Gifted Son Having Issues at Kindergarten

Updated on September 10, 2011
R.B. asks from Aurora, CO
19 answers

A little background - My son just started kindergarten in August. He is going to a school for the gifted (public challenge school). He is extremely bright and has a high intelligence. He went to The Goddard school for a year and a half before starting public school. So far he loves school but has been running away when he is upset. He has always been very sensitive and emotional but the running away is new. If he has to do something he doesn't want or if he is upset he sometimes will run out of the classroom and a few times outside of the school. They catch him each time and luckily the school is off the main street. The school is very concerned about his behavior and I am upset each time it happens. When we talk to him about it he says he won't run away and he will make good choices. At school they have a system to reward him and we have one as well. When he has a bad day he is upset and tells me he loves me and loves school. It is a full day program but he was used to that at Goddard.

Do you think the public school environment is too much for him? There are 24 kids and 1 teacher. My husband and I work full-time so we don't have a lot of options for flexibility and I want him to be with other kids his age and intelligence level. Do any other mom's have a gifted child with advice? Thanks so much!

** To add: The difficult decision would be to put him back in a private kindergarten and try again with public school next year. But he can read at a 2nd grade level, write stories, do double digit math, etc. We are afraid he might be bored.

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answers from Tulsa on

Keep him with his intellectual peers. It is much easier for my gifted d to be with other gifted kids. They think differently and the other kids think they are weird. Plus, bored is putting it mildly.

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answers from San Francisco on

Gifted or not, your son must learn to listen to his teachers. You and dad must back the teachers unless you are concerned that the teachers are doing harm to your child.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I have no idea why your son is running out of school. Have you asked him why he does it?

Okay what I really keep dwelling on is you want him to be with kids his age and intelligence. Why would anyone want to be limited like that, why would you want to limit your child's experiences like that?

Okay I also hate the term gifted because those that like the term don't seem to be, well, gifted, but that is neither here nor there.

Find out why he is running, the only thing I can think of is he is not as gifted as you think he is and doesn't know how to tell you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

It's my opinion that being gifted has nothing to do with it.
Intelligence and maturity are not the same thing.
I have friends who fuh-REAKED when it was suggested their son go into a combo K-1st grade class after a year of kindergarten. They wanted the teacher's head!
The fact is, it didn't matter how high he could count or that he already knew some of his times tables and his letters, he wouldn't sit in his chair when it was time to, he wouldn't stand in a single file line with the other kids. He goofed off at lunch instead of eating.
He needed another year to get in the swing of things and then he went to a regular 2nd grade class and did just fine.

Your son may also be missing his old school and the way they did things there.
Maybe he feels a lot of pressure.
Maybe he's just being a kid and needs some more time to adjust along with the positive reinforcements.
Surely he understands he needs to find a different way to express himself other than running out of the class or the school entirely. That's a very dangerous thing to do.

Do they have a school counselor that can meet with him and maybe get to the bottom of it?

I hope you can get the situation worked out.

Best wishes.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

This problem sounds like it has less to do with intellectual intelligence, and more to do with social/emotional intelligence. Don't just focus on getting him to stop running. He says he will make "good choices", but do you talk about what "good choices" look like? Do focus on practicing appropriate responses for when he gets upset. Talk about different kinds of feelings, and let him know it's ok to feel angry, sad, whatever. However, that doesn't mean he can do whatever he wants because he feels that way. Describe different scenarios (including ones that have caused him to run) and role play appropriate ways he can handle the situation. Also remind him that he will not always get his way, and he will have to do some things he may not want to do. If he absolutely refuses to do something, he can just sit there, and he will have to accept the consequence (whatever system the teacher has in place). Maybe come up with a phrase for him to say when he feels like running and needs space to calm down ("I need a minute"). Then he can go to a designated spot in the room until he's ready to talk to the teacher (like taking a time out, but I wouldn't use that description!). Discuss with the teacher so she/he knows what the phrase is, and can help your son pick a spot.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

how old is he? how close is his bd to the cut-off? & just because he's intellectually gifted....does not mean that social skills follow at the same pace.

What concerns me is that he has flight tendencies. The fact that flight is being triggered simply because he does not want to comply with the given instructions additionally concerns me.

The phrase "he has always been very sensitive & emotional" tells a huge part of your story. When he reacts to stimuli, what do you do at home? Do you help him push thru his emotional response or do you back off? In other words, how much does he have to comply at home....& also last year at the other school? Classroom size may have nothing to do with this.....if he hasn't been taught to be respectful to those in charge!

My recommendations would be: take a look at the dynamics at home & really ask yourself if he's being taught how you want him to behave .....or do you back off when his emotions kick in? I would also recommend meeting with the counselors & ask if he's ready for KG....or if a Bridges program would be helpful for him. (My younger son did Bridges at age 5, because he took twice as long on the KG screening - even tho' he aced the testing. Staying focused was the issue for him, not academics or social skills.)

One more thought: if he truly loves school, then why is he getting so upset? The two don't go hand-in-hand!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

It sounds like he's not mature enough to handle the gifted environment.
This is why they wait until at least 1st or 2nd grade here to start the gifted curriculum. It's much different than the normal curriculum. Kids have to be self motivated. And be able to redirect that frustration into wanting to solve the problem instead of giving up and running away.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

It sounds like he's still too emotionally immature for a classroom environment. Has he played on a soccer team or a t-ball team yet? That might be the thing to bridge that gap for him. He needs to know that he has to follow structure and be a "team" player. It's great that he can read and cipher at age 5 and lots of kids can do that AND follow instruction at the same time. I would role play with him at home and teach him the social skills that he appears to be lacking.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I have seen too many parents with "Gifted" children forget that no one is perfect--not even a gifted child. He is only a little boy, in Kindergarten don't put so much pressure on him.
Sure he may be performing above in academics but what about social skills, taking responsibility for his own actions, or being treated as if he is above others and then begins to think such about himself---hence isolating himself socially and into academia.

As a former teacher, please do not treat him any different than you would an average child. If he has a gift it grow no matter what school he is in. Yet remember that he must grow in all directions of life and through the different facets of such. He may be Special but so are all kids in their right. Yet if you treat him as if he is different he may respond as such as isolate/run away from social pressures.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I have so much empathy for your son! Something clearly is upsetting him.

When you say that the school is concerned about his behavior, I don't get the impression that the school feels any responsibility to help you identify the cause of his fleeing. A school with a psychologist would observe your son in his classroom to determine what could possible be the cause. If the school has one, request a visit, and be sure the school follows through.

The recommendation for reading, "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" is a good one. As the school does not seem to be reading up on how to approach your son and to give you tips about it, you need to educate yourself on the matter.

Consider taking him to his pediatrician. There could be an underlying cause. I am wondering whether it could be a form of Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism. While this diagnosis may be the most extreme possibility, you will definitely want to see whether it can be ruled out. A friend who is teaching an Early Fives class thinks that she has a child who has an undiagnosed case. The child is finding that the room over-stimulates him and the result is agitation. She had to remove him from the room four times on the first day to ensure that the rest of the class could continue with its routine, and the day is only three hours long. Your son is having strong reactions, and so he deserves some empathetic and trained professionals to look at him.

I hear your anxiety over this event. Take some slow, deep breaths yourself. Make sure that before you take steps that you are in as balanced of a condition as possible. Be sure to take care of yourself. You will get through this.

Hugs to all of you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

His intellectual intelligence and his emotional intelligence are two very different things, and one has little to do with the other. He may just be having trouble adjusting to a new school, new friends, new expectations and not know how to handle it. The teachers have never dealt with a child who has trouble coping and responds this way?

I would start teaching your little guy some breathing practices when he feels himself getting upset or overwhelmed and teach him to label and identify what he is feeling with words. And I'd have a meeting with his teacher and see if he can get some support from her. 24 kids is a lot, but a good teacher can handle that and can spot the kids who need a bit of extra attention by observing their body language and catching them before they spin out. She may not be able to do this every time, but the better that she understand your son the better she'll be able to help him.

There's a wonderful book called "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child", that I recommend to everyone who will listen.

Best of luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My son is also very advanced/suspected gifted and has ADHD. He just finished his second week in public, full day kindergarten and he's LOVING it. Honestly, I got to the point where I'm not worried about him being with other kids "his level." He's going to be different from most people he knows ALL his life. At this point he reads at about a 3rd grade level and understands place value and four basic operations.

So far he has not "learned" anything academic at school and he is FAR from bored! He's meeting other kids, learning routines and structure, doing music, art, pe, computers and library time. He's happy, so I'm happy.

Gifted kids will learn no matter WHERE you put them or WHAT you try and teach them. I wouldn't keep him at a school where he's unhappy, but if he loves school, perhaps just laying down firm boundaries about behavior (ie you may NEVER leave your classroom without permission) would do the trick.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

What was his discipline for running out of the classroom? Talking about it is not discipline and neither are rewards for not doing it. If he's highly intelligent, and doesn't have any disorders such as lack of comprehension of rules, you should be able to enforce that he doesn't run away when he feels upset. Another approach is finding just the right setting to not upset him, but that doesn't seem like a fair assessment of real life. You do need to put him in the best school possible for him, but he could run away if you put him back in the private school too if he continues to be sympathized with for it. Tell him when he feels upset, he needs to let a teacher know, not run away. Lay out clear consequences for running away. I don't mean to assume you guys don't discipline him, but I have a friend with a gifted child who has gotten carte blanche to not follow rules because he's gifted, so I don't mean to project. I'm just going by your saying you were upset, he was talked to and offered rewards and nothing else.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

It could very well be too much. Did you need to take him out of the other school, or was it just a PreK? I feel bad for him, because he's not dealing with the pressure well. Perhaps you could practice pragmatics. Start with the basics and then specific to his situation. Let him provide the answers first and then you can chime in with the magical answer.
Basic-What did Jimmy do when he saw Sue drop her books? Right answer-he helped her pick them up. Wrong answer-he looked at her and kept walking.
Specific-When Billy (your son) didn't like what his teacher was asking them to work on, what should he do? Right answer-take a deep breath, raise his hand and ask to use the restroom so he could refresh himself. Wrong answer-run away without telling anyone because they will worry about his safety.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

24:1 ratio is VERY high for kinder - especially for a GT school. In fact, that really surprises me that the school has that high of a teacher/student ratio. It also surprises me that the private school would not challenge him enough.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

He runs out of school? he leaves the school?? sounds like a very unsafe situation. Clearly this is not where he should be at least not this year. Sensitive children are usually afraid to run off alone into strange territory. He is not ready for Kindergarten, no way, no how. Back to preschool until he learns he has to deal with things not run away. and Please get family counseling for you to figure this out. Being safe and feeling safe is more important than anything else for your five yr old.
And I love the answer that a gifted child will learn and grow anywhere. I've seen kids who are very bright and learned a lot from parents and are very advanced. they will need a lot of stimulation to continue learning at this pace. A truly gifted child will challenge himself, will read about or explore what interests him and learn on his own in an environment of calm learning with supportive teachers. Gifted children are rarely bored in class because they challenge themselves, read in their spare time and discuss things with peers. Kids who prefer to play are bored in school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

While he might have responded well to so much curriculum and structure last year, he is processing the same kind of program completely differently this year.

You are going to have to find out what's triggering him off. All the gifted and talented and advanced intelligence can only get a kid so far...he still needs to learn how to cope and deal w/life and other people to make it through this life.

I have a good friend who works HR for a large corporation. She said half the people she fires or lays off are the employees who don't get along w/the other employees. She said if there was a conflict and she had to pick between an employee who was a team but had less work experience or didn't have a college degree vs one who was non compliant and demanding but was a manager and graduated ivy league, she and the higher ups would go w/the former employee b/c he/she was a better team player.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

What sort of things is he getting upset about? That would be an issue for me to understand before I would be able to offer any advice. Is it b/c some other child has done something that upset him (didn't share/took something/said something/got his favorite spot to sit/etc) or is it something the teacher said/did (told him "no"/didn't call on him for something/ignored him/spoke severely to him/etc) is it that he didn't want to follow directions of some sort (walking in single file line/not talking in line/cutting line/stopping an activity he likes/etc)? As for what he doesn't want to do... what is it he doesn't want to do? (go to lunch? Sit down at appropriate times? what?) To be able to understand what is going on, it would be most helpful to know WHAT is going on.....

Without a lot of information we aren't likely to have, I would venture to say that perhaps it is just a period of adjustment for him. If he has always been emotional and sensitive (did he/does he tantrum over things? regularly?), then maybe his boat is a little rocked that he had to switch schools to a "new" and "unfamiliar" place with "new and unfamiliar" people. What have his previous experiences with transitions been like?

ETA: I was hesitant to mention it, but since KindredSpirit did, I was wondering the same thing (Autism spectrum?). I just don't hear about kids literally running out of the classroom/building when they are upset. Maybe it is more common than I am aware, but that strikes me as a HUGE overreaction to just about ANYthing. Which makes me wonder about possible issues beyond "normal disciplinary or lack of" issues. In my experience, kids just don't do that. Which is why I wondered about his 'typical' response to making transitions. There is a learning curve for all kids when it comes to handling transitions (needing a warning about leaving the park in 5 minutes, or whatever)... but your son's reaction doesn't seem TO ME (a layperson) to be normal.
And it is not unusual for gifted kids to be 2x exceptional...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Since you are in Aurora, CO I assume you have your child in the Challenge School or Quest. Either way it took me a while to figure out that, although these schools are INCREDIBLE they were not a match for my oldest son. The focus on academics did not work for my VERY sensitive child. By third grade he was not responding well at all! He wasn't running away but he was markedly unhappy and not thriving. He also could read and write and do math before starting kindergarten.

Ultimately, I put him in Peace With Christ Christian School for 4th grade and have never been happier and never looked back! They are so equipped to handle ALL children and even move kids who excel in a subject to upper grades to study then bring them back to their grade and so on. I wish I would have just put him in there to begin with and never varied. Another great aspect of this school is they are scoring in the top 10% to 15% in the nation, they receive letters and accolades from the top esteemed high schools, like Valor, praising the quality of education these kids are coming to high school with. They won the state math competition 4 years in a row and simply have a program that will encourage your child's gifts.

In short, if I were you, I would put him in private school and keep him there. I just think you have a child that could use an education that enhances his gifts but also teaches with love and understanding and guidance.

I put my second son in the kindergarten program this year, he is very math minded and is even doing multiplication. I have come to learn that they do not push them forward as much in kindergarten but they focus on being a kindergartner. I thought he would be SO bored but he is flourishing and believe it or not, actually is sad when it is a weekend and he cannot go to school!

Good luck! It is so hard to match your kids to the right environment sometimes.


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