or homework on a topic past which they have progressed long ago. A gifted child passionate about books who reads years and years ahead of their peers may balk if given reading assignments suited for students working at grade level — and who can blame them? Demanding that they complete worksheet after worksheet of practice problems or vocabulary words well below their capabilities can understandably result in disengagement, which might begin with that particular exercise but may over time shift to pervasive underachievement. (Siegle, 2015)

7. “I’m bored.”

The hallmark of the gifted child who is under-challenged in school. However, gifted children may swallow this blunt-but-accurate comment and “go along to get along,” choosing social connectedness with peers over being forever the squeaky wheel. A student who says this aloud in a class full of diligently-working peers learns reasonably quickly that the teacher is less likely to jump into offering more interesting work than to be offended at the disruption, and decide that discretion is the better part of valor. 

Leave a comment

What else do you hear from your gifted child or students? Add to the list in the comments below.


Siegle, D. (July 2015). Addressing Underachievement and Motivation in Your Gifted Students. [Conference lecture series]. Confratute, National Center for Research on Gifted Education at University of Connecticut Neag School of Education, Storrs, CT. 

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment