Why I Don’t Like the Term Gifted


The term gifted means a lot of things to a lot of people.  To me, the term feels a lot like those bumper stickers you see everywhere: “My Child is on the Honor Roll at XYZ School.”  It’s a statement of fact that the parents are justifiably proud of, but it feels pretentious and braggy to me.

I hate being pretentious and braggy.

I hesitate to call the Engineer gifted because he’s never been tested for that.  He consistently tests whole grade levels above his grade in other evaluations. He’s clearly smart and curious, but is that enough?   Do you have to officially pass the “gifted test” to use that term?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this:

He’s beyond curious.  Questions pour out of him like water out of the faucet he’s determined to play with.

I once read that smart children know the answers.  Gifted children ask the questions.

If you go by that criteria the Engineer is the most profoundly gifted person I’ve ever met!

If you might think that I’m proud and amazed at his abilities, you would be right.  But that’s far less important than the fact that I can’t keep up with him; I’m constantly barraged with a bewildering amount of detailed questions that I can’t answer.  Every child is curious.  This is curiosity on meth.  This is curiosity addicted to knowledge and begging for its latest fix.

It’s exhausting.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s depressing (my kid is smarter than I am!) and it’s frustrating.

Frustrating?  Yes.  He’s happiest when learning, but he has little patience for boring things.  Things like T-ball. Grocery runs.  Worksheets.  The inevitable doctor’s visits that having three small children requires.  Being bored triggers behavioural issues that are growing increasingly worse.

When you add the asynchronous development, the ADHD, the ODD behaviors, and the anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorder, it’s almost more than a parent can handle.  I say almost because I haven’t run screaming yet.  There’s always tomorrow.

I don’t like the term gifted and all the connotations that it implies.  I can tiptoe around it all I like – the fact is, the Engineer is different.  He learns differently.  He thinks differently.  He uses logic and reasoning in ways that a typical 5-year-old will not.

If I use the term gifted and you associate him with these behaviors, great!  But most people will probably hear me say “gifted” and think I’m just another pretentious mom determined that her special snowflake will get special treatment.

I would gladly trade the deep discussions on whether cannibals would kill you first before they eat you for a neurotypical T-ball game.  I would love to have some time for my brain to rest, to stop researching things like injection molding and how glass is made.  I doubt that’s going to happen until I can send him off to bother his college professors.

He is who he is.  And I love him despite it and because of it all at the same time.










  1. When my oldest was learning how to use the potty at 3 he could care less about stickers or treats for his hard work of getting to the toilet in time, his reward was opening up the back of the toilet to get the full explanation of the mechanics of indoor plumbing. Every single peepee involved me carefully removing the heavy porcelain tank lid and explaining (to the best of my limited ability) how the chain and lever worked. It soon expanded into where did it all go? We delved into to septic tanks and leach fields and municipal water treatment facilities. As he matured his interests and questions rapidly went from the mundane plumbing to black holes, quasars, and dark matter. His unquenchable thirst for more knowledge out paced me by kindergarten, thank goodness for the library and Google! Our second son proved to be just as insatiable, with the addition of sensory processing disorder. The young years were beyond challenging, though never boring! We eventually learned as a family how to manage the never ending questions by encouraging them to write their questions down (we have built a lot of our curriculum from those lists!), and helping them learn how to search for the answers independently, as well as getting comfortable asking other (appropriate) adults. My husband and I have always tried the best we could to support the curiosity, to encourage the questions (as frustrating as they can be). We’ve tried to help them learn to pace themselves and to make room for other things in life. The oldest is now 14 and still struggles at times to focus on the “requirements” of school/life, but he is growing into a more balanced young man, without us squelching his drive to ask more questions and search for more answers. Your love, acceptance, and support of your “engineer’s” atypical approach to learning will only serve to help him in his journey. As a little peek into the future, it pretty awesome up here!


    • We’re dealing with the plumbing fascination too! Never boring is right – and it’s fun too. I’ve learned so much that I never thought to ask before he did. Good idea on the writing questions – I need to push that more. Thank you for the encouragement and the hope you’ve given me while we’re still focused on the plumbing stage.


  2. You did such a great job pouring out your heart and frustrations. It really opened my eyes to this in ways I had never considered. Keeping up with him will certainly be a challenge, but you will figure out ways to make it work over the years. Who knows what God has in store for him.

    Liked by 1 person

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